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I have noticed something very strange on the site I'm working on. We currently only show http://www.example.com. The URL http://www.example.com/ (slash at the end) gets 301'd to http://www.example.com.

Now this is all very standard stuff except I noticed that "Screaming Frog" (an SEO tool) refused to crawl my site. When I spoke to their tech team they said it was because I was 301ing the slash to the non-slash and I "should fix that error".

To me that makes no sense as I thought many other sites such BBC.com and even google.com get rid of the trailing slash for the root domain.

However on closer inspection I don't think they're using either 301 or 302 HTTP responses. Because when I use http://web-sniffer.net/ to test www.google.com/ I get a 200 response AS well as www.google.com. However when I view www.google.com/ there is NO trailing slash. How does this happen?

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http://www.example.com/ and http://www.example.com are the same URL. Whether or not the trailing slash is shown in the browser address bar is purely cosmetic - when the request is sent to the server the slash will be included. (http://www.example.com/foo and http://www.example.com/foo/ on the other hand are different URLs.)

If the site you're working on is somehow redirecting one to the other, this does sound like a mis-configuration, and it's possible that browsers are just smart enough to ignore it. If you can provide the URL we can easily check the headers being returned to see if this is what's happening.

  • Hi Tim, thank you for this. I was not actually aware of this. The site I'm working on is www freeofficefinder com I thought the / at the end of root domain was indeed just the same as the slash at the end of the folder name (ie: both are different if you include the slash) Thanks for pointing it out that that isn't the case. – John Crawford Nov 13 '14 at 7:52
  • I don't get any redirect from that URL, so perhaps there's something else going on. I'd suggest you see if you can get more info from the SEO tool about exactly what they think is happening. – Tim Fountain Nov 13 '14 at 13:04
  • Hi Tim. Sorry for the late reply. As you mentioned in your answer, both example.com and example.com are indeed the same URL as it is only folders that are different. I found out what the 301 issue (it was our new code that checked if a cookie was present, if it wasn't the site would determine what device (mobile/desktop) set the cookie and then 301 redirect it back to that same page. I have since updated the code so that it doesn't need to 301 as it was causing bots some issue to crawl the site. – John Crawford Nov 13 '14 at 19:02

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