SEO and Links: Absolute or Relative Links?

Posted Friday, 17 April 2009 at 15:40 by Andrew Liu
Tagged: search engine optimisation (seo) | link strategy
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One of the most asked questions I field is "what is the SEO difference between absolute and relative linking?".  It is a question that I have always answered with what my head told me; that "there is no difference".  However, there are some myths and rumours, and some evidence to back up the answer that "yes, there once was a difference".


Firstly, for the newbies, lets examine what these links are, and how they differ.



Absolute URLs

eg. <a href="">About WebTop</a>


The above HTML code is an absolute link.  You can copy and paste this link anywhere; in your webpage, in my webpage, in a test webpage, and you can be 100% confident that this link, when clicked, will take you to the WebTop website at exactly the designated URL.


In general, absolute links are:

  • better at handling canonicalization issues;
  • are safer against site hijacking because they will always take you to your designated site;
  • will save your content from being stolen as most content thieves only copy and paste;
  • work better if your content is being distributed by email, though the proper use of the BASE HREF tag will alleviate that problem;


Relative URLs


defn: URL whose location is specified relative to the address of the base document in which the URL resides. It provides a shorthand way to refer to files or resources that use the same protocol, domain name, or directory path as the current document. (source)

eg. <a href="/about-us">About WebTop</a>


Relative URLs are:

  • more favoured by programmers, as they are more portable across one domain to another.  Generally speaking, a site is designed on a staging server, then moved over to production.  Relative URL's will work in this instance.
  • make your HTML shorter as there is less to code, and may help decrease page load times.


SEO Benefits?


Today, there is very little, if any, evidence that one type of URL outperforms the other in SEO.  Certainly, and I can say this with experience, about 10 years ago, absolute URL's were more heavily favoured than relative URL's, but I must admit this was when search engine technology was still in its infant stage.  Today, every piece of logic dictates that a link, relative or absolute, should be treated equally (given all other things equal).  And today I see no evidence that leans one way or the other, which I believe highlights the fact that the search engine algorithms have done away with their earlier flaws, and use other means to rank links.



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