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Hyperlinks: Absolute vs. Relative

hyperlinksDo you know which hyperlink to use?

There are two types of hyperlinks – ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’. These links are use to either move the viewer around a site or direct them elsewhere for the purpose of converting a sale or collecting information.  Hyperlinks can be used in a . . .

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social Site
  • Email Marketing Program
  • Newsletter

What’s the Difference?

An ‘absolute’ hyperlink refers to the use of the complete URL.

 Example:   http://www.yourdomain.com/filename.html

A ‘relative’ hyperlink refers to using only the name of the file. (Using a ‘relative’ link will work only within the domain where the file is located.)

Example:   /filename.html

Also be aware, if you have files stored in a folder within the domain, that folder’s name must be part of the hyperlink string for both ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’ links. If you do not include the folder name, you will have a broken link resulting in an error.

Say for example, you have all your domain forms stored in a folder named ‘FORMS‘. You want to include a link taking the viewer from the main page to the ‘request information form’ ( file name ‘request.html’ ). The folder name ‘FORMS‘ must be included in the hyperlink path. The examples below show the correct paths.

Absolute hyperlink:  http://www.yourdomain.com/FORMS/request.html

Relative hyperlink:   /FORMS/request.html

At all times path links are case sensitive – you must use the names exactly as created. Not using the correct name will result in an error.

How links may effect your page

How you refer to the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) in hyperlinks is up to you.  However, before you make a decision you will want to read about how the differences between the links may effect your page.

When using ‘relative’ links, the portion of the link before the file name is understood to be that of the domain (http://www.yourdomain.com/ ). However, not having that information shown translates to the search engine spiders having to make this calculation when indexing the pages on a website. In terms of search engine optimization, this could present a problem by way of confusion and seeing pages as having duplicate content.

Depending on page content, it has been noted that pages with ‘relative’ links may load faster. So is the time saved significant enough that it makes a difference? Probably not. That being said, knowing that either link will work, the ‘absolute’ hyperlink is preferable because . . .

– should someone steal your content or save it to a desktop all the links will continue to point back to you (really important if you have affiliate links on the page),

–  it is easier for search engines to follow ‘absolute’ links,

–  it helps prevent your pages from falling into a loop when being indexed (possibly resulting in a server overload and a 404 error) and

– should it ever be required that ‘absolute’ links be used – you’ll be ahead of the game.

Bottom Line

Which ever link you decide to use, be consistent. Being consistent is paramount and helps keep your pages from being de-indexed, i.e. disappearing from the search engine results.


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