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Page Extension - Do the engines care?

.html, .htm, .asp, .aspx, .php, .do, ..... .bob?

     
7:09 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I would like to know if google, primarily, as well as other search engines care about the actual page extension. For example if I have a page named foo.html, will google see it the same if it was named foo.aspx, foo.do, foo.ext, foo.bob?

In other words, if I use a unique extension, will google discredit the page? Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

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Paul
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7:56 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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valmont33 - Welcome to WebmasterWorld.

No, the particular extension used doesn't make any difference to the engines... though, once you've committed to an extension for a page, the engine does associate that extension with a particular url.

7:59 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The file name extension doesn't matter - only the file format. The examples you suggest would all be seen by search engines as HTML files and parsed as such. Be sure that the server is set up to include the appropriate MIME type information in the header information served for these files and you should be fine. Use any online server header checker utility to see how your server is identifying these files.
7:59 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hello, and thanks for the welcome!

So best thing to avoid duplicate content is to pick an extension and stick with it. Thanks for the information!

8:12 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Nonetheless I would use a standard extension such as ".html", not ".bob" as per your example.

For one thing, I find a fair number of people manually type in my URLs when they link to me instead of cutting and pasting, and they don't necessarily check their spelling, so I prefer not to throw my users curveballs. IMO there's a lot to be said for keeping things short, simple and obvious.

[edited by: jomaxx at 8:16 pm (utc) on Jan. 3, 2008]

8:15 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Nonetheless I would use a standard extension such as ".html", not ".bob" as per your example.

I'm kinda partial to "bob"... but with regard to file extensions I do agree. ;)

8:16 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Believe it or not, this is big decision. Once you make a choice, it's pretty hard to "unwind" the decision.

Choose wisely.

8:24 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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P.S. You didn't specifically mention it, but I'll just add that although the file extension makes no inherent difference to the algorithm, keeping parameters out of the URL does. This is a big deal.
8:36 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'd go extensionless. We're at a point now in our advancement that extensions are no longer needed. Look into "Content Negotiation" and see if that fits with your plans moving foward. Showing those extensions also "visibly" exposes the underlying technology of the site.

Extensions are so, so, 90s! ;)

8:59 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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hmmm... No extension. That may be the way to go. I will have to look into that, thanks!
9:01 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Certain files types have great power for SEO.
Linking to a PDF with good internal tags (same topic) will assure you of good ranking.
9:27 pm on Jan 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

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But is it the "file type extension" or the HTTP Content-type server response header that provides this reported 'great ranking' for PDF files, I wonder?

I agree with P1R and jomaxx -- extensionless is the way to short, concise, user-friendly, long-lived URLs.

As a matter of fact, the guy who invented (or co-invented) hyperlinks stated as much -- and many years ago: Cool URIs don't change [w3.org].

On a technical note, remember that a URL (or URI) can resolve to any file you like. And Content-type is associated on the server with files. So it's actually not too difficult to point a URL at a file, associate a content-type with its filetype, and have the browser or client correctly identify the content-type -- without any file extension in the URL. Notice also that we speak of URLs on the Web, and then we go throw in this "file type" term -- mixing-up URLs with files, when in fact they are not at all the same thing; URLs locate content on the Web, while filepaths locate content in a server filesystem. There need not be any 'crossover' of these two resource-location systems from the Web side to the filesystem side or vice-versa.

Jim

1:25 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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although the file extension makes no inherent difference to the algorithm, keeping parameters out of the URL does

By this do you mean that static urls help in Google compared to dynamic urls?

I recently reorganised a small php/apache ecommerce site (<40 pages) which had previously been mod_rewritten to .htm extensions with keywords in the urls.

The new site uses dynamic urls i.e. product.php?cat_id=1&subcat_id=2 - so dynamic urls with no keywords.

I 301'd all urls individually and took a rankings snapshot before and after then changes. I've monitored weekly for 3 months now. All new urls are in index. Rankings (all top 5 / top 3) for all product pages are COMPLETELY unaffected. The site is in a niche with only a few serious competitors where you would expect that smaller algorithmic advantages/disadvantages would be apparent.

1:57 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The new site uses dynamic urls i.e. product.php?cat_id=1&subcat_id=2 - so dynamic urls with no keywords.

Why would someone do that? I mean, why would you undo what most are changing to?

2:25 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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File extensions that don't break up due to length or type improve chances of fully functional inbound links.

Shorter file names, e.g., one word, may also get more respect from Google. They don't look spammy (multiple keywords with hyphenated separations).

I still like the originals: .htm and .html.

p/g

3:28 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Why would someone do that? I mean, why would you undo what most are changing to?

Because I strongly suspected that it made no difference. As far as my site goes, I was right. If people use your re-written keyword url as a link then you get the anchor benefit, but IN ITSELF it makes absolutely no difference.

Why do unneccessary work?

Has anyone ever done the 'Pepsi challenge' between dynamic and static links in isolation and seen ranking changes? I'd be interested to hear about it. I've read SO much about using static urls for SEO benefit, but as far as I can see it's all just hearsay and 'Chinese whispers'.

Having tried it both ways on one site in a small market where changing a header tag can affect rankings, it made NO difference. In this site I was the person who implemented url rewriting from dynamic to static 3 years ago. It made no difference then either! So a few years down the line when we completely re-worked the db and CMS we scrapped the url rewriting.

