Major Google SEO Change: Google Prefers You Don't Use URL Rewrites

Sep 23, 2008 - 9:27 am 24 by

The Google blog has officially said that they prefer that in most cases, you should not use rewrites to change your dynamic URLs to static looking URLs. In my opinion, this is a major 180° on basic SEO practices. SEO 101 is to make sure your dynamic URLs are search engine friendly. But now, that has all changed with this blog post and even well before this blog post.

Back in October 2006, we told you, Dynamic URLs? Google Is Officially 'OK' With Them. But even then, Google still recommended, "rewriting dynamic URLs into user-friendly versions" as good practice. Recently, in the past few months, we have covered many dynamic topics that all implied issues with using static URLs in place of dynamic URLs. Here are those blog posts:

Why the change of heart from Google? For one reason, they can now better understand the purpose of the page from the URL structure. JohnMu explained:

One of the reasons for that is that we can use the information provided through the parameters to better understand what your site is doing with those parameters. For instance,the URL can give us information about what is happening, it could even allow us to recognize that this is a search form and perhaps let us attempt other keywords that might lead us to content that we haven't seen for your site. On the other hand, a URL like does not give us any information at all about what the "file name" is used for.

You see, Google can learn more information about the page and what it is suppose to deliver based on the URL structure.

But should you go ahead and undo all those dynamic URL rewrites? That is the question I asked but had no easy answer for at Search Engine Land. JohnMu said,

There is no "penalty" for switching URL formats, though it might take a bit of time for everything to catch up. One thing I would recommend is that you set up 301 redirects from all old URLs to the new ones (this is something that you should do in any case when changing URLs).

But, still, hundreds or thousands of URLs can take Google a long time to pick up on. Transferring that link popularity and indexing those new URLs can be a huge task for Google. And your site can suffer during that process. So what should you do?

I think it depends on the size of your site, the number of rewrites, how well those pages are ranking now and your analytics. Possibly, start slow - with the low performing URLs, see how switching those URLs may help. This can be a huge task and that is why god created SEOs and webmasters. :)

Forum discussion at Google Groups, DigitalPoint Forums, WebmasterWorld and Search Engine Watch Forums.


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