Search Engine Friendly URLs
Search Engine Optimization – Get rid of those horrible URLs
If you visited this site a couple days ago, when you clicked on a topic like “Personal Finance” from the left menu, you would have been served a list of all the stories about Personal Finance. In the address bar at the top of your browser would have been: http://smartmoneydaily.com/ ProductDetails.aspx? productID=444. For many reasons this was not a good thing.
Firstly it is ugly, but more importantly it has no meaning to a user. It is strickly computer stuff – it tells the server which story (in this case product) to look up and serve to the browser. Is a user ever going to remember this address to type it in again or tell a friend about it? NO.
The other problem with this address is that it has no meaning to a search engine. Most Search Engine Optimization experts agree that the modern search engine spiders will index (find) pages with these ugly URLs (in the past the spiders simply ignored them) so that shouldn’t be and issue. However the file name is a definitely taken into account when determining the relevance of a page.
Here’s an example. Go to Google.com and type in Search Engine Friendly URLs. Notice that the top results have the words Search Engine Friendly URLs in bold in. Notice that this is true in the actual address in green at the bottom. It is proof that Google takes the file name (and domain name too for that matter – so better to choose a domain that include the main keywords for your site) into consideration and emphasizes it back to the searcher.
There are quite a lot of ways to implement this. Most professional blogging tools have an option to turn on Search Engine Friendly URLs. If you have that option make sure it is turned on. Also now it is important to name the article (use the same phrase for the title and the file name) in a manner that emphasizes the keywords that the article targets. Also worth noting is that the search engines consider words that are at the beginning of the title and file name to be more important than those farther to the right.
One mistake that I made is that I used “_” to replace the spaces in the path. Apparently the “-” character is better. I will have to fix this. Google does not see the underscore as a word separator. If you search on Search_Engine_Friendly_URLs you get 569 results, Search-Engine-Friendly-URLs returns 31,300 results and Search Engine Friendly URLs returns 1,220,000 results. So the one with the underscore is being treated as an exact phrase which limits the effectiveness since your page will only come up as an exact match. The dash (hyphen) is being more broadly searched than the underscore and therefore is a better symbol to replace the space.
Now you will notice that if you go to the same story as the one in the old address above the address looks like this: http://smartmoneydaily.com/Business/Adwords-Relevance-Relevance-Relevance.aspx. This is clearly better. Another benefit is that it has the main category built into the address. You know that it is filed under Business as it’s main heading and even better, if you cut the story name off the address and just enter http://smartmoneydaily.com/Business you will get a listing of all the articles in the Business file of the site.
At the time of writing this article Google had only indexed 3 pages of this site ( Google site:smartmoneydaily.com ). MSN was better but from what I’ve heard using this form of file naming system can make a big difference. Let’s hope. I’ll post an update when available.