Google: URLs are case sensitive

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Google’s John Mueller clarifies that URLs are case sensitive, so it’s important that the characters are in upper or lower case.

Variations in the cases can make one URL different from another, in the same way that a URL with a trailing slash is different from a URL without a slash.

This topic is covered in the last installment of Ask Googlebot on the Google Search Central YouTube channel.

A question is asked as to whether a website’s ranking can be affected by the case of letters in the URL.

Mueller answers the question while explaining how Google chooses which version of a URL to show in search results.

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Do letter cases in a URL impact SEO?

The cases of letters in a URL are absolutely important to Google.

Two URLs can look the same and even lead to the same content, but they can be treated as different URLs if one is capitalized and the other is not.

Mueller says:

“By definition, URLs are case sensitive, and things like the slashes at the end also matter. So technically yes – these things matter. They make the URLs different.

When Google recognizes that there are multiple versions of the same URL, it tries to crawl them all and determine which one to show in search results.

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While this is handled automatically, Mueller says it’s not always ideal because it might take longer for Google to discover and index the content.

“If a website always displays the same content in these cases, the search engines will try to figure it out on their own and it usually works well. But that’s not always ideal.

For example, search engines will try to crawl all variations of the URL they find. This can make them a bit slower to find other useful content on your website.

Google initiates a process called canonicalization when it encounters several distinct versions of a URL.

It decides which URL to keep in the SERPs and consolidates all signals from other versions into that same URL.

The URL that ends up being displayed in search results is known as the canonical URL.

“Plus, when search engines find multiple different URLs displaying the same content, they have to decide which of those URLs to keep. We call this canonization.

This does not change the ranking, but our systems may choose a URL that you did not choose.

The cases of letters in a URL can also play a role in robots.txt, says Mueller.

“Another place where the exact URL plays a role is robots.txt. In the robots.txt file, you can indicate which parts of a website should not be crawled.

The robots.txt file also uses exact URLs, so if you have entries that refer to one version of a URL, they wouldn’t apply to other versions of that URL. It is rare, however, that we see this causing problems.

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You can tell Google which version of a URL you want to appear in search results by linking to that same version consistently.

Using the rel = “canonical” tag will also send clues to Google about which version of a URL you prefer to display in the SERPs.

“Using internal links to link to a consistent version is a clear indication of your preference. Adding a rel = “canonical” link element also confirms this and encourages search engines to focus on this version.

So in short, uppercase or lowercase matters for URLs. It’s good practice to be consistent in how you use them, but it’s usually not that critical for a website.

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See the full video below:


Featured image: screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, September 2021.


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