Web business consultants

Business Management Help for Website Owners

Search Engine Friendly URLs - Best SEO Links for Web Stores

Does your shopping cart produce long, difficult to read and remember, page names for your category and product pages? e.g.

http://www.mydomain.com/store/abilong.abc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=CX710

Are you concerned that your page names (URLs) contain no keywords? (If they don't, you should be.)

Are some of the methods suggested for creating people and search engine friendly URLs impractical for your shopping cart and/or store setup and so you are confused as to the next best method that you should use?

Worry no longer.

Below is a detailed list of types of search engine and people friendly URLs, ranked in order of effectiveness. The lower the number, the more effective the URL type (1. is best).

NB: It is highly likely that the best method of linking and others close to the top ranked method, aren't available to you. If so, don't despair because:

  • keywords in page names is only one of more than one hundred factors that search engines examine and
  • whether you use e.g. the best method or the 4th best method, is going to make very little difference to your search engine rankings. Your objective should be to improve your "page names" (i.e. the URLs) so they are the best that you can get them. Don't worry if they aren't THE BEST.

For the purposes of the examples below, let's assume the following:

  • Domain/store name: "mydomain.com"
  • Product Name: the "Mazda 2010 CX7"
  • Product Code: "cx710" (meaningless i.e. not a keyword) or "2010-mazda-cx-7" (meaningful i.e. comprised of keywords. In some stores, it is possible to make the product code the same as the product name).
  • Category Name: "Passenger Cars"
  • Category Code: "passenger" (meaningful i.e. a keyword) or "mpc10" (meaningless)
  • Identifier (required for URL rewriting in the .htaccess file (Apache): "p" (the "p" indicates that it is a product)

Short Links Examples, Ranked by Effectiveness

  1. http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7.html.
    Best. This uses just the product code where the product code (i.e. 2010-mazda-cx-7) is the same as the product name, except with hyphens between the words. This results in the shortest URL and one where keywords are the densest. However product codes like this are fraught with difficulties in store admin and, in fact, impractical in the vast majority of stores with more than a couple of hundred products).
  2. http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710.html.
    This is the next best - i.e. where the product name is first, "p-" or "p/" is the .htaccess determiner that it is a product page redirection and this identifier is next and the (meaningless) product code is last in the string.
  3. http://mydomain.com/p-cx710/2010-mazda-cx-7.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/p/cx710/2010-mazda-cx-7.html.
    Next best (meaningless product code and identifier are first in the URL and the product name last.)
  4. http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710/passenger.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710/passenger.html.
    Next best (product name, then meaningless product code and identifier then meaningful category code). Why is this not as good as 2. even though it has a keyword (passenger) as the category code? Firstly, the URL is longer i.e. it contains more keywords and dilutes the effectiveness of the REAL keywords i.e. the product name and secondly, it is better to avoid category codes in links to products due to issues with duplicate pages (wasting internal PageRank). There are workarounds for the latter though.
  5. http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710/mpc10.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710/mpc10.html.
    Next best (product name, then meaningless product code and identifier then meaningless category code). Why is this not as good as 2. even though it has a keyword (passenger) as the category code? Firstly, because the URL is longer i.e. it contains more keywords and dilutes the effectiveness of the REAL keywords i.e. the product name and secondly, it is better to avoid category codes in links to products due to issues with duplicate pages (wasting internal PageRank). There are workarounds for the latter though.
  6. http://mydomain.com/passenger/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/passenger/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710.html.
    Next best (meaningful category code, product name, then meaningless product code). Why is this worse than 5. when this URL has more keywords? Because the real keywords are the product name and this URL dilutes them plus moves them further away from the root (i.e. the domain name).
  7. http://mydomain.com/mpc10/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710.html or:
    http://mydomain.com/mpc10/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710.html.
    Next best (meaningless category code, product name, then meaningless product code). Why isn't this as good as 6.? Because a meaningless word (mpc10) appears between the root and the product name thus diluting the keywords and their prominence (closeness to the URL root).
  8. http://mydomain.com/cx710.html
    Next best (meaningless product code only). Why is this worse than many of the others above? From a search engine optimization perspective, this URL contains no keywords and is thus pretty much useless. However, from a human visitor's perspective, this URL probably beats No.s 2. - 7. because there is not much to remember and type. At times when search engines dial down the value of keywords in the URL, this URL would definitely be the second best choice. The problem is that for most of the time, one or other search engines do seem to give a reasonable "score" for a URL significantly matching the subject of the page so we wouldn't use this format, if one of the other formats above, were available.
  9. http://mydomain.com/cx710/mpc10.html
    Next best (meaningless product code and meaningless category code). Two non keywords. Who wants to rank for those?

