Google wtf 2: Dynamic URLs vs. static URLs

by Daniel Mcskelly
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

On Monday a post appeared on Google’s Webmaster Central blog that was so gobsmackingly strange I’ve had to let it sit for a few days to make sure my post-weekend reduced cognitive function wasn’t the reason I didn’t get it. I’m talking about Juliane Stiller and Kaspar Szymanski’s points on dynamic URLs vs. static URLs.

The post outlines a bunch of reasons why website creators shouldn’t create static versions of dynamic URLS (i.e. changing to Among the reasons not to use static URLs they listed the following:

  • They’re hard to create
  • They’re hard to maintain
  • It’s better to let Google guess which parameters are important
  • If you want a static URL you should create a static equivalent of your content

The hard to create and maintain part might be true of some webmasters but I think the majority would greet that statement with a hearty “What the?!”. Most developers will have at least one tool in their box for URL rewriting, typically mod_rewrite when developing on a LAMP stack, though ASP has ISAPI_Rewrite and just about any web scripting language you care to name has functionality to write static (or semi-static) files to the file system. Static seeming URLs have been recognised as best practice for years, it’s not like this is bleeding edge technology developers are just getting to grips with.

As for letting Google guess which parameters are most important, I don’t even know where to begin with that. Does the Google Search Quality team really think they know my site better than I do? They’re good, but until they plant that neural chip Sergey is no doubt working on and start indexing the content of my brain that’s just not going to happen.

As for creating a “static equivalent of your content”, isn’t “static equivalent” just another way of saying “duplicate content”?

If that wasn’t enough reason to be scratching your head at the article there’s also plenty of factors they don’t mention which make excellent reasons for using static-seeming URLs:

  • Improved rankings. Even if Search Engines drop URLs as a ranking factor it’s still going to help having a URL that’s keyword rich
  • Security. I’m no fan of security through obscurity but given the choice to obfuscate or not I’ll do it, all other things being equal
  • Convenience. Static URLs tend to be easier to pass around over IM or email.
  • Portability. If I decide to change my scripting platform from ASP to PHP (or whatever) and don’t have full access to the web server I have to change all my URLs. Not if they’re static.

And the #1 reason we, and everyone else, should ignore this advice from Google:

  • Usability. The URL is often the first thing a visitor knows about the page and they appreciate the early clue as to it’s content. Static URLs engender more user trust and goodwill than dynamic. People just like them. So if you like people, go static.

Oh, and the URL the post appeared on?


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