Is it better to use absolute or relative URLs? It’s a pretty common question when it comes to SEO and ongoing internet purposes such as internal linking. While Google claims that it doesn’t make a difference whether one uses absolute or relative URLs, many web developers end up using relative URLs when writing code for internal linking. But, is that the best decision?
What is the difference between relative URLs and absolute URLs?
Absolute URLs are long URLs that contain more information than relative ones. The absolute URL is long because it contains all of the essential information for finding something specific. When using absolute URLs, you must put the entire address on the page, including the full domain and /page.
Relative URLs are convenient URLs that are shorter and more simple. They actually use an absolute URL as the point they start from and do not include the full web address, instead, they’re simply /page. Using a relative URL makes the assumption that the page you are headed to is on the same site you are already on.
When you are writing internal links, you are adding hyperlinks that lead to an image, document, or another page, that is on the same domain or website. As a relative URL already assumes that your link is for the same domain or website, it makes sense to use one for your internal links.
Coding a relative URL when you’re writing internal links is easier than coding an absolute. It is a more efficient way to write the code for a website and most web developers use them. They can be beneficial for the functioning of your website because they tend to make your page load faster.
Are relative URLs the best choice?
In theory, if a website were to have a perfect site map and structure with a single domain and canonicals that were implemented right, it wouldn’t matter whether you use relative or absolute URLs.
Unfortunately, most websites are not structured perfectly. In that case, it is actually beneficial to use absolute URLs. This is because when you use absolute URLs, Google is able to find its way back to the page.
One of the great benefits of using absolute URLs is that they prevent issues of duplicate content. With relative URLs, duplicate content is fairly common and makes you rely upon Google to determine the real version of your website, which it then uses to rank it.
Essentially, while you have four pages for your website that are the same to you, Google sees them as four different pages. This allows Google to enter your site onto whichever page it chooses, indexing and ranking.
Fixing the relative vs absolute problem
The most important thing to do is to ensure that all of the versions of your domain resolve to just one version. Whether you choose HTTPS, HTTP, or www., it doesn’t really matter, although Google claims that HTTPS is a bit better than HTTP. Choose one and then make sure that all of your domains resolve to just one version.
While that fixes the server, you also need to make sure that your internal links are functioning the way you want them to. That means you need to ensure that your links are absolute URLs, not relative URLs. It may seem time consuming and nonsensical, but the benefits of using absolute URLs are great enough to make it worth the time and effort.