The topic of URL structures has already been quite thoroughly covered in two previous lessons within this course “The Effect On Search Rankings and User Experience”, and “Build An Oak Tree Not A Broke Tree”. However, there are three topics relating to URL structures that have not yet been addressed, Dynamic URLs, Keyword Use and Stop Words
1. Dynamic URLs: Surely you have seen websites that use URLs where at some point the url includes an =? which is followed by a string of seemingly random numbers, characters and symbols.
The above is what is known as a “dynamic URL” and it is not at all random. In fact, every CMS actually utilizes dynamic URLs by default. You see, a CMS actually stores all content in a database. If you don’t know much about databases, just think of a big Excel spreadsheet. Every cell is in charge of storing a specific type of data. Pages on the site are then built to actually just call information from the database. The dynamic URL is evidence of this. When you see “=?” in a URL, that is where that URL begins making database calls. So, the truth is, a dynamic webpage could actually show completely different content each time the page is loaded. Of course, most websites don’t change their content this way, but many websites do. This is actually really cool functionality, but search engines like Google don’t like it because they cannot really trust that the information that they indexed when their spider crawled the site, will actually be the same information that a visitor will see when they load the site. Therefore, dynamic URLs cause a trust issue that will negatively impact your search engine rankings.
Also, dynamic URLs tend to not give any useful categorization or relevance clues. Therefore, they are missing out on one of the best opportunities to help Google understand what the content of your page is actually about.
Your URL structure should follow the categorization structure of the site as outlined in the examples within the lesson Build An Oak Tree Not A Broke Tree.
2. Keyword Use: It is important that your final URL for each page should incorporate the most important keyword for that page. However, you don’t want to repeat the same keyword in multiple directories in a URL string. Therefore, if your base keyword is used to the category page, then you may not need to repeat that base keyword in the URL structure of subsequent sub-category indexes within the URL.
would be better than
3. Stop Words: This is an area that is changing a lot… you may have heard about stop words. Stop words are common words that most search engines ignore. However, as the most sophisticated search engines, like Google, are moving boldly into natural semantic language processing, stop words are no longer being ignored. Stop words can alter the meaning of a sentence and Google knows this. Therefore, stop words are not the evil that they once were. While you may continue to avoid stop words in your primary keyword for a page, they should absolutely include them in your long tail terms. Still, using stop words in your page name or URL structure is still not wise for higher level category pages. But, as you drill down to your deeper content, pages that may exist solely for the purpose of answering a question with a great long tail phrase… those pages may very well include stop words as necessary. Stop words include the following:
a, able, about, across, after, all, almost, also, am, among, an, and, any, are, as, at, be, because, been, but, by, can, cannot, could, dear, did, do, does, either, else, ever, every, for, from, get, got, had, has, have, he, her, hers, him, his, how, however, i, if, in, into, is, it, its, just, least, let, like, likely, may, me, might, most, must, my, neither, no, nor, not, of, off, often, on, only, or, other, our, own, rather, said, say, says, she, should, since, so, some, than, that, the, their, them, then, there, these, they, this, tis, to, too, twas, us, wants, was, we, were, what, when, where, which, while, who, whom, why, will, with, would, yet, you, your… this is not an exhaustive list, but it is enough for you to get the point.
So, should navigation follow the URL structure?
Next In the next lesson we will use flow charts to examine the differences between URL structure and navigation paths.