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The “definitive” article on URL rewriting
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The “definitive” article on URL rewriting

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Definitive is in quotes, because things change fast in SEO. Google's guidelines for webmasters are to construct simple, human-readable URLs (www.adviso.ca/seo vs www.adviso.ca/12345.html). Doing URL rewriting with dynamically generated sites is therefore logical and has always been one of Adviso's SEO recommendations.


An article  published in Google's Webmaster Central Blog caused us to question this practice. Thus, the article can be summarized as follows: "Google has made incredible progress in indexing dynamic URLs and it is better not to rewrite them to look like static URLs (avoid reformatting a dynamic URL to make it look static)”. Google's main argument is that the parameters present in a dynamic URL allow indexing robots to better understand the structure of the site, which promotes optimal crawling and indexing. Thus, the parameters language=fr and answer=3 in www.example.com/article/bin/answer.foo?language=fr&answer=3 would allow the search engine to: 1) understand that the article in question is in French ,
Despite this article, Adviso still recommends URL rewriting for the following reasons:

1.    URL rewriting is harmless if done right . The crawlability argument is not valid if the URL rewriting and SEO work has been done correctly. However, this is a challenge in itself since URL rewriting is quite a complicated job that can generate SEO-damaging errors if done incorrectly. It is also necessary that the structure of the site is logical and that it includes a maximum of internal links to ensure its indexing. So, it is better to make sure you have the necessary expertise (like that of Adviso!) before rewriting URLs or it is better to leave the dynamic parameters at default.   

2.    Google is not infallible . Although I have great respect for this company, this is not the first time that I have seen posts from Google announcing that they have changed their algorithm to “permanently” solve a problem and that it does not work 100%. A good example of this is the new rel=canonical tag created to handle duplicate content as Google previously mentioned that this issue was under control. In this case, Google's recommendation amounts to leaving indexing completely to the discretion of the Googlebot, which is not necessarily prudent. I prefer to specify Googlebot myself which parameters and indexable sections of a site are, which involves URL rewriting and proper internal linking work. 

3.    Influence of keywords in the URL for SEO . We always notice a good efficiency of the keywords present in the URLs of a point of SEO and this amply justifies the work that the rewriting of URLs represents. The influence of keywords in the URL is also confirmed by the very authoritative SEOmoz ranking factors survey. 

4.    Ergonomics . A rewritten URL is much more aesthetic and useful for the user. It will therefore increase the click-through rate on search results and link sharing, two factors that are very positive for increasing the number of visitors to a site. 

As nothing is ever truly "final", check out this blog next week for our recommendations on how to properly rewrite your URLs.

PS. Article written in collaboration with Martin Duguay, SEO specialist for Adviso.