Trailing Slash – What Is It and How Does It Affect SEO?

Trailing Slash – What Is It and How Does It Affect SEO?

Every SEO specialist needs to deal with duplicate content on a regular basis. Sometimes, it turns out that inappropriate use of the so-called trailing slash, i.e. a slash placed at the end of a URL is the reason behind the problem. In today’s entry, we’ll discuss this phenomenon in more detail to determine how the presence of a trailing slash affects the emergence of duplicate content.

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Duplicate content is one of the greatest challenges faced by SEO specialists. It can be compared to plagiarism checkers used when writing diploma papers. In both cases, it’s recommended to create unique content without any plagiaristic elements. As far as diploma papers are concerned, the plagiarism ratio usually refers to the duplication of scientific sources, however, it turns out that the use of descriptions prepared by product manufacturers is the greatest issue in the case of duplicate website content.

Duplicate content doesn’t refer solely to the use of texts taken from other websites. It’s also possible to duplicate your own page content. Then, we’re talking about internal duplicate content.

Trailing slash – what is it?

So what is a trailing slash and how does it affect SEO? Well, the term refers to the structure of URLs.

When looking at various websites, you may see that some of them end with a slash and some of them don’t. In the past, this slash meant that the page was categorized as a directory. On the other hand, URLs without this special character indicated that the site was a file. Nowadays, this division is considered arbitrary and even Google doesn’t analyze websites this way.

The changes over the years were caused by the development of file structures. Now, modern network systems aren’t limited to simple designs. Directory pages with folders and files marked by the trailing slash have been replaced with templates storing the file structure, and dynamic files are used to form a page. These modifications still confuse many users who aren’t sure whether to use a slash at the end of their URL or not.

However, it turns out that this element doesn’t have any impact on the way search engines display the site.

Moreover, these characteristic slashes don’t influence the presentation of website content.

how to increase online visibility

How does the trailing slash affect SEO?

However, if we’re talking about SEO, the trailing slash affects it slightly differently. This inconspicuous element may have a significant impact on your website position in the search results.

If two subpages with the same content are found within one page and the slash is the only element that makes them different, then, we’re dealing with internal duplicate content. In such a situation, Google finds it hard to determine the original source and everything gets pretty chaotic. Therefore, choosing one URL that will represent given online content is the only solution to the issue.

Determining a safe search result position when you’re dealing with different URLs on different domain versions is a big challenge. Similar to the situation we’ve mentioned above, Google may find it difficult to identify the right source which may mean that none of the pages will be ranked high in the search results.

Unique URLs as a recipe for duplicate content

The best method to get rid of problems caused by the trailing slash is to avoid situations when the site has an equivalent to compete with. Setting appropriate redirects may be a key to success. If you decide to use the slash, check whether the URL without it is directed to the appropriate subpage with a 301 redirect.

trailing slash and 301 redirect

The creation of a new website or a 404 error may be equally important. If your URL doesn’t end with the slash, you should check the redirects of the version with the slash to the original page.

How to delete the trailing slash?

WordPress perceives the discussed trailing slash very favorably because of the directory structure. Consequently, it’s fully reasonable to use slashes at the end of URLs on this platform. This is a default software setting that can be changed by direct linking. If you choose a custom setting structure, you can add or remove the slash anytime you wish.

Settings in WordPress:

/%postname%/ – has the slash at the end of the URL

/%postname% – doesn’t have the slash

If the above settings are changed, WordPress will automatically analyze the user’s version. It’ll add 301 redirects, change internal links and canonical tags. The site map will also be updated. If you want to make changes or your redirects don’t work properly, contact the hosting company.

Duplicate content is an issue of almost every unconventional CMS. In most cases, systems can create even up to 8 versions of each subpage (if the site doesn’t have appropriately adjusted settings). This can be fixed with the use of the .htaccess file. If you don’t know exactly how to do it, commission the task to qualified specialists.

Trailing slash in Google’s eyes

Trailing slashes are elements that have an important impact on SEO. That’s why John Mueller himself spoke on Twitter about this phenomenon. He referred to allegations frequently raised by webmasters that concerned misleading use of slashes. Mueller doesn’t fully agree with the remarks targeted at Google. He stresses that servers automatically categorize slashes placed at the end of URLs this way. According to his opinion, it doesn’t really matter whether you put slashes after host or domain names. On the other hand, a slash placed somewhere else is perceived completely differently and affects the whole URL.

Google doesn’t impose the use of slashes or deleting them but it expects users to be consistent in their activities. The application of slashes at the end of URLs is the most standard solution.

trailing slash

The takeaway

As you can see, the use of slashes at the end of URLs isn’t problematic. Google pays greater attention to the way we apply the trailing slash. Each case is analyzed and counted as a separate URL. To avoid internal duplicate content, use appropriate 301 redirects and get rid of 404 errors to ensure that identical subpages don’t fight for the same positions

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Author
Junior SEO Specialist - Przemek

Junior SEO Specialist

He joined Delante's SEO team in November 2019. Currently a second degree student in Marketing and Market Communication. What he loves about SEO is that it could surprise him every day and he's still learning something new. He loves listening to music. Since childhood he has been a sports enthusiast, which is confirmed by the hours spent watching sports events. He dreams of becoming a sweets tester in the future, so far he does it for free.
Comments (1)
  1. Tricky topic to write about, it can be quite confusing – I feel like this piece can make the matter clearer to beginners. Well done 🙂

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