Live: Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz

Oct 7, 2009 - 10:20 am 0 by
Filed Under SMX East 2009

Below is live coverage of the Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz from the SMX East 2009 conference.

This coverage is provided by Keri Morgret of Strike Models.

We are using a live blogging tool to provide the real time coverage, please excuse any typos. You can also interact with us and while we are live blogging, so feel free to ask us questions as we blog. We will publish the archive below after the session is completed.

Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz(10/07/2009) 
10:36 Keri Morgret:  

Dealing With Domain Names, URLs, Parameters & All That Jazz ā€“ Subdomains or subdirectories? Are tracking parameters a problem for search engines? Keywords in the URL make a difference? How about the "level" of a page ā€” is "deep" in a site bad? This session focuses on technical SEO questions of this nature and provides answers. Programmed by Jane & Robot.

Moderator: Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land


Rand Fishkin, CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz
Lena Flanigan, Principal Marketing Manager, AOL LLC
Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land

Rand is up first.

Correlation Data Set

10,000 Queries United States Only
Range of head, middle, and tail queries
1-6 word queries
Excludes queries w/fewer than 25 results
Collected Oct 1-3, 2009
10:36 Keri Morgret:  Correlation IS NOT Causation. Gives example of more ice cream vendors when NY is hotter, but doesn't mean that it's the ice cream vendors are causing the heat. Keep this in mind when you're looking at the data Rand is presenting.
10:37 Keri Morgret:  As URL length rises, ranking decreases in close proportion.
10:38 Keri Morgret:  Domain name length appears to barely matter for rankings, but greater than 11 characters may be unwise.
10:39 [Comment From AFS]
Are ISAPI redirects the same as 301's in the SE's mind?
10:39 Keri Morgret:  URLs with query parameters are less likely to appear in top results
10:40 Keri Morgret:  AFS, ask your question at and they'll look at it during the Q&A.
10:40 Keri Morgret:  Root domain that include keyword matches are dramatically more likely to appear in top results.
10:42 Keri Morgret:  Vanessa suggests a study looking at inbound anchor test, then gets excited that she can order studies from Rand!
10:42 Keri Morgret:  Do keywords in a site's subdomain help? Not as much as root domains, but there appears to be some value.
10:43 Keri Morgret:  Do keywords in the URL path make for better rankings? (path = folder names)

They make dramatically less difference than root or subdomain.
10:44 Keri Morgret:  Rand clarifies audience question: results are talking about ranking, not page rank.
10:44 Keri Morgret:  Slight more sophisticated data from this spring suggested that keyword usage in path has a somewhat positive correlation.
10:45 Keri Morgret:  Are keywords in the filename valuable?

Like path, not as valuable/correlated. He wouldn't change the best practice of doing it, but in comparison to root or subdomain, not as highly correlated.

Vanessa also points out that this is looking only at rankings, but not things like clickthrough rate. These keywords are bolded in SERPs when they match query for example.
10:46 Keri Morgret:  What about keywords in a query string? (?id=keywordname)

Also not as positively correlated.
10:47 Keri Morgret:  www vs non-www.

www domains appear more often in top results, but he is loathe to say that because of this that you should worry about non-www. Non-www could be subdomains without as much popularity.
10:48 Keri Morgret:  Is http better than https?

http appears much mroe frequently in top results, but doesn't seem to have much correlation with ranking. But there are so many more sites on the web that are http to begin with.

Do follow best practices for making sure both http and https aren't indexed.
10:48 Keri Morgret:  Fewer folders in URLs have high correlation with better ranking.
10:50 Keri Morgret:  Ranking URL structures based on correlation data.

He shows a list of URLs, best case to worst case.
10:51 [Comment From Stuart]
Our website got index.asp?WEBSITE=TRACKING CODE will this affect rankings if those pages get listed how can they track urls without using this
10:51 Keri Morgret:  Stuart, this would be a good one to ask at
10:51 Keri Morgret:  Lena from AOL is up now.
10:52 Keri Morgret:  She starts off by saying this should be all about the users.
10:53 Keri Morgret:  Looking at URL naming conventions. Again, think about your users when looking at:

  • Multiple domains or one domain
  • canonicalization
  • subdomains or directories
10:55 Keri Morgret:  First case study: Multiple domains vs one domain

Their decision around choosing AOL was that they all targeted same AOL users.

For brand strategy, DO get,,, but don't buy thousands of misspellings of URLs.
10:55 [Comment From Whitespark]
If you have a URL on your site with a few good external links, but it doesn't have keywords, would it be worth it to change the filename to have keywords and then 301 redirect it? Or, don't bother, given the low value of keywords in the filename?
10:57 Keri Morgret:  For questions, you can go to and submit them. Even if you're not in the session you can ask; I'll do my best to cover the answers here.
10:57 Keri Morgret:  Multiple vs. single domain: your decision should be based on what is intuitive and understandable to the users (missed bullet points here).
10:57 Keri Morgret:  Take care of your canonicalization issues.
10:58 Keri Morgret:  Use 301 redirects, canonical tags, webmaster tools. They use this to help the inlinks to all go to the same URL rather than split them between and for example.
10:59 Keri Morgret:  Subdomains or directories? A need for balance.
10:59 Keri Morgret:  Subdomains are OK for:
Brand strategy
International coverage

Subdomains are not OK for: "I do this because it will help my search rankings"
11:00 Keri Morgret:  SEO implications.

