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Are Long Descriptive URLs Counter-productive?

Could descriptive URLs stop click-throughs?

11:40 am on Feb 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I've noticed the apparently increasing use of long descriptive URLs. Especially from news/content sites. Generally these have invoked the use of dashes between words and sometimes give a very good idea of what the story is about. I'm guessing that many of these are auto-generated from within content management systems, but perhaps some are more carefully thought out.

For example http://www.example.com/story-about-long-urls-possibly-being-counter-productive-some-users-agree-others-disagree-no-major-consensus.html

Obviously there are (at least) two motives behind this. Firstly, to give a good description of the story so that if pasted in forums/tweets/blogs etc., the URL can give an idea of what the story is about. Secondly, I'm assuming that the authors are hoping to squeeze just a little bit of SEO value from having keywords in the URL.

Nothing wrong in either of those, as far as they go.

However, I've also noticed the behaviour of posters in another forum I frequent, with many of them posting links to news stories to back up a point of view and others making jokes along the lines of "well, I think we know what that story is about. No point clicking that link". I've also noticed that behaviour in myself. Especially on the iPhone with a slow connection, I'm often glad when someone posts one of these descriptive links, as it saves me the time clicking on a link to be told what I knew already.

So, any thoughts? Benefits of one approach over the other? Has anyone done any research as to the benefits of these types of long descriptive links?
7:04 pm on Feb 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I don't know if they are counterproductive or not. But I would just throw in that a lot of the wordpress blogs out there are using some of the SEO plugins, and really common one is to change the URL to one with the post title and dashes in lieu of the spaces.

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