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We are in 2011, search engines are now using hundreds or thousands of parameters to weight a page. The URL is only one of them, is it still so much of an impact in the search results? People are sharing URLs through URL shortener: short, long, ugly or nice URLs end up in the same way! People also share email by clicking on 'I like this', they don't copy paste URLs anymore, and when I do it and see people doing it, they never comment if an URL is long or short or anything...

Is there still a need of having nice URL both for the users and search engines? If my rank on the search engine will change by 0.5% I don't really care... If I will make 2% of my user happy by having nice URLs I don't really care either...

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Keywords in the URL is one of the more important SEO ranking factors. It's right up there with page titles and domain name. So if you wish to improve your search engine rankings significantly this is a no-brainer to do.

You do want to do this for users as well. Yes, people use URLs shorteners and click on links etc but they do still type URLs by hand. Additionally, if you build your URLs properly, part of your URL can be missing but the page will still load. This is due to the ID for that pages being towards the front of the URL and the keywords being towards the end where the odds of the URL being missing is higher. Look at the URL of this page it's a perfect example of this.

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I think this is a controversial issue as people do not know exactly the weight of URL keywords on the search algorythms. And it keeps changing... I am going to quote the author of "The definitive Guide to Apache Mod_Rewrite", Rich Bowen:

There are also people who believe that URLs that do not contain question marks, ampersands and other "special characters" will necessarily appear higher in the ranking of search engines. This is, for the most part, untrue. However, a large number of firms billing themselves as "search engine optimization" companies have made large sums of money by persuading people otherwise.

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