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Our site's navigation links are currently in relative form:

<a href="/section">

The SEO company I mentioned in my previous question recommends we change them to absolute links:

<a href="http://www.ourpage.com/section">

This is to "ensure search engines get the correct and working URL for the pages". Is this really something that should be taken into account or is this another case of extra work with no added benefit?

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If you implement this, I would recommend inserting the domain via a global define, or from some other centralized location. That's assuming your site is dynamic. –  Levinaris Apr 5 '11 at 12:19
    
Yes, the site's dynamic. I'm trying to lobby the use of <base href="http://www.ourpage.com"> to avoid touching all of the links on the pages since some of them are defined in the content and going through all of them would be a major pain. –  Kaivosukeltaja Apr 5 '11 at 13:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There's pros and cons to both implementations:

Absolute: Deters scrapers (since they will have to replace all base href values). Allows for better testing in production sites - not relying on missing folder heirachy etc. Less overhead for URL retrieval (debated).

Relative: Easier for development (on a staging server or local server etc) without the need of dynamic base href. Easier to transport or move the site to another (sub)domain/folder.

So while you can see there's no SEO value to be had on way or the other, one thing that is commonly agreed in SEO is that "Good URLs NEVER change", hence my (personal) preference for insisting on absolute URLs.

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If the URL works for you when it's relative then it will work for search engines. I don't see any benefit to absolute links for SEO. Relative links make life easier when you change your site around as you don't have to necessarily change every link (depending on how you change your site). I think you need a new SEO company.

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Although, it depends upon the SE, for some, providing full absolute linking, would reduce the amount of processing required to index the website, but I am not sure if this method is still used currently.

However, providing absolute link, would help when the user wishes to save the content for offline reading, and then it would make it possible for him to browse back to online content from his saved offline page.

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At least Firefox changes the links to absolute when I save the page to my local drive, are there offline readers or browsers that don't do this? –  Kaivosukeltaja Apr 5 '11 at 11:29
    
AFAIK, Safari does not. There must be others also –  Starx Apr 5 '11 at 11:38

According to Google both work but they recommend full URLs. From Matt Cutts:

I recommend absolute links instead of relative links, because there's less chance for a spider (not just Google, but any spider) to get confused

Source: Googleguy (aka Matt Cutts) on WebmasterWorld.com (June 2, 2005)

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Absolute links does not mean full URLs. Both of the examples in the original question are absolute links. –  Tim Fountain Apr 5 '11 at 11:59
    
I think I should clarify the above. Historically the main problem spiders have had with relative links are that <a href="page.html">foo</a> leads to a different place when accessed from http://example.com/foo vs. http://example.com/foo/ even though both might be the same page, and it's much easier for a spider to get confused than a user. IMO any link that starts with a slash counts as an absolute link in the sense that there's no ambiguity surrounding what it expands to. –  Tim Fountain Apr 5 '11 at 12:08
    
@TimFountain: Both the examples in the original question are not absolute links. The first one (starting with a slash) is root-relative and the second one is absolute. The first one is influenced by a base href element, the second one is not. The first one does not need to be modified by a scraper, whilst the second one does. –  w3d Sep 15 '13 at 14:48
    
Yes, you're right. I would probably normally describe the first example as an absolute path, and the second as a full URL. I still say there's no good reason to use anything other than an absolute path for internal links. Full URLs offer no advantages but some (minor) disadvantages. –  Tim Fountain Sep 15 '13 at 22:27

Theoretically, SEO wise, there should not be a difference. I've written about it some time ago http://nirlevy.blogspot.com/2008/07/absolute-vs-relative-urls-and-seo.html

i'll copy some of what I wrote there:

There is nothing google ever wrote that i could find that say that absolute URLs are better if your site is only accessed by one domain name.

There is one exception i can think of: if your domain is "coolstuff.com" for example and you do use absolute URLs, then the word "coolstuff" will appear in your pages alot. This might be something that may boost your ranking with regards the the word "coolstuff". But this is just a guess.

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