Define URL guidelines
Use consistent guidelines across domains, brands.
11:02 Keri Morgret:  Subdomains or subdirectories. Your decision will be based on:

  • Overall business strategy and technological considerations
  • What makes sense to the users, not search engines
  • Cost, resources, reporting, potential SEO implications, and more.
Focus on user, quality content.
11:03 Keri Morgret:  Final Thought - Findability: All responsible.

User is the king
Good SEO hygiene will help your rankings
AOL never changes URL structure believing it will help with rankings.
11:04 Keri Morgret:  Vanessa is now up and looking at parameter handling, which just launched a few weeks ago.
11:05 Keri Morgret: is a post Vanessa did about Google's parameter handling.
11:07 Keri Morgret:  This might be a good option for you, though it only works for Google. However, Yahoo has a similar feature that's been out for two years now.
11:07 Keri Morgret:  In her article, Vanessa also addresses the rel canonical tag.
11:08 [Comment From Stuart]
so canonical might be the way to go you think
11:09 Keri Morgret:  Stuart, reading the article would probably help. It's way too extensive for me to cover here with the time available.
11:10 Keri Morgret:  The slides from the developer summit that Jane and Robot did in San Francisco have a lot of information. "Tools and tactics for diagnosing technical search issues"
11:11 Keri Morgret:  We're now looking at an attendee's site and go through what may be some of the problems with the current approach.
11:12 Keri Morgret:  The site is
11:13 Keri Morgret:  First issue is no canonicalization, at least four URLs for each page of content. This means the search engines are crawling four URLs for each page, also divides incoming link juice.
11:14 Keri Morgret:  Panelists are discussing trailing slash and if it's duplicate content.
11:16 Keri Morgret:  To be the safest, always have a trailing slash.
11:16 Keri Morgret:  Be consistent with your links and make sure you're pointing to the same URL each time.
11:16 Keri Morgret:  Another reason for canonicalization is it really helps in your analytics.
11:21 Keri Morgret:  The site we're looking at also has several different domains as landing pages. Each domain is looking at a separate part of furniture, such as dining room, bedroom, etc. Vanessa is pointing out that by only showing the dining room stuff to a user, you're missing out on the user knowing about your bedroom furniture.
11:25 Keri Morgret:  An audience member bought from this site, notes that she didn't realize that he had all of these different sites. She said it affected the brand credibility as she was wondering why they had all of these different sites.
11:26 Keri Morgret:  Talking about how people find sites. People use several searches to find a site, people don't remember what they searched for, don't always know what you're looking for at first.
11:29 Keri Morgret:  Tood Friesen points out that it's good to have paid search and organic search pointing to the same site / same company name. 87% will click on organic if it appears in both page. If both appear, user gets more of an authoritative sense that it's credible.
11:31 Keri Morgret:  AOL thinks about if people are different types of users for using subdomains vs subfolders, but they do this for user experience rather thank rankings.
11:34 Keri Morgret:  Another factor in subdomains vs subfolders is how much technical support you have to do this. Subdomains involve multiple robots.txt, integrating analytics, etc.
11:36 Keri Morgret:  People watching via coveritlive: it doesn't appear that the speakers are going to go to the URL where people asked questions. There are two more technical sessions today where you may be able to get some questions answered.
11:37 Keri Morgret:  One takeaway from this whole discussion is that there are a lot more factors than just rankings when you decide whether to do a subdomain or subdirectory. Technical, analytics, user experience, etc.
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11:43 Keri Morgret:  Looking at a dive store that is local, but sells nationwide. Advice given to website owner is to make sure that people know they sell nationwide. Also that the online store should still be in the subdirectory.
11:43 Keri Morgret:  If you have a local site, be sure to register it in Google and Yahoo as a local business.
11:44 Keri Morgret:  If you have a thin site, subdomains won't usually also show.
11:46 Keri Morgret:  Large news site is talking about their subdomain hell. People in different areas of company have different views on how things should be done.
11:48 Keri Morgret:  I've heard similar challenges in other sessions.
11:48 Keri Morgret:  Where to put things? Healthcare is now a political issue. Put in health or politics?
11:48 Keri Morgret:  Rand: not worried as much about Google, but worried about users here as where users would expect to find things.
Twittermannyrivas:  User Friendly URLs. Good article from @bhartzer, parallels the #smx URL focused session Iā€™m in right now
11:54 Keri Morgret:  We're over time for the session and finishing up in a moment. Vanessa suggests getting an information architecture specialist to help with this.
11:54 Keri Morgret:  Rand: build a culture of testing.



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