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URL Re-writing Best-Practice

Introduction

A while back, I wrote this article about how Google recommended NOT using URL re-writing.

The Google article provoked a lot of debate and certainly managed to infuriate a lot of SEO experts.

Google's advice seemed pretty conclusive after that: don't use URL re-writing. However, Google released their updated SEO guide later, and the waters muddied. Page 8 had the following on URLs:

If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would

Now this isn't directly saying that Google indexes the words in URLs. The example is showing the URL being displayed in search results for a user to see, so it might be misconstrued. It does however re-open the argument on whether we should add keywords in URLs for SEO, and that inevitably leads to URL re-writing.

I've a number of greenfield projects starting soon, and I've been mulling over whether to use re-writing again. The unresolved issue of Google indexing words in URLs will obviously play an important role in any decision, but the usability argument is possibly more strong. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of research or best-practices, so I've written this article to start a discussion on it.

As I'll explain below, I'd like things to be as evidence-based as possible, with links to relevant authorities. Most of the tips are my own thoughts on the matter, but I've tried to back them up with reasoning.

I welcome comments with evidence or reasoning, whether they back up or argue against what I've written. That way, we can put together a strong set of guidelines which will hopefully benefit everyone.

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Are SES URLs evil?

I was reading a recent article in .NET magazine about optimising Flash sites for Google. When I got to the box on Friendly URLs, I thought it ironic that they were perpetuating another web design myth. After all, their recent June issue had been dedicated to myth busting, and SES URLs are the biggest myth out there?

Checking back however, I realised that even .NET magazine are still taken in …

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