Are Search-Engine Friendly URLs really Search-Engine Friendly?

Consider the following URL:

http://www.mywebsite.com/products.aspx?language=en&company=apple&category=phones

Now consider this URL:

http://www.mywebsite.com/en/products/apple/phones

Which of these URLs is more search-engine friendly?

I recently watched a presentation where the speaker demonstrated how to use URL rewriting to convert the top URL to the bottom URL.  This technique, he expressed, was more search-engine friendly.  Google and other search engines could better navigate and index the 2nd URL.

As I watched this presentation, I realized two things:

  1. This is crap.
  2. I’ve also been guilty of uttering this crap.

Semantics are a big topic these days.  Semantics allow computers to understand the meaning of information on the web.  This is accomplished by adding hints to web content that help computers understand the meaning of words.

For example, is Apple a company or a fruit?  Is Fargo a movie or a place ? Is Bart a transportation system or a character on The Simpsons?   These semantics are important if computers are going to deliver relevant search results.  .

Which of the URLs above convey more semantic meaning to Google and others?

Congratulations you’ve removed semantics from your URL’s

There are many programmers who are spending extra time removing semantic meaning from their URLs.  They are doing this under the guise of making these URLs search-engine friendly when, in reality, their efforts are doing more harm than good.

Don’t believe me?  Read Google’s response on this subject:

Does that mean I should avoid rewriting dynamic URLs at all?
That’s our recommendation, unless your rewrites are limited to removing unnecessary parameters, or you are very diligent in removing all parameters that could cause problems. If you transform your dynamic URL to make it look static you should be aware that we might not be able to interpret the information correctly in all cases.

So that’s it.  There is nothing wrong (and a lot that is good) about URL parameters.  If used effectively they become another tool for sprinkling semantic data through your web site.

All this being said, if your URLs look like this:

http://www.mywebsite.com/page.php?id=43256524644

…then you could probably benefit from better URLs.  Just remember the goal isn’t to eliminate URL parameters, the goal is to add meaningful semantics to your URL.

  • Todd

    Good analysis. There always the usability of URLs that tends to favor parameterless URLs, but I like the idea that parameters could have better SEO value.

  • Anonymous

    However, the second one looks a lot more human natural. It is easier to read, easier to understand, easier to remember and write if needed. I don’t know if search engines are smart enough, but the context in the second URL is quite clear. If the word apple is flowed by phones, obviously we are not talking about fruits.