A Better URL Structure for SEO?
A couple of years ago website owners scrambled to adopt the latest and greatest URL structure to help their rankings. What people finally settled on included characteristics such as these:
- Free of session IDs
- As few parameters as possible
- As Short as possible
- Dashes as word separators
And for the most part I agree with all of these things, but lately I've been wondering if there isn't a better way. The three areas of weakness I see with the above approach include:
- It's possible to have duplicate URLs if there are just words with no unique identifiers. Some people include the data in the URL, but I don't like doing that, but it seems to guarantee fewer visits for articles that are old even if they're relevant.
- If you want to rename a URL to use different keywords, you need to also set up a 301 redirect so users and search engines can find the content when using the old URL.
- Google News which is slowly being incorporated in to Google's main search results (Google Universal) requires a unique 3-digit (or more) identifier in every URL that isn't the date.
My proposed URL structure is this: http://infolific.com/technology/internet/######/one-or-more-keywords/ where ###### is a unique, numeric identifier with 3 or more digits. Advantages to this approach include:
- Numbers in the URL are unlikely to dilute the keyword relevance of the URL.
- You'll still get the keyword benefit from sites that link the page without creating custom anchor text.
- The number can map to a content record in a database for guaranteed lookup success EVEN IF the keywords change i.e. the CMS can be programed to ignore everything except the number.
- Should the keywords be changed down the road, automatic 301 redirects (based on the number in the URL) can updated search engines and users. No more manual redirects!
- Using a unique ID should allow for technology and database independence as long as you can carry the ID to whatever new system your website migrates to.
The biggest drawback to this new URL structure is that numbers sometimes scare people and there's no question that they make it near impossible to type the URL correctly. Sadly, I don't have a suggestion to deal with either of those two issues.
Anyone want to take me to task for proposing such a crazy idea?
[Update – October 4, 2007]
So a month after I wrote this article with what I thought to be an original idea for a URL structure, I discovered that another site is already using this structure. On the SeekingAlpha website the URLs are structured like this:
An example of a real article:
And all of these URL versions will redirect to the correct artle:
Kudos to the SeekingAlpha site! The only problem is they messed up with their redirects and used 302s (temporary) instead of 301s (permanent).