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The Importance of Trailing Slash in URL Addresses

Several times i’ve encountered the question “Why do some links have a trailing slash at the end of the URL, while others don’t?” If the answer you’re seeking is something like: “It doesn’t matter, both work,” you might consider reversing the perspective, as this answer is not accurate…

When discussing URL addresses, every character is relevant. Even a minor change, even just a single character, can be interpreted differently by the server and certainly result in a different address from the perspective of search engines (Google, to be precise). As Google states in the article “To Slash or not to Slash”, these are two distinct addresses that might even have different content:

Google treats each URL above separately (and equally) regardless of whether it’s a file or a directory, or it contains a trailing slash or it doesn’t contain a trailing slash.

However, in the same sentence (as you can see in the following video), they also mention that in most cases, Google’s search engine can understand that these two different addresses are, in fact, the same page. Therefore, the reason for concern isn’t significant in this case.

 

Nevertheless, despite what’s been said, I believe it would be wise to avoid the described confusion and standardize your website’s URLs.

So, this short post is written in the context of WordPress site optimization and proper link structure. Generally, what I’m trying to convey is that when you create a link or generate a canonical URL, make sure that the version of the URL you’re using matches the version of the site you’re promoting/developing, whether you’re using a trailing slash at the end of the URL or not.

Why is URL Consistency Important?

The answer is to stay secure because servers tend to interpret these two addresses differently:

  • Sometimes (and it doesn’t affect your site’s ranking), servers might simply perform a 301 redirect to the default address.
  • Certain servers can return a 404 error for a URL without the trailing slash, wasting link juice.
  • Specific servers might perform a 302 redirect to the correct version, wasting link juice.
  • Other servers could return a status 200 for both versions, wasting link juice and efforts and potentially causing duplicate content issues.

By the way, if you’ve noticed, in this blog I use a trailing slash for all addresses.

So, ensure that in your WordPress site, all internal links, canonical URLs, logo links, and ideally even incoming links (backlinks / inbound links) are consistent, whether with a trailing slash or without, for the sake of standardization.

WordPress Functions for Handling Trailing Slash

As far as I know, there are three functions in WordPress that deal with the trailing slash. I won’t go into detail about them, but in general, one adds a trailing slash to the URL, the second removes a trailing slash from the URL, and the third returns a URL based on your WordPress settings.

These functions are as follows:

You can use any of these functions to achieve the desired result.

Examples of Working with Trailing Slash

Assuming the decision is to use a trailing slash, and if you’re building the template and displaying your logo with a link to the homepage, for example, you should do it like this:

<a href="<?php echo trailingslashit( esc_url( home_url() ) ); ?>">

Adding Trailing Slash to Canonical URL in Yoast SEO

If you’re using the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, for instance, and you want your canonical URLs to always have a trailing slash, use the following filter:

/**** adds trailing slash at the end of rel-canonical tag ***/
function wpseo_canonical_url_slash( $canonical_url ) {
	return trailingslashit( $canonical_url );
}
add_filter( 'wpseo_canonical', 'wpseo_canonical_url_slash' );

Performing Redirect to Correct Address using htaccess

Ensure that the redirect to the intended address of your WordPress site is done correctly. If you want to redirect from a non-trailing slash URL to a trailing slash URL, add the following code to the .htaccess file:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule ^(.*[^/])$ /$1/ [L,R] # <- for test, for prod use [L,R=301]

For the reverse action, use this code:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule ^(.*)/$ /$1 [L,R] # <- for test, for prod use [L,R=301]

In Conclusion

I must admit that this topic can be quite confusing, but it’s important that you maintain consistency in all matters related to links on your WordPress site.

Roee Yossef
Roee Yossef

I develop custom WordPress themes by design. I love typography, colors & everything between, and aim to provide high performance, seo optimized websites with a clean & semantic code.

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