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I'm working on a website that sells DYI products. 2 of the products categories are save-paint and save-cabling. Since the products can help you save money they could also be part of a save-money category. Assuming that the monthly search estimates for these 3 categories were as follows:

save-money: 600K
save-paint: 300K
save-cabling: 150K

What of the 2 following options would provide the best overall page ranking for the website?

option 1: not use the save-money category at all to create more targeted URLs such as /save-paint/product1 or /save-cabling/product2 which wouldn't rank on save-money but would rank higher on the other 2 categories.

option 2: be generic by combining the save-money category with the other 2 to create URLs such as /save-money-on-paint/product1 or /save-money-on-cabling/product2 which I guesewould rank average on all categories.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you choose option 1 you will achieve higher results sooner since the competition for those keywords will likely be lower.

If you choose option 2 you will potentially reach more users once you rank well for that search term but it will take you longer to achieve success as the competition will be tougher.

I always recommend to start by targeting easier keywords to rank well for because it gets you very targeted traffic and potentially more opportunities to earn incoming links to your pages. Then as your site starts to rank well for those phrases, and long tail keywords, you can start to optimize for the more competitive phrases.

In your example you can target save-money by creating pages using that in the URL and then using canonical URLs to prevent the duplicate content. Canionical URLs act like 301 redirects in that they do transfer PageRank, and thus likely incoming links, to the main page.

Google will understand that the duplicates all refer to the canonical URL. Additional URL properties, like PageRank and related signals, are transferred as well. (source).

So by proxy you can boost the rankings of your save-cabling page by using a save-money-on-cabling page with canonical URLs. (This requires you getting backlinks with the proper anchor text to actually work)

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Thanks. However I do not comprehend the last sentence (the one in parentheses). Derived question: if you implement both options 1 & 2 at the same time (and use canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content), does Google choose the page which option (i.e. URL) ranks best for a particular search (if not, how does it decide)? I'm having a hard time thinking this is the case, since it would be easy to create many pages with well-ranking URLs to guarantee good page rank whatever users are searching for, which I guess is one of the things Google are trying to avoid. +1 for your profile description. –  user359650 Jul 7 '11 at 20:41
    
To get pages to rank well you need quality incoming links to your pages. That is never an easy task. The last two sentences sound easy but if it were everyone would be successful! And if you use canonical URLs you are telling Google which URL to use. –  John Conde Jul 8 '11 at 0:33
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