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General Search Engine Marketing Issues Forum

Sub-Directories vs. File Names
Which will be best for SEO?

 7:13 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm experimenting with a site at the moment. It's got the usual example.com/pagetitle.html setup. I want to try example.com/pagetitle with just an index page in each directory.

Will this have any effect +/- on seo?

It certainly looks neater.



 10:28 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you are going to put everything into a directory, your making the search engines work harder to find your page. Directories are not cached, file titles are. So make sure you keep your folder names are SHORT as possible so there is no confussion. If you were going to keep all your images in a folder called images, you would change that folder to be "i" that is what keeps a site clean. As for making an index page for each of your pages, its pointless and will not gain you any reputation in the engines. The closer your files are to being in a root folder the better it is unless you have 50 files that can be grouped into a category, then you would put those into a folder with an appropriate name..no spaces and so on. But as for making an index page for each of your pages, stay away from doing that its a waste of time.



 10:59 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

wintercornuk, a file named index.html is the default page that will be shown inside of any directory.

We run a number of sites with the structure:




Inside of "sprokets/" is the index page for that directory, which is the main page in the site for "sprokets". Also in that directory are other pages relating to sprokets. This keeps all of the sites sproket pages in one directory, and just directory away from the root level.

It is just one way to organize a site, but it's one good way. It works beautifully for keeping track of things, and has absolutely no adverse affect on SEO. None. In fact, I'd venture to say that it's one very good way to run a site if one has optimal SEO in mind.


 11:03 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

From my experience, root level pages have a little more weight than file names.

I've worked with the sub-directory approach for years and would never go back to page names. With the dynamics of a database, URI rewriting and content generation, file names should be eliminated altogether. Also referred to as Content Negotiation. All the big boys do it although we rarely talk about it in detail.


 3:56 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with pageoneresults on his statement as well as caveman. I have seen a stronger improvement with root level pages then sub directory pages and as for caveman organizing a site as clean as he had mentioned is great practice and once again SEO is all about optimizing for ALL aspects and that includes optimizing the cleanliness of your server. Both very positive answers for you to take into consideration winterconuk.



 4:19 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

If I was going to start a new site, I might consider using a delimiter like so,


I have not tried this method myself but it is interesting because it eliminates the need for rewriting url's.


 4:24 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have not tried this method myself but it is interesting because it eliminates the need for rewriting url's.


I have and it was a disaster. I did this about two years ago and at first everything was fine. Within 6 months everything was gone. I can't say for certain that the delimiters (hyphens instead of slashes) were the issue but it was the only thing different about it and other dynamic sites I've designed.

We've since restructured that site and everything is back to normal now after getting rid of all the hyphens. In some instances, we had 5 hyphens in the URI. I've since started elminating hyphens whenever possible. One or two might be okay, anything more than that may be an issue.


 5:27 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hehe. OK I can see POR and I are in for tag team here.

POR when you said 'root level pages' were u talking only about pages in the root directory? My assumption for now is that you were talking about index pages in any directory. (?)

wintercornuk, one way a lot of sites are organized is as I outlined in post #3. Another way is that ONLY index.html (or index.whatever) pages are used, and virtually all pages are defined not by a filename, but by directory name. This would result in the examples in #3 above being translated into:


In each case, there is just one file under the directory, named "index.whatever." One of the nice things about this structure too, that doesn't work in the example I gave in post #3 above, is that if you ever want to change a site from, say, .html to .php, no redirects are neeeded. The URI structures remain the same, and that is a very nice bit of flexibility, as technologies evolve. ;-)

Re POR's comment on dashes, I agree. One or two maybe is fine. But quite a long time ago now, GG suggested that too many dashes in domains were a potential problem (read, "red flag") and I suspect that what POR warns against is not just a one-off occurance, but something to guard against WRT to filenames too.

Unfortunatly often what looks spammy IS spammy. That is important to understand, because since G and all of the SE's prefer (ideally) to automate all ranking related activity, if it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, and acts like a pig ... it's likely to be labelled as spam. ;-)

P.S. If I've misread POR's comments and he's referring to most pages literally being in the root directory, then yes I've seen a lot of that too. Personally though, I don't like that option for a variety of reasons, related to both organization and flexibility over time.

[edited by: caveman at 6:01 am (utc) on Mar. 21, 2006]


 5:52 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

My assumption for now is that you were talking about index pages in any directory.

That would be correct. The only thing I have sitting in my root web would be an index page and robots.txt. Everything else is inside a sub-directory. I treat each sub-directory as if it were a site on its own.


 6:37 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

[quote]I have and it was a disaster.[quote]

I was hoping to get some feedback and that pretty much answers that question. I typically see these sites use commas as delimiters but after what you said I think i'll stick with the standard method. Thanks for the warning.


 9:13 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

OK, thanks for all of your comments and suggestions. I'm going to try it on a test site and see how it works, and then maybe implement it on my main site when the time comes for a redesign this summer.


 2:21 pm on Mar 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've just finished a site redesign that changed everything like so:



This is where the Class would be "Red Widgets" and the Type might be "Medium Sized".

Some of our Class names might even be Red with Yellow Trim Widgets which would make our subdirectory look like:


pageone is making me think I would be better off with not having the underscores like /redwithyellowtrimwidgets/



 4:16 am on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)


pageone is making me think I would be better off with not having the underscores like /redwithyellowtrimwidgets/


There are those who will argue that underscores are fine. Based on my years of experience, research and testing, I would not use an underscore nor would I recommend them.

For one, the underscore becomes obsure when viewing as a hyperlink. Two, users are just not used to typing in underscores. I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain to a client on the phone where their underscore key was. Even though it is right there above the hyphen (shift), they rarely use it.

I've not done any research since the last time I was involved in this type of discussion, but I do believe that underscores are treated differently than hyphens. This was very apparent last time I checked.


That's a somewhat abusive URI. Four underscores and it reads more like a sentence and not a URI path. ;)

Maybe something more along the lines of...


Look at your URI structure like a breadcrumb trail. If you were to back your way out of that URI, would you end up at a logical page at each step in the path? I mean, if I were to do this...


Would I see an index page that has a list of links leading to pages within that sub-directory? Something like a mini site map but designed for the user. An entrance page?

Would the same apply if I backed up one more level?


Be creative. Plan and structure those URIs for user friendliness. I was just discussing this with a new client the other day. They have a very diversified product line. Within those product lines are more diversifications. And within those diversifications are even more. We've got lots of planning to do before implementing a user friendly URI structure. I told the client that we typically like to be able to easily type in a web address to any page of the site.

Once you establish a common sub-directory structure, you should be able to easily type in the direct URI of any page without any second thought. If you need to be at the red and yellow widgets section, then by all means, you should be able to type in...

www.example.com/widgets/red/yellow/ and find the page you are looking for.


 7:24 am on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thank you for your time onepage, I think I understand the thinking process better.

For what it's worth, the tech behind our site does not care. There are no physical files and all the following URL's would work right this second:


Our engine picks up the page request regardless of the page path and answers for that.

In fact, the only reason we are changing to "seed" the page path with keywords are to give more visual clues to the users about what our pages are about and because it was our understanding that the SE's would like this too.

We've been struggling with what to do for so long it seems that by the time we decide and code for a particular solution, the prevailing knowledge has changed and it's back to the drawing board...

The only reason we started going down this road is because we know our current structure is not good, which is having one page for each of Class, Type and Detail and driving the thousands of different pages with parameters.

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