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We have an e-shop which has pagination, sorting, and a 'results per page' limit option. What is the most SEO-friendly approach to structure my URL's?

My first thought was:

http://www.example.com/category/filter/page:1/sort:price-asc/limit:20

which is pretty ugly. And although I could force the robots to index the pages without sorting and limit options, my analytics won't be very clear.

The other issue is that I used colons, which I read is not good to do.

Is there a standard/better structure? Is it true that colons are bad to use? Should I try a more traditional structure like:

http://www.example.com/category/filter?page=1&sort=price-asc&limit=20

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In addtion to Dan's answer, will you be using the canonical tag on these pages? As more than likely 'sort by' pages will duplicate pages. –  Max Jun 6 '13 at 10:53
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@moobot the canonical wont be valid because the 'sort by' pages wont wont have the same content as normal pages, with an exception of the pages sorted with the default sorting. –  xpy Jun 6 '13 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

URL parameters are better than directories with colons:

  • You don't need rewrite rules to deal with parameter, server software generally supports them more easily.
  • You can put rules into Google Webmaster Tools for parameters, but not for parts of the path.

Here are the best practices that I follow when dealing with pagination.

  • Show lots of results per page. At least 10 results of all text but up to 100 results if there are pictures that are easy to scan.
  • Don't allow Google to crawl endless pages. When you use multiple parameters, the number of combinations of those parameters explodes. Make sure that Googlebot can't crawl more than an handful. Use meta noindex, meta canonical, webmaster tools parameters, or robots.txt to limit what Googlebot can crawl.
  • In addition to pagination, use filter to the items the want. For an eCommerce site this is usually filters by brand, rating, feature, and price.
  • Track how many users actually use pagination. I've never measured a case where more than 5% of users actually use pagination. Users are much more likely to use filters and search to find additional products. Often this makes a strong case for eliminating pagination and labeling the first page "top items".
  • Drop default parameters from the URL. You should never have a "page=1" in the URL because that is the default. Only add the "page" parameter when the user reaches page 2. The page 1 url should have no parameters at all: http://www.example.com/category/.
  • Link your items to each other. Rather than relying on category page as the sole way for search bots to navigate to the items, you should be able to get to each items from multiple other items. Use "similar items", "people who viewed this item, also viewed", and "recommended items".
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This Google Webmasters Tool answer should help you regarding recommended URL Structure.

In general, you want to keep your URL's as simple as possible, with the least number of parameters possible. You should also not submit too many links in sitemaps that will produce duplicate content, as covered in the above.

Regarding using colons, they appear to be reserved characters and should be encoded when used in a URL.

http://www.example.com/category/filter?page=1&sort=price-asc&limit=20

Yes, that would be much better.

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For Google, the best method for doing this is to specify the specific URL parameters to Google.

In short, when you tell Google what each parameter in the request URI query string means, it will allow them [Google] to parse the string and determine if there is going to be duplicate content or not.

In regard to Bing's handling of URL Parameters,

Webmasters are encouraged to use the Ignore URL Parameters (found under Configure My Site) tool inside Bing Webmaster Tools to help Bingbot understand which URLs are to be indexed and which URLs from a site may be ignored

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