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Importance of keywords in URL string itself
Relative to page title, and page headings etc.

 12:20 am on Nov 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone,

My first post. I've read the FAQs and dug a bit back through, but please forgive me if I'm on a topic that's been done to death. Apologies if so, any pointers would be much appreciated...

I'm trying to find out just how important it is to get relevant keywords (product names to be precise) into the URL directory structure itself.

I've been told it's beneficial, but here's my problem. I've recently redone our sites to be URL rewritten that finally got us onto the Google map. A great first step but we still use product ID numbers in the rewriting for efficiency reasons on the ISAPI filter.

We also got the product names into the page title - which has got us good positioning - often top slot for the exact product names. And we've worked at getting the product descriptions into H1 tags etc. Again this seems to help.

Plus we're working on an upstream link strategy etc.

However, we're trying to work out whether a page with the product name in the URL will add measurably to the ranking in search results?

How important do people know / think it is relative to the other factors please? Does it even help at all?

Many thanks for your opinions.



 5:28 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sorry - nobody answered my thread first time around, so I'm just tipping it back to the top to ask if anyone has any throughts.

Did I do something wrong (etiquette wise - apologies if so) that stopped anyone replying? Or was it just to esoteric a question.

Please help?


 5:40 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

hi Windy_day

am not sure what to tellyou. I have never named pages after products but did name directories after product or category

my pages are named "normal" but if the folder is pointing to laptop fold3er i will call that folder laptop.

hope this helps


 5:41 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

It appears Google may be penalizing for over-optimization. Over-optimization may be apparent if a website has keywords in URL, title, <H>, Body, and Anchor. I would personally avoid a keyword URL, especially hyphenated domains. Focus on namebranding domains, and content for your website. For internal pages, maybe use filenames that make organization easier for you, but not for the sole purpose of Google rankings. I would suggest "/bluewidgets.html" rather than "/blue-widgets.html", for example. Read up on information regarding the recent "Florida" update.


 10:11 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

There is no overoptimization penalty. Ignore that. Look at the search results. They are filled with blue-widgets.html pages, and even multi hyphen ones. bluewidgets.html obviously is completely worthless. Might as wll name the page oistxrrrsees.html

Naming your pages and directories after the content of the page is sensible webmastering, totally user-friendly, and valued by Google. I wouldn't make use more than one hyphen per section, like www.your-site.com/this-widget/red-widget.html but that's just a preference based on what people will be more likely to click. Boatloads of hyphens tend to be looked at skeptically by users. But other than that, naming pages after the content of the page is an excellent idea.


 2:35 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I concur with SteveB.

I'm trying to find out just how important it is to get relevant keywords (product names to be precise) into the URL directory structure itself.

Nobody here knows the true answer to that. But, I believe it can safely assumed it does hold weight and at worst does nothing. I do this all the time to new pages. Whether it helps in Google or not has no real influence to me. I do it as it WILL catch the searchers eye as they 'scan' the SERP's for their search term.

Having said this though, I wouldn't loose years of work and change your main domain to the product name, just newly added pages, which should be added at about 1 per day.


 3:40 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

There may be no over-optimization penalty, but I for one certainly got hit for over-optimization on a site.


 4:10 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Marcia, if it's the site in your profile you have *no penalty from Google*. I found your site on page 1 of the SERP's while using a logical search term for your site.


 4:18 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

There is no overoptimization penalty. Ignore that.

Wow. We had post-Florida threads that contained over 2,000 posts from concerned members who were trying to find out what happened to their sites. Yet we had a single member here who had all the answers all along and knew EXACTLY what Google was doing. We should have all come to you, SteveB. LOL

Windy_day, you will notice the use of hedge words such as "may" and "could" in my earlier response. This is because no one knows for sure what happened during the last Google update and exactly what Google MAY or MAY NOT be penalizing for. Just avoid doing things that may send a red flag to Google. Apply the advice you find here very cautiously. And read, read, read. You'll be ok.

[edited by: crobb305 at 4:33 am (utc) on Dec. 20, 2003]


 4:25 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

2,000 posts after Florida with concerned members who were trying to find out what happened to their sites

That's right, you listen to them as they obviously know better :o)


 6:08 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

An elephant may dance on the head of a pin; it could happen.

Better to focus on solid information than wasting time on the black helicopter du jour.


 7:48 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Windy Day,

Some folks who have not been affected by Florida seem to think that they understand everything that went on and what they are doing must be absolutely spot on because that's what Google wants. I happen to think that some of them have let off a shot at a moving target and where lucky enough to hit it.

So there are two possible strategies for you, close your eyes and let of a random shot or try and work out where the target is open your eyes, aim and shoot.

When Google bought Applied Semantics it bought technology that can split up a domain name into tokens (words to you and me) and "sense their meaning". So Google would be split into Go and ogle which might mean "proceed and look at with amorous intentions". Then the new technology Google bought would make assumptions about this and would view your pages/s in the light of these assumptions. Whether they are using this technology now is open to debate but Google didn't pay top dollar for technology, that it is already definitely using in Adsense and Domain Park, not to roll it out to mainstream searching IMHO.

