The “which is best” debate is something that can be applied to many things in life. When it comes to absolute or relative links though, there is no comparison website to refer to and the SEO world continues to deliberate over which one is the best. However, I hope to give you a good steer here.
First of all, for belt and braces, I’ll explain the difference between the two. You can tell if a link is relative if the path isn’t a full website address (a full website address includes http://www.), whereas an absolute path does provide the full website address.
Please note that this is a made up site. We literally have no idea how to grow bananas!
So, a relative link only points to a file or a file path, whilst an absolute link always includes the domain name of the website. When someone clicks a relative link, the browser takes them to that location on the current site, taking advantage of the fact that the server knows where the current document is.
As this is the case, you can only use relative links when linking to pages or files within your site. You must use absolute links if you’re linking to a location on another website.
Overall, the individual significance of each of these links has been contested, but it is widely regarded that absolute links provide better SEO value on the whole than relative links. This is for a few very good reasons:
It is sad but true that it is a common practice that people scrape content from a website and then put it on their own site. As a result of this, if your website is going to be subjected to scraping, it makes sense to try to get a link back to your own website. In order to do this, you have to use an absolute path. As well as scraping, there are other valid methods of getting your content to turn up on other websites (RSS and web-services). Absolute paths are the safe and recommended way to link.
Another thing to think about is if someone links to your site using fruitweb.com rather than www.fruitweb.com, the search engine will follow the link and start crawling. If you are using absolute links then the search engine will crawl your site and only see the pages as www.fruitweb.com/index.html. If you use relative links, the search engine could crawl your site as fruitweb.com/index.html. Certainly, most of your links from other websites will be linking to fruitweb.com and not fruitweb.com. However, if one of the search engines decides to index your site to fruitweb.com instead of www.fruitweb.com, you could suddenly have your search engine rankings plummet. Not good!
As such, it’s definitely good to have uniform internal linking. Don’t leave it to chance – it is sensible and good practice to make sure that all of your internal links specify exactly the domain name of your site so that the search engines cannot make the wrong indexing choice.
‘GoogleGuy’ has said “absolute links have less potential for getting messed up (when Google indexes your page). Even though it should not make a difference, I recommend absolute links.” So, there we have it, even Google has said that absolute links are the link of choice. Where’s the debate?
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