Notes about Page Names (URLs) and SEO for Web Stores

Avoid Costly Mistakes & Hassles

We continue to get work fixing up stores whose owners have tried implementing search engine friendly links using either Sebenza's Ultimate SEO Links or other modules or following the tutorials above and failing to do so completely and/or correctly.

Consequences: Search engines fail to index your site the way you want (even when you submit pages and have Google site maps). Consequences of that: you lose your traffic and it takes many months to get back even if we fix it for you but you may never get it back it the mistakes remain unfixed.

So, avoid the mistakes in the first place - we can create search friendly links for you.

We can create them in your choice of formats, including:

  • as per the Miva Merchant 5.5 SEO links including the product and category names
  • as per the Sebenza Ultimate SEO Links module - including the product and category names
  • as per our search engine friendly links tutorial, including the product and category names
  • another format that you may prefer

Just contact us and let us know what you need and we'll give you a firm price.

  • Myth: A meaningless short URL (e.g. 8. above) is better for SEO than a longer URL containing keywords which reflect the subject of the page e.g. 2. or 3. above. Fact: If you believe that, I am not going to waste my time trying to explain the facts.
  • Myth: for the identifier, it is better to use something like "p-" rather than "p/" because search engines prefer pages closest to the root (i.e. rather than pages in sub directories or sub sub directories etc. Fact: Search engines don't care (within reason i.e. as long as the page loads just as quickly) how far down in the sub directories a page is located. What they care about is how many clicks the page in question is from the home page. e.g. Assuming both of these URLs/links were listed on the home page: http://mydomain.com/p-cx710/2010-mazda-cx-7.html and http://mydomain.com/p/c/x/7/10/2010-mazda-cx-7.html, search engines would probably rank them equally (I say probably because I have exaggerated the situation, way past normal and haven't yet tested such an exaggerated URL). Search correctly regards slashes (/) as spacers, just like hyphens.
  • Myth: Search engines rank URLs where the words are separated by hyphens (-) higher than those separated by plus (+) signs. Fact: Hyphens, slashes and plus signs are all processed as spacers. There is no difference.
  • Issue: Get Help. If your store has existed for more than a couple of months and you decide to change from the "out of the box" search engine unfriendly links, to search engine friendly ones, employ the services of a professional, to write redirects from your existing URLs to the new search engine friendly ones. Spend the money because if the job is messed up or done too late, you can forget getting any search engine traffic for some months and then after that, traffic significantly less than what you used to get.
  • Issue: Do not obsess. Do not obsess about achieving the best format of short links (as per 1. - 3. above). Your objective should be to improve them for human visitors and search engine robots, over the standard. Spend any spare time working on other ways to generate targeted traffic.
  • Why aren't product names only, used for search engine friendly links? Product names generally are not precise enough to use as an indexing method (i.e. product code) for products. Product codes need to be concise and exact - no spaces (characters must be consecutive - no breaks), no banned characters e.g. / no problematic characters e.g. ", no duplicates.
  • Issue: What are the objectives of short page names (URLs) for online stores?
    1. Relevancy. The more relevant the keywords in the page name or URL to the subject of the page, the better. In respect of a product page, what could be more relevant than the product name? Semiarboreal with category pages.
    2. Prominence The closer your keywords and especially the most important keywords are to the root of the URL i.e. yourdomain.com/ , the better. So
      http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710.html
      is better than
      http://mydomain.com/p/cx710/2010-mazda-cx-7.html. However, if yours are already the latter way, leave them. It's not worth changing them.
    3. Density Minimizing the number of irrelevant or meaningless "words" in the page name e.g. meaningless product and category codes. This is neither an invitation to spam keywords in the page name nor to obsess about meaningless product codes in a page name that contains keywords which reflect the subject of the page e.g. for a page about the 2010 Mazda CX7, these page names (URLs) are pretty much as good as it gets:
      http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p-cx710.html or:
      http://mydomain.com/2010-mazda-cx-7/p/cx710.html.
      If I were you, I wouldn't be wasting my time changing all the product codes into meaningful keywords. Your time can be more profitably used elsewhere.

 

 

Internet Marketing Engine - Web business consultants to small & mid-size organizations
Privacy and Security

Phone: Chicago +1 (708) 401-0421 or Melbourne, Australia +61 (3) 9670-1165

Copyright © 2000-2010 Internet Marketing Engine Australia USA. All rights reserved.

Make your web pages easier to follow and more relevant, with SEO links.About Us|Contact Us|Site Map|Home