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Duplicate Content, SEO & The Scourge of the Trailing Slash

Duplicate content (different versions of identical content on a website) can create major problems for search engines and the optimization professionals whose responsibility it is to rank those websites' pages. 

One of the leading causes of duplicate content, believe it or not, can actually be caused by one single digital character - the trailing slash (/) [also known as a hash mark].

It is anyone's guess why search engines can't figure this out on their own, but the fact remains that if websites have an inconsistent linking practice and structure then it could result in problems, big problems in fact, for their SEO efforts. 

Google's John Mueller addressed this issue  in a tweet last month (see image below) which clarifies some of the confusion around the scourge of the trailing slash.

Mueller indicated that while having a slash on a root or hostname does not matter, having a slash elsewhere does as they are different URLs. For example, website.com/directory/ is not the same as website.com/directory.

What can you do about this, if anything, should you be concerned about  or suffering from duplicate content and fear the presence (or lack of a presence) of a trailing slash is impacting rankings negatively? 

While there's really little in the way of best practice (Google does not really care which way you choose - i.e., with or without a trailing slash - as long as its consistent) many expert SEOs suggest that a trailing slash is better as it is often a server's default method for displaying a folder anyway. 

The use of a canonical tag, however, can certainly eliminate most of the trouble associated with this issue (duplicate content), and the use of permanent 301 redirects can also provide some support.

Should you opt to keep the slash off the end of URLs then you will still want to make sure all internal links on a site are updated accordingly to point to the proper version and make sure that sitemap.xml files are correct and also pointing to the proper/preferred version. 


SEO & Duplicate Content
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