Opinion on Dual Page URL's

I’m developing a website that features information about animals. All animals have scientific names, but not all have common names. Therefore, I decided to use scientific names as my default URL’s. Thus, the URL for a page focusing on the wolf would be mysite/canis-lupus

However, I’d like to get some mileage out of common names as well. For example, visitors might be more inclined to link to a user-friendly URL, like mysite/wolf

My database currently has a field for URL’s, another field for common names, and a third field (SLUG) for URL’s based on common names, like this:

URL | COMMON_NAME | SLUG
canis-lupus | wolf | wolf
battus-rexus | (NULL) | (NULL)

So here’s my question: Do I really want to display the same content at two or more different URL’s? An option would be to set it up so that mysite/wolf automatically forwards visitors to mysite/canis-lupus

If I have pages at two URL’s, that’s more content for search engines to index. Visitors would also have more familiar URL’s. But are there any drawbacks I should be aware of?

I believe Wikipedia is set up so that various URL’s users type in are forwarded to a specific page. For example, the URL’s wikipedia/Wolf and wikipedia/Canis_lupus are both forwarded to wikipedia/Gray_wolf. However, I think I’ve seen other Wikipedia articles displayed under both the common and scientific name.

Also, if forwarding visitors from one page (common name) to another (scientific name) IS the best choice, would I still want search engines to index both pages, or do I need to do something to prevent the common-name page from being indexed?

Thanks.

P.S. After I get all this stuff worked out, I’m going to try and set up some kind of “intelligent search,” like Elastic Search.

Whew boy, you are entering a world that is a maintenance nightmare.

Do not assume that every species has only one “common” name.
(i.e. don’t think dual - think multiple)

For that matter, even some “scientific” names are not universally agreed upon.

If your site’s target audience is a limited region it might be easier, but if you are wanting global visitors IMHO keep with the scientific naming and have the various common names in the page content

Thanks for the tip. I should have explained more thoroughly…

I am aware that common names are all over the map. In that spirit, I’m generally limiting alternate URL’s to ONE common name (in most cases, the most familiar common name). So the alternate URL for mysite/ursus-maritimus would be mysite/aardvark, NOT mysite/ant-bear.

I’d estimate that about 5% of the names in my database currently don’t have any common names associated with them, while the others are linked to one common name, with alternate common names in limbo.

I can see the reasoning behind wanting a URL that is easier to remember. But I’m wondering how essential this is.

For example, if I am looking for information about “northern grey wolf” I would want to find your page in the SERPs but would that page’s content change often enough that I would want to often return to it? If I wanted to share the URL with others would lupus vs. wolf make that much difference?

You’re probably right. I could retain the common names in my database and use them in a search context. For example, if a visitor types “wolf” into a search box, they could somehow be forwarded to mysite/canis-lupus.

No. is the quick answer.
But using redirects to forward different URLs to the same page is an option.
Of course you will want the common name(s) in the page as keywords, possibly in prominent page locations like the description or headers.

Wow, great tip; I’ll definitely implement canonical links. Thanks.

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