Though there is a long list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) when it comes to SEO, the one that is asked by the majority of the clients is regarding the use of Absolute and Relative Links. Search Engine Optimization is a quest that can help you achieve high rankings in the search results of major search engines. It is indisputably the best method to target potential clients and get the desired traffic on your website. Usually, the people who search for anything particular on the web opt for the websites that appear on the top ten spots of the search result.
Now the question arises- How can Absolute and Relative Links affect the SEO campaign of any website? Which one of the both is better- Absolute or Relative URL? But before we seek an answer to this question, let us first understand the concept of Absolute and Relative URLs clearly.
First up is an Absolute URL. An absolute link a hyperlink that is embedded with information about a particular website and is in the form of protocol://domain/path. The protocols used are HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The domain name includes the name of the site in which the searched item is present. The file name if present, includes the extension mentioning the file type. The property that distinguishes an Absolute Link is that they are unique in nature. Hence for any particular page, there will be one and only one absolute link.
Coming to Relative URLs, these URLs generally point out to a resource (or resources) relative to the present directory or file. A Relative URL has a volatile nature and can take several forms. If you are referring to a file that is present in the same directory as the page that is referred to currently, the relative URL will be as simple as the name of the file. The main point of difference between Absolute and Relative URLs is that an absolute URL is a more complete address that points to a specific file or resource, whereas a relative URL refers to a file relative to a present directory. Although Absolute URLs are more informative than their Relative counterparts, using Relative URLs is much easier as they are shorter and portable.
However, there are advantages to both Absolute and Relative URLs. Listing the advantages of Relative URLs first, here are the top points-
Ease of Coding: This is a crucial factor that can help if your website is a large one. Websites that are humongous in size usually have loads of coding and if URLs are shortened, the task becomes easier. Shorter code means you will be able to go through the task at a faster speed and work completion will get quicker.
Faster Loading Time: Pages that use Relative URLs generally load more quickly compared to the pages that use Absolute URLs. Although the difference in loading times of both the URLs is minor, it can still play a crucial role in engaging the audiences as they are always looking for quick loading websites.
Staging Environment: One of the biggest advantages of Relative URLs is that it allows a website to exist on staging and production domains at the same time. This means you do not have to go back in and recode all the URLs. This is something extraordinary as it not only eases the Web Developer’s task but also saves a lot of precious time. The coding part becomes easier and the time saved can be invested in some other fruitful efforts.
Now that we are aware of the advantages of Relative URLs, it is time to get some insight into the benefits that Absolute URLs have to offer.
Improves Internal Link Strategy: Internal Linking is something that is on every developer’s mind when they are coding URLs. If there is a tag that is implemented wrongly along with Relative URLs, it will create a 404 error page. But if you use absolute URLs, you can surely avoid this kind of situation.
Helpful in foiling Scrapers: The best thing Absolute URLs can do is making things difficult for the malicious elements to scrape information from your website. If all your internal links are in the form of Relative URLs, it would be an easy task for the scraper to simply steal all your information and put it up on a new domain. Absolute URLs indeed keep your hardware and data safe.
Prevents Duplicate Content: In order to prevent the issues related to duplicate content, it is utterly important to have Absolute URLs. Suppose you have multiple versions of a root domain that are indexed with Google, say http://example.com and https://www.example.com. For Google, these are two different websites and a visitor can enter your website via any of the above. If the same thing was to be done using Relative URLs, this would eventually result in duplicate content issues which are surely going to hurt your website’s SEO campaign.
Assistance in Crawling: Google Crawlers have a tendency to follow the internal links on your web pages. And they cannot crawl all the web pages that are present. They crawl a certain number of pages due to the cost that is involved. Now imagine you have thousands of pages on your website and if Google comes across an issue, again and again, it is pretty obvious that they will leave the website eventually. This can surely be avoided by Absolute URLs. They assist Google to streamline the crawling process which in return saves time and encourages the search engine to come back and crawl for more and more pages.
On a concluding note, there is no exact reply to the query that which one of the URLs is the best. It is totally dependent on the strategies that you wish to adopt for your website’s SEO campaign. Though many webmasters opt Absolute URLs because of their reliability and have more pros and cons, there are occasions when Relative URLs seem to have the edge. It is all dependent on the requirements of your website and SEO operations.
Zac Wallace is the co-founder of Zac Wallace Inc, an ingenious agency offering result oriented digital marketing solutions. He can read a spray chart and a balance sheet and has helped organizations increase their website traffic and sales by up to 3,000%