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Me and a good friend of mine are exploring the possibilities of either of the three scenarios for a website where each webpage has a menusystem with about 130 links.:

SCENARIO 1
the pages menu system has SHORT non-descriptive hyperlinks as well as a SHORT canonical:
<a href:"design">dutch design</a>
the pages canonical url points to e.g.: "design"

OR

SCENARIO 2
the pages menu system has SHORT non-descriptive hyperlinks wwith LONG canonical urls:
<a href="design">dutch design</a>
the pages canonical url points to: dutch-design-crazy-yes-but-always-honest

OR

SCENARIO 3
the pages menu system has LONG descriptive hyperlinks with LONG canonical urls:
<a href="dutch-design-crazy-yes-but-always-honest">dutch design</a>
the pages canonical url points to: dutch-design-crazy-yes-but-always-honest

Currently we have scenario 2... should we progress to scenario 3? All three work fine and point via RewriteMod to the same page which is fetched underwater. Now, my question is which of these is better in terms of:

  • userfriendlyness (page loading times, full url visible in url bar or not)
  • seo friendlyness (proper indexing due to the urls containing descriptive relevant tags)
  • other concerns we forgot like possible penalties for so many words in link hrefs??
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 11 '11 at 9:47

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

from a SEO perspective

GENERAL URL RULES:

all URLs on an a webproperty must be according to these rules (listed in priority)

1) unique (1 URL == 1 ressource) - the canonical must be the same URL as used in the navigation!!!

2) permanent (they do not change)

3) manageable (1 logic per site section, no complicated exceptions)

4) easily scaleable logic

5) short

6) with a targeted keyword phrase

the targeted keyword phrase is the least important - but it's still important. if you can have a short, scaleable, manageable, permanent, unique URL logic - (even with non-english characters) then go for the targeted keyword phrase.

there are benifits if the URL match the search term, as the search term gets highlighted in the SERPs, additionally the URL is the most used anchor text (as people tend to copy & paste URLs), so you get a cool anchor text if you use the keyword (in whatever language) in the URL, also the URL keyword is seen as content and adds context to the page, another SEO plus.

so yeah, scenario 1 is definitely the winner.

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thanks for this awesome informative answer! –  Sam Mar 24 '11 at 15:19

Option 2 is out straight away. Always link to the official, canonical URL. Linking to a non-canonical URL is akin to linking to a 301 redirect. You may lose a little PageRank, and if users copy & link to the non-canon that will propagate further.

It should be noted that the link text and general link value matters less in internal links than it does for incoming links from external sites. In terms of user friendliness, shorter URLs are better - as long as they adequately describe the page. In other words, if the title "Dutch Design crazy..." is important and describes the page better than simply "Design", then go with the longer URL. Otherwise the shorter one if fine.

Using the title attribute is another option as Digital Essence mentioned. However the tooltip is not always obvious to users since it takes a second to appear. Be careful that it doesn't impede their objective by covering up the link or other important text because that can be annoying.

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Don't forget to include a Title tag in your links as well.

And yes, the anchor text is the text that goes between the tags that is visible in the browser.

An often made mistake is creating a link like this:

Further details on crazy dutch available here

where the bold italic is the link.

What you are looking for is the anchor text to be relevant to the landing page content and url

ie:

Further details on crazy dutch design are available

You are looking for as high a relevance between your link and the landing page as possible.

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Title tag? You mean title element (but I digress), if this is a menu system that handles 130 links, I'm making the rather safe assumption that it will use hover, adding a title element to the links will double up on the mouse-over. In addition, the title element has NO SEO impact, and is better used for in-context links. Your other suggestions use in-context links as an example, not what the OP asked. While I agree with your answer, in the context of a menu system it doesn't relate. –  Mike Hudson Mar 21 '11 at 21:34

"SEO friendly" and "user-friendly" are the same thing.

Case in point:

  • Users don't like redirects, and neither do search engines.
  • Users don't like complex strings of words, and neither do search engines.

So, what do "they" like?

  • When redirects are used to manage legacy links. For example, say the link is generated from the page title, and the page title changes. Update the URL, and cache the old link as a redirect to the new page.
  • Use short, meaningful, strings of words.
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I'd go for the third version, as long as the linktext itself is not the long version. The anchor text in a link is very important for SEO, but it's better to focus on two or three keywords ("dutch design", "best wordpress themes") than a very long text with 'filler words' ("dutch design crazy yes but always honest"). This is also a usability issue, a short descriptive link is easier to grasp than an entire sentence

For the urls however I would advise to use the longer version, so instead of using a canonical just link to the long version of the link or do a 301 redirect. That way the url says something useful about the page, and people will find it easier to find the page back in their browser history. And who knows, even some of the less important words in the url may help you score in Google. It's better to have them in the url than in the link's anchor text IMO.

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+1 for sharing your thoughts, thanks very much. I think you are right. sounds logical... I fully agree that the linktext should be short two, three words maximum. Question: The anchor text in a link is very important for SEO what do you mean by anchor text? the link test which is >goed in here</a> ? –  Sam Mar 11 '11 at 11:17
    
Yes, that's the anchor text :) <a href="url" title="title">anchor text</a> –  Stephan Muller Mar 12 '11 at 10:59

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