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My question is simple: Is there any disadvantage (in terms of SEO and search engine behavior) to using / instead of other delimiters in URLs like http://example.com/en/items/1234/page3?

I vaguely remember reading something about some search engines not liking URLs that have too deep a folder structure (basically what the /'s indicate), but I'm not sure if that's still an issue.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 7 '11 at 20:13

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What's better? example.com/a/b/c/d/e/f or example.com/some-pathetically-long-full-verbiage-url-that-no-one-will-ever-ever‌​-type-out-in-full? I'll take a short/obscure url over a moronically long one any day. –  Marc B Aug 7 '11 at 2:43
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Something feels weird about this question. Why are you thinking of the slashes as "delimiters?" They're more than that, indicating actual structure, not just separation. It isn't entirely valid to just swap them out for something else. There'd be side-effects, not just for SEO. –  Su' Aug 7 '11 at 20:40
    
In terms of SEO, longer URLs tend to rank lower than shorter URLs but not at the cost of content. So if you have exceptional content, you don't worry about anything. –  Sam Aug 8 '11 at 13:08

3 Answers 3

If you check out the periodic table of SEO factors, one item under Architecture concerns whether URLs are short and are meaningful. So I don't think the depth is a factor, but if you have many levels, your URLs will probably be longer, and therefore may contribute towards a slightly lower SEO ranking.

So if you want a deep hierarchy but keep the URLs short, then you'll probably end up with non-meaningful URLs, and you'll get dinged. Its probably a fine line to walk to strike a good balance between depth and meaningfulness.

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Thank you for that nice link and your reply. I will try to keep my URLs short. In my original question though I was not so much concerned with the length of the URL, but more so with the choice of the delimiter. E.g. if example.com/en/items/1234/page3 vs example.com/en_items_1234_page3 matters? I think years ago some search engines gave the first URL a lower ranking because the heavy use of slashes indicates that its somewhere deep down in the site, while the URL in the last example was given a higher ranking, because it's right there in the "root" folder. Is that still an issue? –  Jacob_1980 Aug 7 '11 at 11:26
    
Based on what I've seen/read, depth isn't so much of an issue (as indicated by the slashes) as meaningfulness is. Also, if you have a deep structure (indicated by the slashes), it may be hard for a crawler to get to all of your pages as opposed to shallower but wider structures. I don't think the slashes by themselves will adversely affect your SEO results -- you see many top results in google with deep structures (i.e. many slashes). I hope this helps. –  David Hoerster Aug 7 '11 at 13:29
    
Yes, it helps. Thank you again. :) –  Jacob_1980 Aug 7 '11 at 14:43
    
No problem - glad I could help! –  David Hoerster Aug 7 '11 at 15:20

To add to David Hoerster's answer, good UI practices are often synonymous with good SEO. If your site is heavily nested, this will be a challenge for your users as well as search engines.

If at all possible, it's definitely worth considering how to simplify site architecture to keep drilling down to a minimum. That will naturally keep nested URLs to a minimum, too.

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Thank you for your reply. I will try to keep my URLs short. In my original question though I was not so much concerned with the length of the URL, but more so with the choice of the delimiter. E.g. if example.com/en/items/1234/page3 vs example.com/en_items_1234_page3 matters? I think years ago some search engines gave the first URL a lower ranking because the heavy use of slashes indicates that its somewhere deep down in the site, while the URL in the last example was given a higher ranking, because it's right there in the "root" folder. Is that still an issue? –  Jacob_1980 Aug 7 '11 at 11:26

No, it isn't, at least for Google. Google use sitemap (create it! It's very important), and it generate breadcrumbs for you (on their results page), so the url becomes irrelevant. Some of the top search results for various keywords provide websites with random IDs composed of integers.

People pointed it out here first: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2114935/is-a-deep-directory-structure-a-bad-thing-for-seo

Provide Google your map (site structure), and they really will take care of the rest.

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