Why Google hates your question marks and ampersands
There are two types of URLs.
A static URL however, doesn’t rely on variable strings, thus staying cohesive throughout the site and looks like this:
The dynamic URL shown above is a fairly mild example of this type of link. Unfortunately, many of the dynamic links that you will find online, especially in e-commerce stores most likely have about eight question marks, thirty ampersands… and a whole lot of unidentifiable numbers.
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Optimizing your URLs for search engines
Search engines tend to index dynamic URL’s at a much slower pace than static URLs, and so do users. When looking at your page in a search engine, a user is more likely to click a link that has a recognizable URL string, such as one with the title of an article in the URL than one with question mark followed by some numbers.
Like users, search engines are not only bewildered by your missing keywords, but they also identify session tags and variables as “stop signs”, pull on the reigns and yell “woahhhhh nelly”. Or something to that effect.
Static URLs are quite easy to optimize, however, going overboard with the sub-categories is a little offensive as well, (darn those snobby search engines).
If you are interested in how to optimize your static URLs for search engines and user friendliness, Ross Dunn at SearchEngineGuide.com has a few classy pointers:
- Don’t have more than 3 subdirectories in any URL.
- Try using keywords in your URLs if you can. The best place for a keyword is in a subdirectory (such as the category or topic).
- If you want your page to be indexed by search engines, avoid session tags and variables because, like users, these are “stop signs” for search engine spiders.
Since we’re all in this together (this being search engine and URL optimization), the folks SEOChat.com have made a URL Rewriting Tool that will restructure your dynamic URLs into static URLs so that you might take a gander, and if you’re thinking about it, will offer ideas. AListApart has a more technical guide for restructuring them, that either you or your webmaster will most likely find useful.
Now, we know that restructuring your links isn’t something you can snap your fingers and be done with. We’re certainly not suggesting that you go out and break all your inbound links doing this. However… everyone needs a redesign once in a while, and some folks might be in the process right now.
With that said, it’s very important to think about your URL strategy if you’re depending on organic traffic from search engines. Using dynamic URLs with little to no keywords in them and multiple variables is not going to get you as highly indexed as a comparable site with an optimized URL. If you are in a highly competitive market, this could be tragic.