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URL Structure / Length Question

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by elcappy, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. elcappy

    elcappy Junior Member

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    Hello all,

    I am trying to convince our programmer that a shorter URL structure would be better for our system, but he is very adamant that the short URL's won't make a difference. Here is what one of our current url structures for a car that is for sale:

    http://www.someautodealer.com/vehic.../2000+buick+lesabre+limited+4-door+sedan.html

    From your personal experience, is this URL bad? To my eyes, it is terrible.

    Would you guys have any links to articles that are credible in regards to this issue? I would love to be able to provide some proof about this 'theory'.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. artizhay

    artizhay BANNED BANNED

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    It really depends on what you're looking to improve by shorter URLs. You said your "system," but your current URLs work fine with your existing system, whatever it is.

    The URL in its long form since the formatting cut it off in your post:
    Code:
    http://www.someautodealer.com/vehicle-details/67158a105c566a46881200e20c47d37c/2000+buick+lesabre+limited+4-door+sedan.html
    As far as your system and the logistics of loading the vehicle, this is absolutely fine. I imagine your .htaccess is set up to look for the "67158a105c566a46881200e20c47d37c" value after "vehicle-details," and I imagine that long string is the unique hash that identifies it within the database. Then the "2000+buick+lesabre+limited+4-door+sedan.html" is just there for SEO/user-friendliness purposes.

    So by your diction of "system," if it works as intended, there is nothing inherently wrong with the "system." Otherwise, you need to specify what you mean by system. Do you think the database structure and using a 128-bit vehicle hash is inefficient? Do you think your current system is slow? Do you have any technical reasons as to why the URL is not good?

    You initially said "system," but then said it doesn't look good "to your eyes." So are you going for aesthetics, system efficiency, SEO improvement, or what? I don't know what you told your developer, but if you randomly came to me from a development standpoint and told me that the URLs where no good "for the system," I would tell you the URLs work perfectly fine from a development standpoint.

    If you want to improve them from a UX/SEO standpoint, this may not be something you should be consulting with your developer on. There are a few of us who have a grasp on everything, but most developers merely program what they're told to do. If the system works and you tell the developer it doesn't, he's going to tell you you're crazy. Simple as that.

    But if you want SEO-friendly URLs, then I can see your perspective. A URL like this may be better:
    Code:
    http://www.someautodealer.com/2000-buick-lesabre-limited-4-door-sedan-v39.html
    The keywords are closer to the root of the URL, the plus signs are removed, and the vehicle identification is reduced to "39" instead of "67158a105c566a46881200e20c47d37c." If your developer is not also well-versed in SEO/UX, he would not understand your perspective, so it is a moot point in arguing with him. Note that you have to also understand the implications of your request. To simply change that URL, you have to pay your SEO guy to find a suitable replacement structure that will best benefit keyword placement and density then you have to pay your development guy to not only change how your system recognizes the URL but also to restructure the entire database to change the hash structure from a 128-bit hash to a dynamic integer identification key.

    You really need to clarify what your goals are in changing the URL rather than just saying it's better for the system, because then you're telling a developer that his system doesn't work when he knows he knows more about the system than you do. I also can promise you that no developer is going to appreciate you randomly throwing articles at them, because he knows damn well that you went online and found those and now consider yourself a self-proclaimed expert in the field, which then minimizes and insults his years of experience over you in the field.
     
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  3. nastybasti

    nastybasti Newbie

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    Your web developer is correct!
    if you are in the business of doing dealership listings please forget about seo.
    Chances are no matter how you construct a URL and page for a specific vehicle for sale that you will not ever rank that url. This is because dealership listings change often. and so many exist that you would never be able to rank them.

    Instead focus on your url structure for the actual site itself.
    Like this.

    /about/
    /inventory/ (all inventory)
    /inventory/buick/ (filtered by brand)
    /inventory/honda/
    /inventory/used (filtered by type)
    /inventory/new
    /inventory/used/low-miles (miles below 50k)
    /inventory/detail/XXXXXXUniqueURLSlug-2009-Ford-Mustang-GT-Columbus-Ohio


    Its going to take google a while if ever to understand your URL structure. But if they do finally then the good news is maybe you will get the site map on #1 first results page.
     
  4. kvchosting

    kvchosting Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Your url is ok but keep in mind shorter URL does not mean you will get rank better, even dynamic url can rank better than static url. You can make it shorter so that your customer can remember the page better.
     
  5. elcappy

    elcappy Junior Member

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    I should have probably explained a little better how it went.

