Dynamic URLs vs Static URLs for SEO

Google Has this ever happened to you? Someone looks you in the eye. Takes a deep breath. Then tells you how dynamic URLs are bad for SEO on Google (GOOG).

That’s happened to me a few times. Sometimes without the deep breath and a little less drama, but the message has been the same. So I just wanted to offer some clarification, straight from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog (emphasis theirs):

Myth: “Dynamic URLs cannot be crawled.”
Fact: We can crawl dynamic URLs and interpret the different parameters. We might have problems crawling and ranking your dynamic URLs if you try to make your urls look static and in the process hide parameters which offer the Googlebot valuable information. One recommendation is to avoid reformatting a dynamic URL to make it look static. It’s always advisable to use static content with static URLs as much as possible, but in cases where you decide to use dynamic content, you should give us the possibility to analyze your URL structure and not remove information by hiding parameters and making them look static.

Myth: “Dynamic URLs are okay if you use fewer than three parameters.”
Fact: There is no limit on the number of parameters, but a good rule of thumb would be to keep your URLs short (this applies to all URLs, whether static or dynamic). You may be able to remove some parameters which aren’t essential for Googlebot and offer your users a nice looking dynamic URL. If you are not able to figure out which parameters to remove, we’d advise you to serve us all the parameters in your dynamic URL and our system will figure out which ones do not matter. Hiding your parameters keeps us from analyzing your URLs properly and we won’t be able to recognize the parameters as such, which could cause a loss of valuable information.

John Mueller, a Googler, added this bit in the comments:

In general, we would prefer to see a “messy” dynamic URL instead of an incompletely or incorrectly implemented static-looking URL scheme.

Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s News Editor, added this to the discussion:

You shouldn’t start changing what works for you now. Just because Google says things are fine when using dynamic URLs, it may not be fine in your case. When I told two of my developers about this Google post, they asked me what they should do. I said, keep developing using rewrites on pages you want Google think are static. If you want Google to know that certain pages are dynamic, like filtering products based on colors or size, then maybe in those cases I would leave the dynamic URLs. Again, it really depends on your situation and the site at hand.

So there you have it:

  • If you’ve already rewritten your URLs, keep them as is.
  • If you haven’t yet, dynamic URLs are fine.
  • Static URLs can sometimes have a slightly higher CTR.
  • If you don’t know how to rewrite your dynamic URLs into static ones, don’t, because a poorly rewritten static URL is worse than a dynamic URL.
  • If you can remove some of the unnecessary parameters from your URL, then do so; if not, don’t worry about it.
  • If you are using WordPress, their custom permalinks feature generally rewrites URLs just fine.
  • No direct guidance has been given about other CMS systems, but I would assume that the more popular ones are fine.

I hope this helps!

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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