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Question: I keep hearing that "search-engine-friendly URLs" make a big difference when it comes to getting your site placed higher in nonpaid search results. Is this true? And what exactly is a search-engine-friendly URL?

Answer: A search-engine-friendly URL is a well-formed path that contains a domain, appropriate keywords and a proper directory structure that is free of "dynamic parameters" that pass data.


For example, http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/profiles/blog/ is more relevant for the keywords "automotive marketing" and "automotive blog" than a URL based on dynamic parameters like http://www.example.com/33838fjfuowlsjftr/index.cfm?id=1, which displays little information of any real meaning to search-engine spiders.

SEO-friendly URLs contain words and proper filenames only. They do not contain any special characters or spaces (when necessary, use dashes to separate words). Using SEO-friendly URLs can dramatically improve your organic search rankings, simply because they emphasize keywords that actually mean something and are easier to index than numbers and strings.

When a search engine spider comes across a symbol -- such as a question mark (?) after a directory or page name -- the search engine perceives the symbol as a dynamic parameter. Although search engines do follow pages with dynamic URLs, they will generally not read more than two parameters. In addition, they may not be able to assign any relevance to the URL itself, since it may not contain any valuable, indexable information. Despite this, many content management systems automatically generate dynamic URLs with multiple parameters.

Having a properly built URL is a simple task when you are dealing with a static site that does not rely on parameters. As soon as a site relies on dynamic pages, sessions and parameters, it becomes more difficult to stick with search-engine-friendly URLs. The best rule of thumb is to eliminate all use of parameters in the URL and to use masking, aliases and other techniques instead. This ensures that your URLs are constructed properly with keywords, rather than symbols and numbers.

Here are a few examples of SEO friendly automotive domain names:
www.ChevyPriceQuote.com
www.RockfordTruckSales.com
www.BuyFord.com
www.BuyAToyota.com
www.CarBuyingTips.com
www.UsedChevysForSale.com
www.WeBuyFords.com
www.Chevrolet-Malibu.com
www.Boston-Toyota-Dealers.com

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Tags: Domain, Engine, Friendly, Names, SEO, Search, URL

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Comment by Brian Pasch on December 12, 2009 at 8:37am
Ralph,
This is a very important discussion for car dealers to understand because one dealer website will not be the standard in years to come.

In 2010, more website platform vendors will be moving to better URL structures for car inventory. Once this happens, the next focus will be on quality one-page content. Content will make the website pages have relevance for the keywords in the page URL and domain is important.

Lastly, once content is in place, dealers will move to microsites. Once car dealers do all they can for the main domain name and pages on that main website, microsites are the next logical choice.

If you can purchase domain names that speak to your locale and your brand, you are further able to leverage strong URLs that are exact matches for popular search phrases. For example, Stoneham Ford has www.stonehamford.com which ranks well for their local market but decided to add www.fordmassachusetts.com to capture broader searches used by consumers that are shopping.
Google reports the 22,000 people a month type in the search phrase "ford massachusetts". Not a bad strategy to purchase URL's that are an exact match for high value search phrases.
Comment by John Cisar on December 11, 2009 at 7:51pm
Exactly. Conveying relevance in the URL is as important as URL Canonicalization for SEO.
And if your website was the only orange you had to work with to make juice, I’d bet you would be squeezing your website in every known way to maximize its SEO value.

All SEO factors being equal between two identical vehicle details webpages, a canonical, contextually relevant dynamic URL will outperform a page lacking SEO optimized URL. A new car dealer steeped in a competitive climate each dealer carries the same inventory as the next, you know the page content exploded from the vehicle VIN results doesn’t qualify unique content. You’re going to need to leverage relevancy and context in the URL as well. Dealer website providers need to wake up and be on top of this. Dynamically generated URL characters have ZERO contextual value, ZERO relevancy to a crawler, that alone to a shopper. It was one thing when dealers were not yet awakened to the contextual impact of a well structured and keyword-relevant URL.

Web providers are tightening their web packages to create a more consistent user experience across the board for both human and crawler visitor segments.

Enrich the URL by adhering to the rules of relevancy. Incorporate hallmark features shoppers commonly search and shop by - features that differentiate one vehicle from the next.

• Location – Customers shop by geographic location
• Class – New, Used, Certified, Commercial
• Year
• Color
• Make
• Model
• Trim

Example: [http://www.heritagevt.com/new-vehicles/2010/red-toyota-yaris-1.5L-5...]

Dynamically generated characters have no value. Even stock numbers offer nothing as people aren’t keeping stock numbers “top of mind” when searching. Web providers may want to conduct a URL rewrite of the dynamic URL based upon predetermined vehicle descriptors derived by exploding a VIN upon query. Those descriptors will become keywords that are concatenated together to modify and rewrite the URL string. There may be a more optimal way to do it however.
Comment by Matt Watson on December 11, 2009 at 5:56pm
Descriptive URLs are not only better for the search engines, but also they become more human readable.

What car was this that you bookmarked?
http://mykcford.com/inventorydetails.aspx?id=4155514

4155514 doesn't mean much to me... but this does:
http://mykcford.com/2009-Chevrolet-Silverado-1500-LT-Kansas-City-MO...


All of your pages can be more descriptive page URLs. Here are some more examples:

http://mykcford.com/ford-service/department/kansas-city-ford-service/

http://mykcford.com/ford-parts/Order/kansas-city-ford-parts/

http://mykcford.com/page/Ford-News/kansas-city-ford-dealer-news/

http://www.garycrossleyford.com/Ford-Dealer-Kansas-City-MO/dl

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