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SEO experts sometimes demand that default document, e.g. www.site.com/index.html redirects with 301 to www.site.com, so:

  1. Is that really necessary?
  2. Does Google really penalize that?
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You can configure Apache and IIS to not display the default document, which would save you a 301. You should also remember to specify the default document URL in Google Analytics if you use that or it will track / and /index.html separately. –  toomanyairmiles May 16 '12 at 14:46
    
@toomanyairmiles How do you configure Apache (and IIS for that matter) to not display the default document, thus saving a 301? I assume that Apache would still have to perform a 301 at some point, as otherwise the "index.html" would still remain in the users address bar; wouldn't it? –  w3d May 17 '12 at 15:24
    
@w3d depends on the scenario, you can configure it to not show the document extension or not to show the page name. If this is done from launch then google will never be aware, if not then you'd have to remove the offending pages from the index via webmaster tools. The same technique is applicable in IIS. I don't have the httpd.conf code to hand but the IIS method is discussed here: forums.asp.net/post/361749.aspx. Ultimately the server doesn't have to show the page name to a browser or search engine. –  toomanyairmiles May 17 '12 at 15:33
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

They were right to do that although a canonical URL would have also sufficed. Technically speaking those are two different URLs and thus considered two different pages. So the 301 redirect, or canonical URL, tells Google that both are the same page and to handle it accordingly.

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While all the answers on this page are correct this is such a common issue that I think Google is smart enough to work things out here =)

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exactly my thoughts, but better be safe then sorry :) –  Antonio Bakula May 17 '12 at 13:57
    
ive always wandered that too, has any one seen it confirmed ? –  sam May 17 '12 at 13:58
    
You could create an experiment and see what Google does. We do this all the time. It is better to give SEO recommendations on things you have observed first hand =) –  Sandy Lee May 17 '12 at 13:59
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Google might not penalise your site in this instance, but if both URLs (with and without the default document) are accessible and no canonical URL is specified then you potentially have a duplicate content issue... Google will only index one or the other. It might index some URLs with "index.html" and some without. So there is now an inconsistency/mismatch in your indexed URLs. "index.html" provides no SEO benefit and users will generally prefer the shorter URL minus the default document. –  w3d May 17 '12 at 18:16
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