One explanation for why one of my pages which was previously at #1 for a search term and which was recently at #45 is now at around #540 is that the sense of the domain name is being used in calculating a penalty. In the first 200 results I can only find 5 that have one or other of the search words in the domain name, previously 90% of them had it.

My company name is like Burger King is to Mcdonalds except not quite as obvious. What I am seeing on -in indicates that Burger King needs to change its name or only use BK.com.

Best wishes



 9:34 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Some folks who have not been affected by Florida seem to think that they understand everything that went on and what they are doing must be absolutely spot on because that's what Google wants. I happen to think that some of them have let off a shot at a moving target and where lucky enough to hit it.

Everybody was 'hit' by Florida, some weathered the storm and some didn't. If you think it all came down to luck...so be it. All I know is the ones that "weathered the storm" and try to help those that didn't get smart %^$# remarks thrown at them for their efforts.

Have a nice time on your witch hunt!


 10:08 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Everybody was 'hit' by Florida, some weathered the storm and some didn't

I'm not too sure that "weathering" the storm has much to do with either skill or luck...

I have two sites, in completely different business areas, which share exactly the same structure and site layout, use of titles, keyword densities, etc etc. Roughly speaking they both followed the principles and optimisation techniques described over months and years here. The skeletons of the sites are identical.

One site "weathered" the storm, the other didn't. The one that didn't uses Adwords, is in a highly competitive commercial sector (holiday villas rental) while the one that stayed rock-solid number-one doesn't use Adwords, and is a business-to-business service, which, though equally competitive, is in a probably much less searched field.

I may have missed something obvious elsewhere in the forum, but the only plausible explanation I can see for the different behaviour of the two sites is Google's revenues.


 10:25 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>the only plausible explanation I can see for the different behaviour of the two sites

Another plausible explanation is that there's a slightly different algo twist depending on desirability of given sets of search terms. It is measurable, and remember that there are occasional bouts of click-though tracking in the SERPs. There could be any number of reasons, not all of which are as conspiratorial as some like to think.

But aside from all that, while I myself personally have a fairly boring life and consequently do enjoy a bit of a street rumble now and then (and this has been a fairly good one as far as rumbles go), there's still a question that's remaining unaddressed and unanswered. Getting back to the original post:

how important it is to get relevant keywords (product names to be precise) into the URL directory structure itself.

And then,

How important do people know / think it is relative to the other factors please? Does it even help at all?

Let's add on to that, whether we think multi-hyphenated keyword phrases help or hinder, and if so, how much weighting would there be compared to other factors.

Added: Oh, almost forgot! Welcome to WebmasterWorld, Windy_day!


 10:45 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I may have missed something obvious elsewhere in the forum, but the only plausible explanation I can see for the different behaviour of the two sites is Google's revenues.

I think you might be! Ever considered that the site that has slipped in rankings has x above it that are more relevant? Everyone keeps saying "Site" when Google only wants pages. Just how many pages does each site have and just how many have risen/fallen?


 10:59 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Getting back to the original topic of value of keywords in the URL path, has everyone been seeing them to the same degree since the last update? How much do they seem to be worth at this point in time, relatively speaking?


 11:27 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Right now, I'm being beaten by pages that have keywords in their urls. I'm fairly sure this is a large factor.

I would suggest using up to one keyword at each level i.e. no hypens, underscores or even combined words in a single directory/page name. Also since stemming and synonyms appear to be here to stay, consider using different keywords in your urls to those in your titles.

If you follow this advice you should get a reasonable benefit without risking the wrath of Google in the future. If you want to make a quick buck, you might optimise to the max, but if you're planning to stay around, keep it sensible.



 12:11 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I see tons of these multiple keyword urls doing "decently"... meaning often from #5 to #100, but they seldom are at #1, which minimally means that it isn't the most important thing out there (which I imagine everybody assumed anyway). These multiple keyword pages are usually not index pages which means they seldom have a lot of all the other stuff in their favor, like off domain backlinks. Titles, words in the URL, H1 tags are all going a long way now, but that all can't beat a site that has those same things plus more.


 1:56 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here's an interesting one. Non-commercial search term 'Cepheid' (a type of variable star, or at a real stretch pertaining to Cepheus in Gk myth). In the top ten results, among the astrophysics results, you should find a site with this keyword as the URL. There's no other discernable relevance to Cepheid other than the URL. Keywords certainly carry weight in URLs. (I don't mean the top result, which is a company with that name and URL)


 2:19 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

There may be something to the Hyphen theory, but only to the main keyword.
In my case I have two sites that are virtually identical in the type of
content, one is widget-appraise, was at #6 and it dropped of the face of the earth
for the keywords widget-appraisal. The other site, a free page provided
by my ISP with a rather long url not really specific to my
main keywords had sat at number two for a year is now number
one. What is interesting though is my widget-appraise site in
listed at #1- #8 for three word searchs such as widget
appraisal online, blue widget appraisals,free widget
appraisals. So it would appear there is some thing going on
with keyword urls, but if you have good content you will still
rank highly for related keyword strings of three or more.


