Keep URLs Simple for Search Engine Friendly Web Pages

Making sure your website and the pages within it are constructed in a way that makes it easy for search engines to find and index it is critical to achieving high rankings. One important thing to remember: search engines are essentially computer programs - commonly known as spiders - that download web pages, read the text and links on that page and decide what to do with it.

Just like your personal computer, if a spider is overtaxed, it will freeze up or crash altogether

Therefore, if a website layout is disorganized or links between pages are difficult for the spider to find, the site will not be crawled that frequently or not at all.

This applies to your URLs as well… a site with short, static looking URLs like ones found at the website for search engine optimization firm SEO Advantage® are crawled, indexed and ranked more efficiently.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator – a system that specifies where an identified resource is located and the mechanism for retrieving it. Search engines find your website and pages on it by following links – much like you find websites on the Internet using a personal computer. A page is scanned and links are stored in a database, or indexed, where they are later gone through one by one.

Many web sites, especially e-commerce ones, use dynamically generated URLs

These are web pages where you see a lot of strange characters in the address, such as “&”, “?”, “+” and “=” – these are automatically generated by randomly pulling characters from a database.

Some of this is unavoidable, as the variables are pulled from the database to match specifications of the customer – search engines are improving their ability to crawl and index dynamically generated URLs, but they still do not like them very much. However, a site with short, static URLs will still be crawled more efficiently.

There are a couple of tools to avert any problems with dynamically generated URLs – one is known as mod_rewrite from Apache, which converts a dynamically generated URL with one that’s shorter, easier on the eyes and easier for spiders to crawl and index.

Take this generic example for instance - Joe Bob’s online store might have a dynamically generated URL for large blue tarps:
http://www.joebob.com/index.php?item=tarps&color=blue&size=large

The mod_rewrite tool would change that to:

http://www.joebob.com/tarps/blue/large

CAUTION: Be very careful if you change URLs for web pages that have been crawled, indexed and ranked. Changing URLs carelessly will damage your standing in the search engines. If you do change a URL, be sure to redirect the old URL to the new one.

A simpler alternative to mod_rewrite is Google’s XML Sitemaps feature – it allows you to notify Google of exactly which pages on your site you want crawled - avoiding the long, dynamically generated URLs that can possibly hinder your rankings in the search engines BUT it’s no replacement for clean, crawlable URLs.

Yahoo and MSN also have sitemap features and accept them in the same format as Google does.

Check back soon with the search engine optimization knowledge center at SEO Advantage® for further tips on keeping your URLs simple so search spiders will frequently crawl your site, rank it highly and display in page 1 or 2 of their search engine results page.

About SEO Advantage®

Led by Stone Reuning, SEO Advantage®, Inc. is an online marketing and search engine optimization firm that helps businesses turn their web presence into a powerful revenue generation medium. Our clients enjoy dominance on Google, Yahoo and Bing through a suite of unique pay-for-performance search engine optimization and online marketing services implemented by a multidisciplinary team of SEO engineers, copywriters and web designers. You'll find us referenced in books such as "Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale" and the BusinessWeek bestseller "The New Rules of Marketing & PR," as well as the popular ebook "The Small Business Blogging Blueprint." Find out more today by calling us at 1-800-366-1639 or email us here.

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