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We're currently implementing a voucher system on our site which will allow our users to obtain a 25+% discount on certain products, provided they donate 10% of the purchase price to charity.

We will offer the ability to share the discounts via social media in return for larger discounts to the sharer for each person who clicks through the link and buys an item.

I understand that social links have SEO benifits, but this appears to be based on lots of people sharing the same link. If our voucher users share a unique link i.e. http://ourdomain.com/sipsfesdf rather than a fixed link http://ourdomain.com/product-name will we still receive the same benifts?

Should we instead share something like http://ourdomain.com/product-name/sipsfesdf

Thanks in advance.

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I don't know the answer to your question, but I wonder how links like this ourdomain.com/product-name/?id=sipsfesdf would be treated? –  Sherwin Flight Apr 13 '12 at 5:46
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2 Answers

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If I understand you right, rel=canonical may be your friend.

Specifically, I assume all those ourdomain.com/asdfghjkl links point to a page that is (almost) identical to that standard product page at ourdomain.com/product-name. If so, you should mark them as being the same by including a tag like:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://ourdomain.com/product-name" />

in the head section of the page. That way, search engines will treat links pointing to the shared links (almost) as if they had pointed directly to the main product page, and will only list that page in their result pages.

Another possibility would be to have the shared links do a HTTP 301 redirect to the product page after recording that the vistor came in through the shared link. (This is e.g. how the StackExchange software used on this site works: if you click the share buttons next to a question, or the word "link" below any post, you get a short link that contains your user ID. When someone follows that link, the software records it and then redirects them to the normal URL of the page.) For search engines, this has almost the same effect; the difference is that rel=canonical links are only parsed by search engines, while 301 redirects affect browsers too. Generally, I'd consider 301 redirects more user friendly for purposes like this, but both so have some advantages. For more information, see e.g. this page from Google's Webmaster Tools help.

As for ourdomain.com/product-name/sipsfesdf vs. ourdomain.com/sipsfesdf, I doubt there's any SEO difference, at least as long as you use either rel=canonical or 301 redirects. From a user experience viewpoint, the longer links are more informative, but also take up more space in a short message, which could make people more reluctant to share them. I'd suggest allowing both, and deciding which to generate based on the medium (e.g. short links for Twitter, longer for Facebook since it parses them out anyway). Or, for a generic "copy this link and share it" interface, you could present both and let the user choose.

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Social links have some SEO benefits, but if you are trying to leverage a social platform then I would pick the best URLs for doing that and treat any SEO kudos as a nice bonus.

From what you have described there would be no real like between the discount and a specific product or service? If that is the case then you wouldn't want to try and link people to one particular product-name as they may be less likely to click on it.

In your case I think it would maybe be better to have something like http://oursite.com/our-awesome-discount/f28fh2fk2 which would be a landing page designed up for this offer - which can then link on to popular products etc.

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SEO isn't the primary concern really, but if we can gain a benifit from a relitively minor change then we should - the question is will we get a benifit at all? And the link would be a direct link to a product –  MJWadmin Apr 13 '12 at 17:14
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