What Is a Trailing Slash in URL & How Does It Affect SEO?

What Is a Trailing Slash in URL & 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 will discuss what is trailing slash and does trailing slashes matter for SEO in more detail to determine how the presence of a trailing slash in URL affects the emergence of duplicate content.

Table of Contents:

What Is a Trailing Slash in URL?

A trailing slash in URL is the character ‘/’ that comes after a domain name.

For example:

  • the URL www.example.com/ – have a trailing slash,
  • the URL www.example.com – does not.

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.

technical seo and m commerce

Should You Use a Trailing Slash?

Since you know what a URL trailing slash is, it’s time to discuss when it’s worth using it. John Mueller himself spoke on Twitter about this phenomenon. He referred to allegations frequently raised by webmasters that concerned misleading use of slashes.

Mueller stressed that servers automatically categorize slashes placed at the end of URLs.

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 webmasters and users to be consistent in their activities. The application of slashes at the end of URLs is the most standard solution.

Take a look at a tweet by John Mueller:

Based on it, we can come to a few conclusions:

  • It’s ok to have trailing slashes after the domain name
  • Trailing slash matters for most URLs
  • Trailing slashes on hostnames don’t actually matter
  • Trailing slashes on path/file matter
  • File names should not have a trailing slash at the end

Want to learn more about using trailing slashes? Check out official Google’s resources.

How Does Trailing Slash Affect SEO?

Although trailing slashes are inconspicuous elements, they may have a significant impact on website positions in the search results.

What problems can a trailing slash cause?

  • duplicate content – if two pages with the same content are found on one website 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. In this case, it’s crucial to choose one URL that will be the primary version crawled and indexed by Google.
  • crawling efficiency problems – if there are too many pages on a website, and each of them has a unique URL with a trailing slash, it may result in decreased crawl efficiency. In other words, Googlebot will have to spend more time on your website and waste your crawl budget on analyzing the same content. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on your website’s SEO.

How to Fix Trailing Slash Problems

Fortunately, the above-mentioned problems can be solved relatively easily.

How to do it?

Use Canonicals and Redirects

the best way 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 right page.

Find out more about redirects:

Be Consistent

According to John Mueller, consistency is the key to success when it comes to fixing problems caused by trailing slashes.

Consequently, you should use only one URL version and then focus on this specific version in all your activities. This means linking to it, redirecting to it, adding it to the sitemap, marking it as rel-canonical, and more.

This will help Google understand your website and index it more efficiently.

Need help fixing your duplicate content problems? Try our technical SEO services! We will make sure your website is free from any technical problems.

How to Remove and Add Trailing Slashes?

.htaccess

When using .htaccess, you can remove trailing slashes using:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule ^(.*)/$ /$1 [L,R=301]

Want to add a trailing slash? Nothing simpler:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteRule ^(.*[^/])$ /$1/ [L,R=301]

WordPress

If you use WordPress, you can remove trailing slashes in the following way:

/%postname%

On the other hand, if you want to add trailing slashes, try to:

/%postname%/

Trailing Slash Has an Impact on Reporting

Interestingly, it turns out thata trailing slash has an impact on Google Search Console reporting.

Using GSC, you can configure either a domain or URL prefix property. If you forget about the trailing slash when determining your URL prefix property such as a folder or domain, Google will add it automatically.

How will it impact reporting?

The visits to the property without the trailing slash won’t be counted and included in the report.

Why?

Because the property with the trailing slash has a higher level.

The same issue occurs when talking about Google Analytics and categorizing content by folder if your main pages do not have a slash.

If URL versions with and without the trailing slash work properly, they can be reported in Google Analytics.

what is a trailing slash in url

Want to learn more? Check out the article prepared by Ahrefs.

Trailing Slash & SEO – The Takeaway

Now you know what a trailing slash in a URL is. Properly configured trailing slashes shouldn’t cause any problems. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that they can affect reporting.

When using trailing slashes, each page is analyzed and counted as a separate URL. Therefore, to avoid internal duplicate content, you should use appropriate 301 redirects and get rid of 404 errors. Thanks to it, identical pages won’t fight for the same positions.

Need help with configuring your trailing slashes? Contact us!

This is an update on an article published in 2021. 

(1)
Author
Jr SEO Specialist - Kasia

Jr SEO Specialist

A graduate of English Philology and Translation Studies who learned about SEO by accident while translating an article. At Delante since 2021. Apart from watching positions grow, she enjoys content tasks that give free rein to her imagination. On days off, she plays volleyball, walks her dogs, reads psychology books, and has fun analyzing translations of puns and poems.
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 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recently on our blog

Are you curious about SEO of online stores or maybe you want to enter the Swiss market and wonder SEO abroad looks like? You will find answers to these questions and many other tips important for the development of your business on our blog.

Daily SEO Checklist - 12 Tasks to Perform on a Daily Basis

Daily SEO Checklist - 12 Tasks to Perform on a Daily Basis

In order to be successful, SEO activities have to be performed on a regular basis. Thanks to keeping your finger on the pulse and refining your strategy every day, you can gain a competitive edge over your market rivals, and sleep soundly knowing that your website complies with Google requirements. Want to discover our daily SEO checklist? Keep reading!

Read more