    By system I really mean just our software that the company has built for car dealers.

    Of course I know these vehicles have a unique identifier.....across all of our dealers which is that long string of characters after /vehicle-details/. I asked if it was encrypted, he said no. Anyway, we came to him from an SEO standpoint and told him that these needed to be changed for an SEO purpose. I told him it has been speculated/trialed/tested and found that URL's that have the KW's closer to the root of the domain will give us another plus when it comes to everything we're doing overall for SEO. Well in order to get him to possibly change how the URL structure works, he requested that I show him some 'proof' which I don't think there is any solid 'proof' out there that the shorter/SEO friendly URL will help.

    Another thing that doesn't help is that we've gotten a few tips from customers stating that our competitors point them to our site and tell them that those long URL's won't help with their SEO. Sure we can teach these people that that is not necessarily the case, but how many of these possible customers are we losing that we'll never get to talk to right?

    One of our competitors uses a structure like this:
    Code:
    www.mastroautogroup.com/2009-BMW-335i-Sanford-Florida/4852879
    When I compare it to ours, 1) It just looks better for UX 2) They include local SEO 3) their identifier is not extremely long. Really what it comes down to is, for good SEO value is it worth the change? I've read both sides where some say it does help and others say it doesn't (from different articles) so that's why I have come here to get aid from my fellow BHW members.

    If this post doesn't make sense again, sorry I'm just about ready to head to bed.

    Thanks!
     
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    Last edited: Feb 11, 2014
  6. artizhay

    artizhay BANNED BANNED

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    First you need to understand that from a development perspective, simply changing that URL requires a lot of work in the backend. I don't know how your specific system is set up, but you've got to do these things:
    • restructure the database table that stores the essential vehicle information
    • restructure all additional tables that references this vehicle hash
    • rewrite the code that creates these unique hashes
    • rewrite the code that references vehicle information
    • rewrite the code that generates URLs for use around the site
    • change the way the server itself handles these URLs
    Depending on your system and how well it has been coded to accommodate changes like these, this can be a substantial amount of time to do. If your developer is on retainer and this work would exceed the normal amount of hours he's allotted you, then perhaps it's understandable why he'd want to know why he needs to expend all these hours performing this task. But in your defense, if you pay him per job or by-the-hour, there is really no reason for him to push back, as he just needs to do what you tell him to do, otherwise you've got a rogue developer who fights back rather than consults with you.

    Regardless, it could help some with SEO, but it's not going to bring significant results. If you're losing sales though because your less-informed prospects are being told your URL structure is inadequate, there is no additional proof needed and this should be fixed immediately.
     
  7. nastybasti

    nastybasti Newbie

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    Are you a new or pre-owned dealership?
    What DMS are you using?
    What website service are you using?

    I have extensive experience with auto dealerships + software.
    Most likely changing the url structure will not be allowed.
    Few providers allow you to do this, but unless if you are willing to pay big bucks for your website then you are probably out of luck.

    I think you are over thinking it anyways. The SEO value in a URL is not that big of a deal, specially in a saturated market like automotive. You can better invest your time in marketing your vehicles on 3rd party sites, or trying to get your customers to repeat buy or referr.

    At the end of the day its 100% possible, but is it worth it?
    a. Is it worth your vendor to modify their system (perhaps introduce bugs) to allow flexibility in url structure. Might be a good feature request, but probably not as high priority as other features.

    b. You could setup a NGINX, SQUID, or IIS ARR reverse proxy in front of the site they have created for you. So when a visitor wants to go to your site, they visit your web server, your webserver could easily rewrite the urls, and pull the actual content from the backend server (the current one that your provider builds). It would probably take a developer anywhere from 2 - 7 days to write and test all the URL rules + install the reverse proxy. You would probably have to pay for virtual hosting for the reverse proxy which would cost you $15 - $25 per month.

    My Advice,
    Forget about the SEO URL for the vehicle listings, and instead try to market your dealership actievely.
     
  8. elcappy

    elcappy Junior Member

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    I work for the DMS company, I'm not a dealership. So this is an internal change and I think artizhay pretty much summed it up, if this is taking away business from us because our competitors are using this as a tactic against us, it should be enough of a reason to change the way our URL's show.
     
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  9. StrixMedia

    StrixMedia Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Thanks for the info...it's useful one to me
     
  10. Aty

    Aty Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    That doesn't look good at all.

    I would have the url like this: someautodealer.com/buick-lesabre-A32181839.html , where A32181839 is the advertising number.

    I prefer only letters, numbers and dashes in urls.