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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Google: "Avoid Reformatting a Dynamic URL to Make It Look Static"

Google’s webmaster blog on the subject of dynamic vs static URLs, in bold and italic, writes:

“avoid reformatting a dynamic URL to make it look static”

Here’s the full quote:

We can crawl dynamic URLs and interpret the different parameters. We might have problems crawling and ranking your dynamic URLs if you try to make your urls look static and in the process hide parameters which offer the Googlebot valuable information. One recommendation is to avoid reformatting a dynamic URL to make it look static. It’s always advisable to use static content with static URLs as much as possible, but in cases where you decide to use dynamic content, you should give us the possibility to analyze your URL structure and not remove information by hiding parameters and making them look static.

Google also says, “If you want to serve a static URL instead of a dynamic URL you should create a static equivalent of your content.” On the question “Does that mean I should avoid rewriting dynamic URLs at all?”, Google says, “That’s our recommendation, unless your rewrites are limited to removing unnecessary parameters, or you are very diligent in removing all parameters that could cause problems.”

Well, I’ll continue to make sites for users first and not search engines, and to me a URL like looks more readable than, so I’ll ignore Google’s recommendation and continue to use htaccess rewriting for those URLs where I find it makes sense, e.g. most pages which aren’t the result of a form submission (if this was what Google’s advice was about, I’m not perfectly sure). More than that, I think that URLs should be permanent where possible, so back-end decisions about whether a page is static/ cached or dynamically served via a database should not influence URL (interface) decisions... after all, the back-end may change over time.

Perhaps what Google might have intended to attack really are just over-eager search engine optimizing methods that rewrite half a dozen parameters to static URLs being afraid that Google might otherwise not index them, but by doing so causing URL structures with duplicate content (Google gives the example of using a session ID within such a URL). Or perhaps things like sites rewriting search results to bot-accessible, static-looking URLs, causing noise. If that’s the case, other parts of their message seem to risk add more confusion, though.

[Hat tip to and Barry Schwartz!]


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