Google Says, Long URLs May Hurt You

Jun 23, 2008 • 7:47 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

We have talked about URL length issues and SEO and if long URLs are spammy in the past. But now we have a Google Groups thread with a Googler, JounMu, actually commented on a specific URL as being a bit too long for comfort.

The example URL in question is:

http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/small-kitchen-appliances-toaster-kettle-coffee-machine-blender-juicer-channel7-sunrise-australia-42.html

John said "Now I'm all for having descriptive URLs, but .... this seems to be taking it a bit too far and I have a bit of trouble identifying anything that matches in the content of your page." Too far? Does that mean Google will penalize really long URLs? Or in this case, it just looks spammy to a manual review?

Digging in deeper, John noticed that you can find the same page as long as you include 42 at the end of the URL. Now, this is a common CMS issue with many sites. What should be done in this case, is a 301 redirect from the broken URL to the true URL.

I assume in this case, the CMS identifies the page by having the ID (i.e. 42) in the URL and then returns the dynamic content. The CMS should contain a real URL and then 301 redirect any other URLs that have id 42 in them to the real URL.

So, when building a CMS, you might want to do a couple things in terms of URLs:

(1) Restrict the length of the URL to something normal (2) 301 Redirect any duplicate URLs to the real URL

Now, I may have stretched John's words here but it does seem that he is pointing out the URL as being something that may raise a red flag in Google.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

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Comments:

Kalman Labovitz

06/23/2008 03:25 pm

Take a look at the page. The issue is not really the long URL, but the fact that the URL has nothing to do with the content on the page. It is true John does say "this seems to be taking it a bit too far", but it seems clear the red flag would be this URL that has nothing to do with content.

Barry Schwartz

06/23/2008 03:26 pm

Agreed, that would have been one of the appropriate responses from Google.

Ken Jones

06/23/2008 04:00 pm

Digging around the site I found the main link from the sidebar nav for their "Games Consoles" page was http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/games-consoles-videogame-42.html As you pointed out, it still resolves to the same page and the only correlation to the link mentioned is the 42 post ID at the end. The Google thread mentions that they've recently had a new developer brought on board and have suffered a lot of problems with their rankings since then. My suspicion is that the new dev thinks he's found a sneaky way of stuffing extra keywords into the site while still using post IDs to keep the links pointing to their original destinations. Seems more likely that's what JohnMu is saying is going to far. I'm sure one of the Googlers (possibly even John himself) stated during last week's webmaster chat that URL length wasn't an issue.

Barry Schwartz

06/23/2008 04:04 pm

I agree Ken - but you and I know better then most new SEOs or webmasters.

David Eaves

06/23/2008 06:28 pm

I like the biggish URLs that wordpress produces for my blog. Sometimes I get a little more space in the SERPs from it. That one is really long though and spammy, without even looking at the page.

JohnMu

06/23/2008 07:26 pm

One of the main problems with URLs like that in particular is that there is an infinite number of valid URLs that appear to be static pages but are really just dynamic URLs with parameters that can be ignored. Having URLs like that can confuse the best crawler and so we end up crawling everything but the kitchen sink and may miss out on the other great stuff on the site. The easier you can make it for the crawlers to crawl your full site, the higher the chances that they'll get all of it right. Long URLs are not a problem if they're unique (though obviously having long URLs can lead to more users adding typos in links, but that's a different problem altogether).

Ronald Allan Mojica

06/24/2008 12:30 am

I saw lots of long url, with most of the keyword was there. I don't know if that person want it that way. I saw it as a spammy but the site itself is not most of them want this because it's better to rank on search engine when keyword is in the url and title. but they get it wrong sometimes and still lots of factors still helps you to rank on SE not only url.

Janeth

06/24/2008 08:13 pm

That url is a bit long and I could understand it bringing up a red flag or two.

Andy Farrell

06/24/2008 11:17 pm

I work at the company which developed the GadgetGuy web site. We would really appreciate advice on the real issue we've been battling with here. There are over 2,000 links to this website around the Internet, many from respectable sites with good pagerank. We have two sitemap feeds to Google. Both report about 75% of the pages as Indexed, however we are only seeing pages from one sitemap showing on Google. This is despite the fact the Googlebot is also constantly crawling the site. This has been the case for some time and some of the issues now of multiple URLs pointing to one page have come about due to attempts to fix this issue - such as making URLs shorter (which is controlled by content authors using the CMS by the way). It seems many of our pages are on the Google supplementary index. Interestingly, on Google's new website trends page, our plot seems to have tanked to ZERO even though the site still gets Google traffic, it's like we're not measured anymore, or we're on some kind of black list we can't explain. see http://trends.google.com/websites?q=www.gadgetguy.com.au&geo=all&date=all&sort=0 Has anyone else experienced this and resolved the cause? We're not interested in hearing about a whole lot of incremental tweaks. We're quite well versed in best practice for SEO. What we're trying to uncover here is a fundamental issue that is stopping pages getting indexed. Thanks! Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell

06/24/2008 11:20 pm

BTW, this is the correct URL for the above page:- http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/games-consoles-videogame-42.html We've tried to remove the old one, but Google Webmaster Tools returns a completely unhelpful error and reports 'REFUSED'. - AF

pageoneresults

06/27/2008 07:16 pm

WordPress URIs are some of the longest and ugliest URIs out there. There I said it. Whoever thought of using an entire title for the page naming conventions? What were you thinking? I know what it was. Matt Cutts launched his Blog using those unruly URIs. I watched the SEO space afterwards. Unbelieveable how many damn followers there are.

kindler

04/03/2009 09:09 pm

How about forums? They mostly use forum/thread ids. What if they are converted to long urls of thread title instead? Wouldn't that look to long, messy and unprofessional?

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