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SEO Friendly URL’s

One of the most important components of a webpage from an SEO perspective is the URL or the web address of that page. Getting keywords into file and directory names is a very powerful way to give search engines information about the subject of your pages. Let’s take a quick look at what makes up the URL. We start with the domain name of course for websites we generally use the WWW sub-domain for the main site. Next we have a directory often called folders we can have multiple folders, subfolders within subfolders.

Then we may end with the file name and that file name might end with a file extension. Thanks to blogging software it’s become common these days to not end file names with a file extension. I believe that it is a good idea to differentiate between file names and directory names and you do that, using file extensions. It doesn’t have to be HMTL it could be PHP, ASPX or whatever.

But I think it’s a good idea to make sure that Google knows the difference between your file names and directory names to help it understand your site structure. Perhaps the most common problem with URL’s is that they simply convey no information to search engines.
Consider the following URL: http://www.twotreesoliveoil.com/news.html. Yes it does have olive oil in the domain name, but as far as the directory structure file name goes, there is nothing, no keywords, something like this might be better; http://www.twotreesoliveoil.com/olive-oil-benefits/olive-oil-news.htm.

Get some keywords in there, separate the keywords with a dash not an underscore or space. Many developers will tell you that the separator should be an underscore but they won’t be able to give you a rational explanation why. Just tell that Google actually recommend dashes over underscores and no I’m not making that up. By the way, a quick tip related domain names; most domain names when printed or displayed on the screen should be title case, it makes them much easier to read.

There is another common problem with URL’s often found one very large sites. If you have what is known as a dynamic site you may have this problem. A dynamic website is one of which web pages are created on the fly by pulling data out of a database and merging it with the template. Most shopping cart sites are dynamic sites. The problem is that many of the systems were created by developers who were not thinking about search engine optimisation, so they built URL structures that contain database queries.

For instance the site might have URL’s that look like this, http://www.twotreesoliveoil.com/sp/fQzomQuhofA&list=UU9iTFWWz4putE8-sux-ggcQ&index=14. There are two problems with this type of URL. First such engines are less likely to index pages with complicated URL’s but to be honest that was much more of a problem in the past then today, but why take that chance? The other problem is that there are no keywords. It’s a huge waste of primacy real estate; here is a better URL; http://www.twotreesoliveoil.com/buy-olive-oil/zoe-extra-virgin-olive-oil/ and what a bunch of lovely keywords. So if your site has this dynamic URL problem, are you going to fix it?

You something called URL rewriting, it is a job for a programmer but it is not necessarily a terribly complicated job. Search for ‘mod rewrite’ or ‘URL writing’ to find more information. A quick word about directory structure, keep it simple, don’t go down fifty levels, keep it to two or three at the most and use keywords instead of generic directory terms. Use ‘buy olive oil’ rather than just ‘shop’.

Now and then you might run into web developers who tell that URL’s really don’t matter or even the putting keywords into your URL can get your site penalised by Google. I just heard the second one recently when a client went to his web development company with a list of fixes for his site. Both of these statements are completely untrue, rather than arguing the point though I simply explain that Google itself actually recommends that you put keywords in your URL’s.

Using nicely key worded URL’s is important whether your site is large or small, but consider very large sites with tens of thousands of pages, a small fix can have a huge effect in the search results as tens of thousands of file name become well key worded.

Sadhiv Mahandru has been developing websites and optimising them for over a decade. Specialising in SEO Manchester and throughout the UK. You can learn more about Internet Marketing and SEO by reading my personal blog.

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