 2:38 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)


I see no correlation at all between domain name and positions now.

We have a small data set when we consider our own few sites but nevertheless I see no trend whatsoever.

Our sites are either #1 or nowhere for our target terms. If that isn't a filter I don't know what is. We have some sites with keywords in URL and some without. There is no indication of any kind that URL makes any difference.


 2:46 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think Google is currently giving more importance to original content with appropriate KW density more than any other thing. After Florida my site was gone but I updated my sites with more original content. Now its back again. And now if www2, www3 and www-in results spill over to www my site ranking will be 1. I did not give any importance to any other thing like KW in url or other SEO stuff. But paid more attention to original stuff and used H1 tags on web pages. I think it may be paying off.

GG had advised me so, in one of the threads about Florida on this Forum.


 6:17 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Trying to sort out the impact of any single variable is difficult at best.

My own view on this particular matter (based on what we see in the SERP's, plus common sense) is that hyphenated keywords are a bit like alcohol:

-- *One drink* a day is beneficial to your health.

-- *Three or more* drinks a day is harmful.

-- *Two drinks* a day could go either way.



 4:55 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)


Well thank you everyone. And thank you Marcia for the welcome.

I have to say when I posted my original question and got zero responses I was amazed, as my company also runs several forums and it didn't take much time around here to see this was a wildly busy forum.

One repost - as I was sure there must be some opinions - yields this flurry.

Well thank you.

Seems there's no general concensus on it. Apart from don't overstuff with many hyphenated words. If I do it I should only use a few words.

My other concern is that we only have the same set of words for each page (they're all database driven product names and brand names). So we'd be stuffing the same words into the page title, the URL, the H1 text etc. I figure that is likely to get frowned on?

Where you type brand name and any one or two product words into Google from any of our pages they tend to come out in 1 and 2 slot (two listings wierdly?) and they do this for nearly all products. But I guess that's not a fair test, we'd like to see them coming up with less exact sets of search terms.

Anyway, thanks once again for all the very helpful responses.

Much appreciated.


 7:50 pm on Dec 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

Been reading this forum for quite awhile and thought I'd give some input. We have hundreds of keyword1-keyword2-keyword3.com domains on unique ip #'s (thousands in total).
All have the keywords in the title (and those words only) and quite heavy keyword density in the body.
Before the Florida update we did really well for keyword1+keyword2 searches and keyword2+keyword3 searches.
However, we weren't competitive for keyword1+keyword3 searches or all keywords together unless it was competition light search term.

Things changed after Florida.

Most of these domains dropped way down the result pages for the 2 word searches we did so well with before.
However, we now have several keyword2 listings (yes, single word listings) that bring in a lot of traffic.

Other observations:
There is a lower keyword density tolerancelevel than before Florida (Too low actually. Normal users of Google can't be pleased with these inept results. Personally I no longer search on Google if I have to find something).
Most of the top 10 results now have a cached tag next to them. You will not find many results without a cache on heavy competition search terms.
Subpages are more dominant than before.
Outgoing links seem to be more important now.
Few highPR incoming links seem less weighted than many lowPR incoming links.

Still undecided regarding anchor linktext. We're seeing mixed results, so maybe anchor text is just less relevant.

Merry Christmas.


 8:51 am on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks Atawolf.

Very interesting.

Surely Google's got to aim at slamming people who are optimising by buying hundreds of keyword stuffed URLs. That's clearly trying to game the system, and a first principles think about it would suggest Google should try to penalise that no?

I was more meaning inserting product names into the URL structures deep within our site, down at product page level in an e-commerce site to be precise.

I'm also interested by you saying you no longer use Google.

I've been on the lookout for the "next good engine" for a while. Friends of mine who work at Yahoo are very optimistic about their new internally built engine. They believe search engine wars two is about to start. But I have no idea how informed an opinion that really is, or if it was just bravado. Where do you search now?

Does anyone else search elsewhere these days?



 9:17 am on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

FYI, and somewhat to my surprise, I've found links with KWs in file names being returned in an allinanchor search.
I've been told this was always the case, but I have my doubts; if so, would there have been quite the same obsession over optimised link text?


 5:08 pm on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

Search Google for "erectile dysfunction causes." You will see that the first listing (today, at least) is for a site with all three words in its URL and two dashes.

Also, search for "impotent." The #1 listing is for a site with that single word in its domain name.

I could cite several score more examples in this ED category. Clearly, there is no penalty for putting a keyword(s) into the URL, and it some cases it appears to help.

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