Why search engine friendly URLs are important

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URLs to avoid - part 1One aspect of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which is still lacking on many websites, especially ecommerce sites, is whether or not your URLs are search engine friendly.

Search engines like to read real words in association with your content. If you have a database driven website, and you have URLs like this:

http://www.yoursite.com/index.php?id=654&cat=21&etc…

Then you are missing a trick. Google might index your cryptographically named pages, but you can squeeze an extra SEO boost by using search engine friendly URLs. Search engine friendly URLs are the ones you see every day on the internet that you can actually read. For example:

http://www.yoursite.com/dogfood/pedigreechum

This makes like much easier for search engines, and even for people to guess the URL if they don’t know it already. If you are looking for dog food, then /index.php?cat=21 doesn’t really trip off the tongue as easily as /dogfood does it?

How do you get search engine friendly URLs?

Plain english URLs are usually achieved using internal redirection – a function of the web server your website runs on (on Apache, the most popular open source webserver, this is all handled by the mod_rewrite module). I’ll write about the technicalities in another article, but for now the best thing you can do is to contact your website designer and ask it it is possible or not. Depending on the age and structure of your website and the web hosting you are using this may be an easy job, or it may require quite a bit of re-coding to achieve, so you have to balance the benefits against the costs.

The long term benefits of search engine friendly URLs

Apart from the immediate benefits in terms of SEO, should you redevelop your website in future, your URLs don’t need to change – or don’t need to change as radically. Because the URL is not actually real (i.e. the directory /dogfood doesn’t really exist as a physical directory on your webserver – rather it becomes a pointer to another internal address) then it doesn’t really matter what software you are running on your website. All you need to do in future is redirect the virtual /dogfood to the new internal address – and the search engines remain none the wiser, which means no need for 301 redirects and the fun that can entail. If you’re not into geek, don’t worry, it just means that hanging onto your values google ranking is much easier!

Credit to yoot.com for the hilarious photo!

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