Want your URLs to look better on Google? Here’s how!

by Maria on January 2, 2010

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It is no secret that we all like shorter, prettier URLs, yet many eCommerce platforms just don’t support it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the ugly, long URLs, and had to do with these – regardless of the damage they do to organic rankings and user experience. For example, both

http://www.example.com/product?id=388

and

http://www.example.com/product?id=388&category=748&sessionId=4754379899

might lead to the same product page. So when the Google bot crawls a site, it’s not unusual for it to find several URLs for the same page, and it’s not always clear which of those should be displayed in the search results on Google.com.

Now, here’s something really cool: there’s actually a way for you to tell search engines which URL you’d prefer they use – with a simple tag!

You can do this with a <link rel=”canonical”> tag. For example, if you wanted to specify the shorter URL above, you could just have the following added to the <head>section at the top of your page: <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/product?id=388″>

The best thing about it is that the canonical URL you specify will indicate your preference for Google.com search results, but for Product Search, Product Listing Ads, and AdWords product extensions we’ll continue to use the URLs you specify in your feeds or through the API. That means that if you’re submitting URLs with tracking parameters, they will continue to work.

Like this tip? Then you should read this blog post from Google Webmaster Central as it talks well about canonical URLs.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris January 3, 2010 at 7:28 am

I agree with shorter urls but with the canonical element how can someone add it to a site with 500 products for example?Thanks

admin January 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

Depending on how the website was built and how the pages are organized, in most cases the canonical tag can be added to most pages pretty easily. I’d do it through a database – the quickest way for sure.

Ed January 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Useful post. How much do long URLs affect user experience, I wonder?

admin January 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I have not seen any case studies pertaining to URLs and user experience, but I think clean, descriptive URLs add to good user experience and long, ugly ones add to poor user experience. At least when I’m browsing, they are a turn-off.

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