Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pay Attention To Your Dynamic Page URLs

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Many sites today display content dynamically from a database. Common examples include search engines on a site that return directory pages, product pages, shopping cart pages, or news articles. Some content management software also produces pages with dynamic URLs. All dynamic pages can be identified by the “?” symbol in the URL, such as

http://www.mysite.com/products.php?id=1&style=a

Google can crawl and index dynamic pages as long as you don’t have more than 2 parameters in the URL (the example above has two parameters separated by the “&” symbol). Even so, Google may not spider your dynamic pages for some time. Spiders do not want to get caught in a loop of trying to index hundreds of thousands of potential pages.

Google will not follow links that contain session IDs embedded in them.

Specifically, Google will not index pages that include "&id=" in the URL string, whether you actually use session ids or not. This means that if you have a dynamic site that generates multiple-parameter URL strings, you should strongly consider changing your server code to use a string other than "id" for generating dynamic URLs. Don’t use anything that uses "id" anywhere in the string, including sessid, rid, pid,id1, etc.

A simple solution is to create static pages with hard-coded links to your most important dynamic pages whenever possible. You can create a series of sitemap pages just for this purpose. Yes it can be tedious if you have hundreds or thousands of products but it is worth the effort. You want to make it as easy as possible for Google to find all your important pages. This has the added benefit of helping your visitors find a specific product page – be sure and use the product name or keyword in the link text.

URL Rewriting

There more advanced technique involves installing a script on your server that changes a dynamic URL to a static page, whereby each parameter name is translated to a folder name. This method varies by server platform and is something a more experienced webmaster should implement. For the Apache platform, it can be as simple as creating a .htaccess file that contains regular expressions. Do a search on Google and you’ll find a number of ways to do URL rewriting (also called mod rewrite or server rewriting).


All search engines prefer static pages over dynamic pages. If you have a large site with lots of dynamic pages, you should consider URL rewriting, as dynamic pages can take months longer to be indexed and then ranked in Google. And once indexed, Google will not re-crawl dynamic pages as often as static pages.

Keywords in File Names

Although not an important factor, Google does look to see if keywords are used in file names for your web pages, but the overall influence on your ranking is very minute. When naming files, separate each word with a hyphen, otherwise Google will not be able to recognize the phrase and will think it is a single word.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t use more than two hyphens, it looks spammy and Google may take a closer look at your site for other possible issues.



About Google Sitemaps

Google Sitemaps is an special file that lists all the pages on your site, whether your content has changed, and that you have added a new page. While this is a neat feature, many sites don't need to use it. Keep in mind that Google will find your site and pages by following links.

With that said, some dynamic sites and other websites that have had problems getting their pages indexed (think Flash) may find it helpful. If your website is well-designed with clean internal links and a standard sitemap page, there is no need to use Google Sitemaps.

Bear in mind that once you are signed up for the Google Sitemaps program, you are committed to updating the Sitemap XML file on a regular basis, which can be a sink on your time.

In this regard, it is somewhat of a crutch for webmasters who have a messy or search engine "unfriendly" site and don't want to change their site. It would be time better served to fix your site so that it can be crawled completely by all the search engines and to employ SEO best practices than continually update an XML file. You may be able to get Google to crawl some of your new pages quicker, but that doesn't mean it will rank your pages any faster.


Remember, having a page in their index doesn't equate to that page being ranked. For more information on the Google Sitemaps program, go to

more information on the Google Sitemaps program, go to

http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/docs/en/about.html


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