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I am working on an ecommerce site, I told our SEO consultant that I plan to make the URL scheme: /products/<id>/<name>. This is similar to Stackoverflow's URLs which are /questions/<id>/<title>.

He asked me if I could change the URL scheme to /p/<id>/<name> instead. I know why he wants this change, the word "products" isn't needed to find the correct product, and it doesn't offer any SEO, so shortening it to just p would make the relevant keywords in the <name> weigh more.

His main priority is maximizing SEO, but the part that I don't think he is considering is how this effects the semantics of the site. Also having the word "products" looks like it has meaning and a reason for being there, just having a p looks chaotic and ugly to me. I also don't think it makes that much of a difference does it? Stackoverflow doesn't use /q/<id>/<title> and they do just fine, I do realize that theres many factors at play here though, not just the URL.

So I want some outside opinions on which is the better way and why?

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I have no idea, but I'm certainly interested in any answers. Google always claims that pages should be optimized for humans, and URLs as readable as possible, so it wouldn't surprise me if /products/id/name would actually work better than /p/id/name. A really nice move could be to make name unique, so you could use that to find the product, and drop the id. –  mcv Mar 1 '11 at 14:25
    
Just remember that SEO best practices change with the algorithm actively in use. Google has been working at improving their algorithm to find better quality within the pages. From a usability standpoint using products makes more sense than an ambiguous p. –  zzzzBov Mar 8 '11 at 19:18
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 1 '11 at 15:24

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3 Answers

In my experience, the optimal URL would be /[product_category]/name.html

/camping/coleman-4-man-tent.html

This is better for the user and if Google uses keyword density in the URL as a signal (nobody knows if they do, but if I ran a search engine, I probably would), then you'd increase the keyword density by not polluting the URL with throw-away words like "products" and extraneous characters like the 'id'.

The downside is that this is extra work because you can't just parse the ID from the URL and ignore everything else (however most people who rely on parsing an ID and ignore everything else screw because they forget to return 404's or 301's for all but the CORRECT version of the URL, so they create multiple URL's that dutifully return the same HTML, e.g. /products/1234/coleman-4-man-tent/ and /products/1234/coleman-4br-mcmansion/ return the same HTML, which is also known as duplicate content).

One way I've implemented this is by keeping a table which I put into an in-memory hashmap that uses the key "/camping/coleman-4-man-tent.html" to lookup the ID.

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+1 for this as it seems the "cleanest" solution. And the one I usually implement. :) –  kitsched Mar 1 '11 at 21:56
    
-1 for "keyword density" –  Mike Hudson Mar 1 '11 at 23:38
    
    
@JeremyB ...taking into account that that page summarizes the opinions of various SEO professionals and contains no actual facts from Google or other search engines. –  Blazemonger May 20 '13 at 21:53
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I say keep "products" in your URL. It's good for search engines and for users. The search engines can use it to help identify it as an item for sale and that may help when trying to rank for it in organic search as well as product searches. It also helps users as it clearly tells them that URL will take them to a product listing.

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I agree, I would think it would be more helpful for the search engines. But, if there are no other "content buckets" similar to "products" (services, or subscriptions, for example), and your customer really wants the url to be smaller, I would opt to just structure it as /<id>/<title> instead of p/<id>/<title>. –  SubTypical Mar 1 '11 at 16:34
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  1. Only use "product" if your inventory suits no other bucket - e.g. "taps" or "tents" etc. "product" is as non-descriptive and helpful as "service", so I can understand your SEOs advice to truncate it, but I don't agree with removing that segment wholesale.
  2. If you're rewriting URLs, consider removing unnecessary nesting by using hyphens instead, e.g. /<category>/<id>-<title>
  3. If you're rewriting URLs, don't bother with the language extension (.html, .php, .blah etc)
  4. Including the product id in the same place allows for better Db look-up and matching and canonicalization
  5. Ignore the advice of anyone who mentions 'keyword density'. Ever.
  6. If you're thinking this much about your URL, then you're thinking too much - no search engine puts this much ranking impact on your URL, other than a) the domain name, and b) the length. I could start a new site using horrible cgi-bin URLs, and with all other things being equal still outrank you.
  7. Best for users is best.
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Why ignore the advice of someone who says keyword density? What if they are saying make your content keyword rich but not over saturated, and make sure it still reads normal for humans. –  JD Isaacks Mar 2 '11 at 2:12
    
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