Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the domains/URLs Category

Dynamic Versus Static URLs

There are two types of URLs: dynamic and static. A dynamic URL is typically a web page address that reflects a search of a database-driven web site. Static URLs reflect pages that stay the same unless the changes are hard-coded into the HTML.  A dynamic URL looks like this: http://www.babysperfectgift.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=18_28. The giveaway is the presence of question marks and equals signs. By contrast a static URL would look likehttp://www.babysperfectgift.com/adoption-baby-books.php.

But there is a risk when using dynamic URLs: search engines don’t like them.

Static URLs typically rank better in search engine results pages (SERPs), and they are indexed faster than dynamic  ones. Another, potentially more important) issue is that dynamic pages generally do not have any keywords in the URL (see the examples above).

This was clearly revealed in a recent study on how  Google, Yahoo, and MSN, rank websites. According to a report at WebConfs.com:

The study involved taking hundreds of highly competitive keyword queries, like travel, cars, and computer software, and comparing factors involving the top ten results. The statistics show that of those top ten, Google has 40-50% of those with the keyword either in the URL or the domain; Yahoo shows 60%; and MSN has an astonishing 85%! What that means is that to these search engines, having your keywords in your URL or domain name could mean the difference between a top ten ranking, and a ranking far down in the results page.

The WebConfs.com article goes into some technical solutions for webmasters. If your web site suffers from this problem, suggest your webmaster take a look.

Have some experience with this? Start or join the conversation in the Comments below.

SEO Tip: Keywords In Your Domain Name

The question often arises about whether to choose a domain name that has one of your keywords in it. Back several years ago, that seemed to be an important rankings consideration. If you were searching for a waffle maker,www.waffle-makers.com always seemed to show up at the top of the list, whether it really deserved it or not.

Google search result for waffle makers.

Well, it’s not that easy anymore, but it IS fair to say that since the keywords searched for are bolded in the search engine results, having a keyword in your URL provides one more opportunity to catch the eye of a potential customer. Is it likely to raise your rankings significantly? Probably not, as Bill Harttzer explains.

Best Practices for URL Structure

Your URL structure is important. Here are a few pointers, courtesy of Ann Smarty at the Search Engine Journal:

  • Short URLs within Google SERPs get clicked twice as often as long ones.
  • Dashes are better than underscores since dashes are interpreted as spaces, while underscores are ignored, resulting in what appear to the search engines as long, run-on words.
  • Unlike a domain name, URL is case sensitive, so if you have capital letters in your page filenames or folders, people may have trouble finding them if they type in your URL.
  • Make all redirects 301 permanent redirects.
  • Watch your page filename extensions.

Make Your Internal Links Consistent

Mark Jackson has a good article in Search Engine Watch about making sure your internal links are consistent. While there’s enough good stuff there to make it worth your while to read the entire article, of particular importance is his discussion of links to your home page. We find many (perhaps most) of our clients commit this easily fixed mistake.

Keepin’ Your Internal Linking “Real”

Now let’s look at the home page of your site. I would consider your home page to be located at http://www.example.com/, not at http://www.example.com/index.html or http://www.example.com/default.aspx. Even though the index.html or the default.aspx file is your site’s home page, the real home page is http://www.example.com because that’s the page everyone tends to link to when they link to your Web site.

So, why should your internal navigation link to the index.html file instead? Your Web site’s “home” link in your navigation should link to your real home page (i.e., http://www.example.com/). If you aren’t being consistent when you link internally on your site, something you have complete control over, then you’re losing out on better search engine rankings.

It’s quite possible that your internal linking inconsistency isn’t passing “link credit” around your site properly. The home page is the most important page on your site. Why pass some of your “link credit” to one URL (http://www.example.com/index.html) while other “link credit” is being passed to another URL (http://www.example.com/)? It’s important to fix the internal links to your home page, and consistently link to what I call your “real” home page.

3 Lines of Code Can Improve Your Rankings

HTML codeMany webmasters and web site owners aren’t aware of this hidden killer of search engine rankings. The problem occurs when multiple URLs can access the same page on your site. For example, all of the following are likely to point to the same page:

  • http://samplesite.com
  • http://www.samplesite.com
  • http://samplesite.com/index.html
  • http://www.samplesite.com/index.html

If other web sites link to yours inconsistently (which will happen sooner or later), different versions of the same pages can get indexed in search engines. This forces the search engines to choose the best URL to rank. Your PageRank will be diluted by the fact that some links are going to different URLs for your page.

Do you have this problem? It’s easy to check. In your browser, navigate to www.yoursite.com (substituting your own domain, of course). Then go to yoursite.com (without the “www.”). If both go to the exact same URL (check the address box in your browser), then you’re in good shape. But if one displays your URL with the “www” and the other displays it without, then you have this problem.

How to Fix This

First, choose which version you want to use — with or without the www. Then, have your webmaster injsert the following at the beginning of your .htaccess file. (Don’t worry: your webmaster will know what that file is. Unfortunately, this only works if your site is hosted on a Unix or Linux server. If it’s hosted on a Windows server, your webmaster will have to check for the proper way to do this on your server.)

To use the with-www version of your site, use this code, substituting your domain as appropriate:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yoursite.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

To use the without-www version of your site, use this (again substituting as appropriate):

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yoursite.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

That’s it! Just test to make sure it works.

Of course, you still need to make sure all the sites linking to yours are linking to the right version, and that if they’re linking to your home page they’re not including the actual page filename after the .com. But this little trick should take care of the worst of things.