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I'm a developer in the middle of the development of a medium-sized website. A requirement that we just received from the resident SEO person on the project is for all the URLs on the site be just off the root (e.g. /product-name, /small-keywords-separated-by-hyphens).

Here is an example (one of a few, both I think this is the one that would potentially favor his viewpoint the most):

  1. Solutions http://site.com/solutions/

To be clear, I'm advocating a structure like: /solutions/showcase, /solutions/healthcare/, etc.

To me, there are clearly defined sections of the site- there are various parts of content which seem to deserve their own place in the structure of the site.

Here were his points:

Decreased keyword density for the words being targeted in the URL, the longer the URL the less emphasis is being placed on the keywords being targeted in the URL

Decreased emphasis on the importance of the page from a search engine standpoint, the further the page rests off of the root the less importance is attributed to that page

Decreased adaptability over time, for example when time comes to redesign the site again in the future, suppose the navigation changes, by incorporating the folder you have reduced your ability to re-use the URLs on the new site and minimize any slippage in the search results

Decreased usability for advertising the URL, suppose [company] wants to run a print campaign on a particular [product], the shorter URL would be more user friendly and more likely to lead to a conversion

The points I made in response were around user experience and based off this document from Google.

Personally I've never seen the structure he's proposing. Is this type of thing best practice for SEO?

Thanks for your time.

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1 Answer 1

Your resident SEO expert has valid points, but they're all circumstantial.

Decreased keyword density for the words being targeted in the URL, the longer the URL the less emphasis is being placed on the keywords being targeted in the URL

This is an important factor if you have a url like mysite.com/solutions/healthcare/benefits/etc/etc/. But just going down one level I don't think will have a noticeable impact.

Decreased emphasis on the importance of the page from a search engine standpoint, the > further the page rests off of the root the less importance is attributed to that page

Whereas this is true, going one more level down won't effect enough to redo the current structure of the site.

Decreased adaptability over time, for example when time comes to redesign the site again in the future, suppose the navigation changes, by incorporating the folder you have reduced your ability to re-use the URLs on the new site and minimize any slippage in the search results

Yes, you want to have a redesign of your site in mind for the future but it shouldn't be the sole determining factor on the overall structure of your site.

Decreased usability for advertising the URL, suppose [company] wants to run a print campaign on a particular [product], the shorter URL would be more user friendly and more likely to lead to a conversion

True, however if you wanted to advertise a particular product you could easily devise other means of showing it off (e.g. a shorter url or have it in a 'featured products' area right on the homepage).


What I'm trying to get at is, whereas these are all good SEO techniques, even combined it's not enough to change the structure of your site. In this situation, go with your web designer instinct. Having more categorized content rather than lumping it all together (especially if your 'solutions' example will contain plenty of organized content itself).

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Thanks for your response. In this "solutions" example, the hierarchy is one level deep, but I can imagine in other scenarios it could go to 3 or 4 levels down. From what I understand, the problem is not length or depth per se, but more of a loss in semantic value of the URL. If I need to even go down to /Solutions/Healthcare/SpecificHospital/[Maybe even a specific product], it's not an issue because those are all valid categorizations and easy for a human/bot to parse. If I were going to /misc-things/aasolutions/1, that's much worse, even though it's the same depth. Is that right? –  raynjamin Aug 23 '12 at 14:25
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Yes and no... it's best to keep in mind what someone would logically type into a search engine to get to your content, then tailor the URL to come close to it. So, for healthcare plans, having /solutions/healthcare/products/[this plan] - there's two terms which have no bearing to the content on that page and THAT'S when you lose semantic value. –  Christopher Aug 23 '12 at 16:37
    
That makes sense. Assuming every part of the URL is relevant to the content of the page, though, that would be best practice. I.e., the fact that it's farther away from the root won't negatively impact page ranking, and the conciseness of the URL will increase visibility. Is that more right? –  raynjamin Aug 23 '12 at 16:42
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