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Say an online marketplace has catalogs of products. If there's a catalog called "Transformers" which contains a product named "Megatron", which set of URLs are ideal?

1) No categorization:

  • foo.com/transformers
  • foo.com/transformers-megatron

2) Categorization:

  • foo.com/catalogs/transformers
  • foo.com/products/transformers-megatron

3) Nested categorization:

  • foo.com/catalogs/transformers
  • foo.com/catalogs/transformers/products/megatron
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4 Answers

I think "ideal" is a tricky question to answer, however in my opinion you want to balance the complexity of the URL against a good structure whilst also not including anything that doesn't need to be there.

From your example, I would personally go for something similar to your option 3, as such: foo.com/products/transformers
foo.com/products/transformers/megatron

The reason being that the word "catalogue" is pretty much irrelevant as far as visitors and Google/etc are concerned. Swapping that for "products" and removing the additional segment shortens the URL a little, whilst still maintaining the key structure (/products/[catalogue]/[product]).

[catalogue] and [product] are also your important keywords from an SEO point of view, so the closer you can get them to the start of the URL the higher priority they will be deemed.

This is also all highly dependant on your CMS or development platform, it assumes you have complete control over the URL structure and nothing is being insisted upon you by that platform.

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Thanks for the advice, Steve. I have complete control over the URL structure. Why is it important to have the "/products" segment in the URL? –  nickh Jan 20 '12 at 14:11
    
What about sub-categories? For example: foo.com/transformers/decepticons/megatron? It may be possible that this approach can lead too many kewyords (as Google SEO guidelines). Also if there are many subcategories this approach may lead to products too far away in the chain. –  Sinan Jan 20 '12 at 23:18
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Here's my thoughts

The first one:

I think this a bad idea for an online marketplace. Simply because it can lead to duplicate indexes. It is very likely that you can have a category called transformers and a product called transformers.

For the other two I have mixed feelings. The 3rd option looks more structured and makes more sense to me. It acts like breadcrumbs and IMO is good usability. But I have some problems with it. First of all what about sub categories? If you have too many subcategories this may complicate things.

For example:

foo.com/transformers/megatron
foo.com/transformers/decepticons/megatron
foo.com/toys/action-figures/transformers/decepticons/megatron

The second problem is what happens if your product belongs to multiple categories. This will lead to duplicate content and you'd need to use canonical etc.

foo.com/transformers/megatron
foo.com/robots/megatron
foo.com/bad-guys/megatron

I'd go with option 3 if you have a rather simple category system and if you have control over it. Otherwise going with option 2 makes more sense to me. But regardless of which architectural method you choose, it’s important to test the usability of your site, as the user experience is key.

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Personally i'd go for option 3, it seems clearer to the user and to the search engine.

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How is it clearer to the search engine? –  nickh Jan 19 '12 at 23:35
    
I'm an IA working in digital agencies in London, when I'm designing URL schemes for sites our SEO advice (from two separate companies) is to separate potential keywords in the url as this separation marks the items as separate terms . –  toomanyairmiles Jan 21 '12 at 18:57
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I am not SEO expert but as per my observation Nested categorization would be perfect. It shows some professional categorization as well as search engine crawlers as well as users are also get good navigation.

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