The only change I saw is that dynamic urls appear to bleed toolbar PR - all internal PR was lost and remains lost despite the recent update. Site is 4 yrs old.

All rankings rock solid throughout.

4:35 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I agree with P1R and jomaxx -- extensionless is the way to short, concise, user-friendly, long-lived URLs.

What about usability? I don't think extentionless is really "user-friendly" - when I see a link I want to know if it's a regular HTML page or PDF/doc/zip/flash/video/exe/etc file -- and I want to know it before I try to open the link.
4:41 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If people use your re-written keyword url as a link then you get the anchor benefit.

Well, there goes one benefit that you no longer have.

But IN ITSELF it makes absolutely no difference.

From my experience it does. It makes a big difference when combined with other elements. There wouldn't be any "IN ITSELF".

Why do unneccessary work?

Because from our perspective, it is necessary. There is much more to it than getting keywords into the URI strings.

Has anyone ever done the 'Pepsi challenge' between dynamic and static links in isolation and seen ranking changes?

Yes, 100's if not 1,000's of us have made the transition. And usually, each time it was for the good. Why? Because there were typically other issues present in the dynamic string that prevented the bot from performing a clean indexing or, even traversing to that content at the end of the string which is usually where the most important stuff sits.

I'd be interested to hear about it. I've read SO much about using static urls for SEO benefit, but as far as I can see it's all just hearsay and 'Chinese whispers'.

Hehehe, Chinese Whispers? I think there will be quite a few who will disagree with you. And, since you have "hard evidence" to the contrary, there really is no need for us to justify now, is there? ;)

Having tried it both ways on one site in a small market where changing a header tag can affect rankings, it made NO difference.

And how was the benchmarking, testing and research done to determine your findings?

All rankings rock solid throughout.

This is not the normal behavior. Rankings are typically affected during the recalculation phase, not sure what you did to bypass those issues.

I have to ask, if rankings were beyond improvement to begin with and remained unchanged, how can you test under those conditions?

Also keep in mind that these days, most of the bots can easily traverse a dynamic URI string. But, there are certain queries that still present issues and those need to be rewritten.

From a user perspective, dynamic URI strings are a nightmare. From a maintenance perspective, they are also a nightmare. Intuitive file naming is a major benefit in today's SEO strategies. It's also an added plus for site administrators.

There is also a Visual Benefit here that hasn't been discussed. :)

What about usability? I don't think extentionless is really "user-friendly" - when I see a link I want to know if it's a regular HTML page or PDF/doc/zip/flash/video/exe/etc file -- and I want to know it before I try to open the link.

You'll only go extensionless for web pages. Documents such as .doc, .pdf, etc. will still have their respective extensions.

[edited by: pageoneresults at 5:25 pm (utc) on Jan. 4, 2008]

5:06 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You'll only go extensionless for web pages. Documents such as .doc, .pdf, etc. will still have their respective extensions.

It would still be confusing - folder versus web page:

domain.com/folder/ vs. domain.com/nonfolder

5:20 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It would still be confusing - folder versus web page.

Take a look at Google's naming conventions. Also, a look at the W3. Both use extensionless environments. You'll get a 404 if you try adding a trailing forward slash to a resource that has had its extension removed. Or, you may get 301'd back to the correct destination. Depends on how they have it set up.

6:12 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It makes a big difference when combined with other elements.

Hmmm. A ranking factor that isn't a ranking factor in its own right?

how was the benchmarking, testing and research done to determine your findings?

I checked all rankings, made the change, then checked all rankings after a week, then after all new urls were shown in Google cache.

if rankings were beyond improvement to begin with and remained unchanged, how can you test under those conditions?

I never said they were beyond improvement, I said they were a mix of top 5 to top 3. Furthermore, if going from static to dynamic is a *bad* move, then improvement isn't what we should be watching for is it?

My whole point is :
if these urls lost some Google 'oomph' from no longer being static keyword urls I would have expected to see drops of at least a place or two - unless it made so little difference as to be negligible. That is what I take from this.

I do take your point about the visual aspects etc though. User experience, call to action in the SERPs etc - good points.

6:26 pm on Jan 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A ranking factor that isn't a ranking factor in its own right?

Very few are.

Its when you get "all of the right ones combined" that counts. And, primary keywords in the URI string are one of them. :)

I checked all rankings, made the change, then checked all rankings after a week, then after all new urls were shown in Google cache.

A week? In Google Cache? That's just the beginning of the process, isn't it? There's still more to come.

Ooops, steering back on topic...

Page Extension - Do the engines care?

I think if they had a choice, the search engines, they'd strip the file extensions too where applicable. I'd bet that the majority of the SE's challenges come in the changing of those extensions. People udating entire platforms and changing the physical address. What a nightmare...

10:46 pm on Jan 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The extension doesn't matter. It can include any letters that you want it to.

It is the MIME-type in the HTTP header that is important as to how the bot or browser handles the file.

10:01 am on Jan 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A week? In Google Cache? That's just the beginning of the process, isn't it? There's still more to come.

... and now we're at 12 weeks and everything is still fine. Everything has ALWAYS been fine. Should I be holding my breath? Or should you be reading what I post more closely?