Making Pretty URLs for Search Engine Spiders


If you have some weird-looking URLs, you might need a little help from a search marketing expert. I have plenty of advice, because I've seen some ridiculous URLs in my time.

I mean, here is an actual URL I saw on the Web site for Sears a few years ago:

You can't make this stuff up.

Now, not only is that a URL that only a dynamic Commerce engine could love, but it's one that both search engines and normal people avoid. Spiders probably won't index it and other sites won't link to it.

So what do you do if you have funny URLs? Not necessarily THAT funny, but you have a few dynamic parameters dribbling off the end of your URL, with question marks and equal signs and other weird-looking stuff?

There are some standard things that people (yeah, people like me) advise:

  • URL Rewrite. Depending on how you serve up your pages, your Web server probably has some way to rewrite those URLs from something crazy to something intelligent.

  • Redirects. Sometimes, you can change odd URLs (such as those with metrics parameters dumped at the end) so that many weird-looking URLs reolve to one URL. Just be sure to use 301 redirects instead of other methods, or the search spiders will ignore your instructions.

But suppose that stuff is beyond you? Or you don't even have access to your dynamic Commerce server? Or your shared hosting plan doesn't allow you to do redirects the required way?

That would probably mark you as a normal person who does not beep when you talk. Is there anything that you are allowed to do that you actually have a possibility of being able to do?

Well, you actually have an option in some of these cases. If you have several weird URLs that you are trying to map to a single URL (such as those pesky metrics tags at the end of what is basically the same page), check out info on the canonical tag here. The search engines all pay attention to it now and if you can code HTML tags, this should be something you can do.

But there is a bigger lesson here. Just because you can't personally do something doesn't mean it can't be done. If your host or your Web server doesn't allow you to do these things, then complain to them and think about switching to someone new, if that is possible. If you are simply incapable of doing this stuff (I understand), get help from someone who knows how.

Weird URLs seem like a nit in search marketing, but they can have serious consequences. If your URLs are the size of a small Latin American country, you need to do something.

via Shutterstock

About the Author

Mike Moran
Mike Moran is a veteran digital marketing and technology consultant who serves as a Senior Strategist for Converseon, a leading digital marketing agency based in New York.   Mike writes for the Biznology® blog, as well as a regular column for Search Engine Guide.
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