What are Absolute URLs?

Absolute URLs contain all of the data pertaining to a URL, including information about the protocol or domain. 

What are Relative URLs?

Relative URLs do not include protocol or domain information, and force search engines to make certain assumptions about both. Because there’s always the chance a search engine will make incorrect assumptions, it’s safer to use absolute URLs. They’ll help ensure search engines pass link authority to the right URL in the preferred format. 

For instance, the relative URL for https://www.conductor.com/learning-center/relative-vs-absolute-urls is /learning-center/relative-vs-absolute-urls/. Search engines are left to assume that I am talking about https://www.conductor.com . If your site has a simple structure, relative URLs can make it simpler to manage. If there’s ever a change to your domain—a migration, for example— relative URLs would mean that links should automatically be directed to the appropriate domain and protocol. For sites with complicated site structures that includee multiple site versions, relative URLs can result in an unintended dilution of authority from internal links.

4 Benefits of Absolute URLs

  • Absolute URLs ensure that any page authority passed through an internal link goes to the proper version of the URL.
    • Example: Let’s say you have site.com and www.site.com, and you add an internal link to /page. Crawlers can enter your site through the site.com version, crawl that internal relative URL, and index site.com/page, in addition to your preferred URL, www.site.com/page. If multiple URLs are indexed, your page authority could be diluted. 
    • Even if your site only has one protocol (for example, https), or if non-www URLs resolve to www URLs, using absolute URLs is still a best practice—it guarantees that link authority gets passed to the right URL version.  
  • Using absolute URLs helps to safeguard against scrapers duplicating your entire site onto a new domain. Relative URLs render your site vulnerable by making things easy for scrapers
  • Absolute URLs help streamline Google’s crawling process by giving Google clear-cut directions on which URL to follow. Google also considers its crawl budget—the time or effort it’ll take to crawl your site. If you have a large site and Google thinks it isn’t as fast or efficient to crawl, it may crawl it less frequently, which means that any optimization updates you make will take longer to have an impact on search rankings. 
  • Absolute URLs make it easier for someone to copy and share a whole link.  From a user standpoint, absolute URLs make it easier to link to your pages. 

Infographic of Relative Vs Absolute Urls

Relative vs Absolute URLs, which is better for SEO?

If you want to be safe, use absolute URLs for your internal links. They ensure the appropriate passage of authority, which is the main goal of internal linking. Unless it is truly impossible to manage your content otherwise, use absolute URLs for SEO.

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