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Is there a significant advantage in this day and age to use URLs that reflect the content on the page? All major browsers support indexing of dynamic pages these days, so is it really all that much of an issue to use a simple id vs. a “Friendly URL”? I’m not a SEO guru by any stretch of the imagination so it would be appreciated to get a SEO masterminds perspective on it.

Thanks

The problem with using things in the URL such as; title that the user can change at will is that the page location changes. So you than need to deal with the added possibility of redirecting broken saved pages which is a mess. By using numbers that never change the user can change anything they want about the data and still have it always go to the correct page, when talking dynamic pages that is. When using dynamic data to determine page location function becomes coupled with presentation.

That may make sense to you but I can assure you average user doesn’t even know what those are and they don’t affect their experience when browsing the web. They just care they can get to a to b with the presented page links and that is all. The url thing is to technical for them.

I’m also concerned with larger, heavily dynamic sites here controlled by some type of content management system. Not simple mom and pa sites with mostly static pages where urls are much easier to control.

I have never really understood this because most people don’t even know what a URL is, they know the little IE explorer icon and think that’s the internet. So I don’t really get the up-session with making the URL pretty. There is plenty of advantages of not using the friendly URL approach such as being able to pass arrays between pages using the standard methodology and not needing to deal with numeric based context for arguments separated by /.

I think it’s important to have urls not just for SEO (never hurts to have keywords in the url) but also for the users using the site.

I like to use it as an additional location where users can see site structure and where they might be in it.

example.com/forum/rap-is-it-good
example.com/forum/moms-home-cooking
example.com/index.php?p=4

Which of these do you think conveys the most information?

It’s simple to setup and use and is just small touch that I feel helps make the site a more friendly place for my users.

Sure, there are a lot of numpties out there, but there are a lot of clued up surfers too. Using human-readable URLs makes things easier for them. You should not be passing data such as session variables or other non-essential data in the URL, because that can lead to mistakes, and it is likely to confuse Google, who won’t easily know which parametersto include so you could easily end up with duplicate URL formats.

If the page genuinely is dynamic then by all means use a query URL, but you can still often make it human-readable by using keywords rather than nonsense numbers.

There are several reasons to pick SEO-friendly URLs over dynamic query string parameter filled URLs:

  1. It’s MUCH easier for the user to get an idea of what the page is about when they see http://www.example.com/federal-reserve-lowers-interest-rates/ than when they see http://www.example.com/index.php?p=2881.

  2. The search engines (not JUST Google) use keyword phrases from the URL as strong hints to what the page is about (similar to the way they use link text from inbound links to determine what pages are about).

  3. SEO friendly URLs are easier for users to remember… like http://www.example.com/mortgage-calculator/ is MUCH easier for users to remember than http://www.example.com/index.php?p=9298381.

It gets even worse w/ large ecommerce type sites using dynamic URLs for their pages. These often have MANY query string parameters which lead to URL canonicalization issues.

For example, all of the following will typically render the EXACT same content from a CMS:

http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&subcat=19&prod=12&sort=3&filter=7
http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&subcat=19&prod=12&filter=7&sort=3
http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&subcat=19&sort=3&filter=7&prod=12
http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&&prod=12&sort=3&filter=7subcat=19
http://www.example.com/index.php?subcat=19&prod=12&sort=3&filter=7&cat=12
http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&subcat=19&sort=3&prod=12&filter=7
http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&prod=12&subcat=19&sort=3&filter=7

But the search engines see each unique URL as a different page in their index. These types of URL canonicalization issues lead to duplicate content and split PageRank. URLs like:

http://www.example.com/electronics/hdtv/sony-bravia-model-992881xh-42-in/ makes a LOT more sense to the user (and search engines) than:

http://www.example.com/index.php?cat=12&prod=12&subcat=19&sort=3&filter=7

Many more reasons to use SEO friend URLs… NOT just from an SEO perspective, but from a user perspective as well.

No it’s not going to kill you if you don’t use SEO-friendly keyword rich URLs. But keywords in the URL IS a ranking factor at most engines… allbeit only 1 of 200+ factors at Google.

But it’s never any ONE thing you do in SEO that is going to make a page rank. It’s LOTS of little things that you do when taken as a whole that make pages rank. This is just one of those little things that help.

Ranking advantage? Probably not as much as some make out - but every little bit helps.

User benefit? Yup, certainly helps and this gets brownie points from the big “G”.

Rewritten URLs, when done correctly, can themselves solve a number of canonical issues that normally arise with dynamic URLs - query-string ordering, camel-case, positioning, length, keyword content (or lack thereof) etc…