Lee Odden

Dynamic URL Optimization

Lee Odden     SEO

Recently I fielded a question about making dynamic urls more search engine friendly. A specific site example was not given, so my response was not as detailed as I would have liked, but I thought a post of some recommendations here might be helpful. Feel free to comment on anything else that should be considered to make dynamic urls easier to crawl.

Simple is best for crawlable urls. Although, Google and Yahoo are much better at crawling complicated urls now than they were a year ago. As a general rule, avoid including session id information in the url and if you do need to include parameters, limit it to 2 and limit the number of characters per parameter to 10 or less. Your solution might involve some of the following:

  • Server side URL rewrite (specifics depend on platform and web application) or Permanent redirects to crawlable urls from dynamic
  • Creation of an XML or plain text site map for submission to Google Sitemaps and Yahoo. With Yahoo, the text file would contain a list of URLs with each URL at the start of a new line. There are many 3rd party Sitemap programs listed at Google
  • Creation of a HTML sitemap with 100 text links or less. If you have more than 100, break the sitemap into more than one HTML page
  • Get inbound links deep into your site from other relevant sites, blogs, directories, etc – not reciprocal, and don’t worry about silly things like page rank

Google webmaster guidelines offer some good advice as well.

What else?

Tags: SEO, dynamic url optimization, mod rewrite, 301 redirect, google sitemaps, yahoo sitemaps, link building, sitemap, search engine optimization

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Try to replace the digit parameters with keywords with a equivalent table:
    http://www.unitedstate-site.com/Home.cfm?Region=10
    should be
    http://www.unitedstate-site.com/Home.cfm?Region=California

  2. That’s a good tip Eric, thanks.

  3. Keywords in query strings are absolutely useless. There is only one possible advantage, that is URL drops in forums, newsgroups and such. However, even if those keywords in linked URLs really pass topic relevancy, then the effect is minimal due to the low reputation/relevancy those sources can pass at all.

  4. Lee Odden says:

    Thanks for the link Sebastian. Is there any value to replacing variables with words for usability? Or is that irrelevant because it’s a query, not a static url?

  5. In the sense of usability you should not use dynamic URLs at all. Users are not yet used to type a question mark in an URL, not even with simple dynamic pages like http://www.example.com/?do-not-buy-cheap-viagra.

    Also, when you have sensible values for query string variables, why not rewrite the URLs? With dynamic URLs you have no easy to understand hierarchical structure to support “where am I” navigation like with subdirectories and file names.

    If possible, I’d go for meaningful standard URLs. If that’s no option, use tiny/short integers as values, and short variable names without the evil “ID”.

    Whenever you can make a decision w.r.t. URLs, then first try to think of users. Go for short, static and meaningful URLs. Otherwise don’t bother with SE optimizing dynamic URLs, the engines don’t count keywords in query strings, they like the shortest query strings best.

  6. Lee Odden says:

    Excellent observations and advice Sebastian. Take a look at the original post and you’ll see we’re on the same page. Thanks!

  7. Indeed, I was obviously distracted. Sorry for the repetition.

  8. Another way of dealing with this issue that was mentioned to me was using paid inclusion. That does not solve the crawling issues, but is a way to get difficult urls into Yahoo.

  9. > Keywords in query strings are absolutely useless

    How can you explain the bold in the URL for theses 3 words in the first result ?
    http://www.google.com/search?&q=hiver2006+motoneige+2

  10. > How can you explain the bold in the URL for theses 3 words in the first result ?
    Oups.. third result

  11. Do you really think not using dynamic URLs is still good advice in 2006? When you browse many topics in both Yahoo and Google search you see many dynamic results. You would think this would become a virtual non-issue except for steps 2 and 4 that Lee noted in the original post.

    Thoughts?

  12. If all things are the same with a web site and the choice for public URLs is: dynamic or static, I’ll take static.

    Dynamic URLs by themselves are not the issue. It’s whether they’re crawlable or not. Item #1 from my post.

  13. > How can you explain the bold in the URL for theses 3 words in the .. result? (for [hiver2006 motoneige 2])

    Simple. You’re misleaded by a smart software highlighting everything matching the search query on the SERP. What does the highlighted integer in “?ac=2” help you with rankings on a SERP with 9 results?

    > Do you really think not using dynamic URLs is still good advice in 2006?

    Yes. Because visitor.2006 is not that much brighter (read used to interpret dynamic URIs) than visitor.1999. IIRC search engines try to satisfy their users, and the convoy’s max speed is determined by the slowest ship. Sure, you can have great SE rankings for ugly URIs, but what’s with your bookmarkers and visitors used to navigate with arrow-up buttons in hierarchical directory structures? I won’t go that far to say you’ll get downranked for dynamic URIs, but they do have disadvantages.

  14. Hi –
    Thank you everyone for all your great advice. I am the culprit who opened up this box of worms :). I feel it is my duty to follow up and digest what brings up this debate:
    Do a search for “vacation package”
    Aside from all the other algorithms I am fine tuning … This is my product/keyword battle. Some vacation companies have resolved the dynamic issue, some have not.
    YES! YES! YES! to static URL’s!!! I do this on my pro-bono sites at home.
    But, I have to work with dynamic pages. Our company uses a CMS (content management system). So, we have a huge conflict of interest in the industry … use a CMS? …or optimize your site? I know the answer, but does an overworked tech team comply?
    Lee asked, “in 2006 it is possible to stay static only?” No really. Websites are like big buildings now. Big companies with a lot of data. CMS is much more efficient for larger companies.

    Anyone have some time to think outside the box and help me research ? 🙂
    + Is there a way in CMS to manually alter your individual URL’s after creating the dynamic pages?
    + Is there a way for CMS and shorter/cleaner URL’s to come together?
    + Google suggests … “make sure the CMS system can export your content so the search engine spiders can crawl your site.” Does anyone know what that means?

    Thanks for all for your suggestions !!!
    I will keep you posted to what I find also.

  15. I have found some recommendations supporting this quest for dynamic solutions … on http://www.spider-food.net. I copied word for word, so credit is due where credit is due. I will keep you posted to that which we implement, and that which succeeds.

    Spider Food recommends:

    ASP – Exceptional Digital Enterprise solutions using ASP. They offer a fix called QXASP that will remove the “?” in the query string and replace it with “/”

    ColdFusion – You need to reconfigure ColdFusion on your server so that the “?” in a query string is replaced with a “/” and pass the value to the URL. FOr more info on that, visit Allaire.

    CGI/PERL – Path_Info or Script_Name is a variable in a dynamic application that contains the complete URL address(including the query string information). To fix this, you need to write a script that pulls the information before the query string and set the rest of the information equal to a variable. You can then use that variable in your URL address.

    Apache Server – Has a rewrite module that enable you to turn URL’s containing query strings into URL’s that search engines can index. The module, mod_rewrite, isnt installed with Apache software by default, so check with your hostand see if it is available for your server.

  16. Thanks for doing the home work Katy. Also remember to submit your site’s urls using Google Sitemaps. There are also similar tools for Yahoo and MSN.

  17. Thanks for the nice information..

  18. We use Helicon’s ISAPI Rewrite – http://www.HeliconTech.com

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