Keyword stuffing, uppercase, lowercase, hashbangs, shebangs, query strings, underscores and dashes, websites, web apps, oh my! URLs are something I have been researching and reading about a lot lately and I am a bit shocked by the thoughts of some very smart folks. Now, of course, I know URLs and more specifically clean URLs still matter. I would strongly disagree with anyone who thinks otherwise. I am no expert on URL design, but I keep hearing shocking statements like “URLs are for search engines” or “hashbangs are ok since Google says so.”

WRONG – URLs are for humans

I could see how people think URLs are not important. Ok no, no I couldn’t. Since these are the days of copying a URL and sharing it with friends on Facebook, circles on Google+, followers on Twitter, contacts by email, chat groups via IM, so maybe the URL has lost a little of it’s luster because of our ever-shortening attention spans. And that’s just sad. Take this blog post for example, where I have control of the URLs. Since I use WordPress, this post could be accessed using a couple URLs:
  • Shortlink: https://pixelflips.com/?p=961
  • Full URL: https://pixelflips.com/blog/do-clean-urls-still-matter/
Now in my eyes, if a friend or colleague sent me the first URL (short link), I would have no idea of what I was about to click on. The second, however, gives a much clearer picture. Pixel what!?? Pixel who!!? Both /blog & /do-clean-urls-still-matter/ clearly indicate that I am about visit a blog and read some idiots thoughts on clean URLs. Wow, I was able to figure that out just from looking at the URL before deciding to click on anything. Now surely I constructed my URLs to do that for search engines, right?

Oh wait, vanity URLs, huh?

Now if URLs are only for search engines, why in the hell would some of the largest sites on the planet take the time to implement and give me a vanity URL? Hmm, could it be they want the URLs that I share and that get indexed by the search engines to be obvious at a quick glance? Interesting. Again, I am not an expert on URL design but I am aware of numerous debates going on across the web. Right now I am very interested in a few different hashbang debates (see links below). I don’t have a solid answer to this debate, but I do tend to agree that this approach is not ideal.

Do it for your users

The most important asset to any website are the users who visit and revisit your website time and time again. If I haven’t made my stance on clean URLs clear, my last piece of advice would be to just do it for your users. They will thank you in the long run! If my small example above doesn’t at least make you think, check out some of these interesting reads: Thanks for reading!

Discussion

  1. Michael says:

    You can also add that your data shows that on average 90 to 95+% of the URLs in the SERPs are “human friendly”….

  2. acams says:

    Nice post on clean URL. Its always advisable to have clean URL for not only for SE bots but also for users.

  3. Web Design Liverpool says:

    I generally think clean URL’s matter, as if i see a URL which is very long and difficult to make sense of i automatically click of the website

  4. James says:

    I think you’ve perfectly highlighted the need for clean url. It isn’t just an seo issue (although that is the main reason why most of us do it) its also a usability one. If you want your site to be W3C compliant, then clean urls are a necessity. Cheers from James at webtemplates.com.au

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