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long versus short urls and their SEO value

Is there a correct balance to be achieved between the two?



5:01 pm on Sep 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Guys,

By developing SEO-friendly urls, does one risk pages being seen as too deep in the site and thus unimportant?

For example, the product to be promoted is the final item in the following urls:

Short url: mysite.com/Cantal_hiking


Long url: mysite.com/France/Trekking_France/Auvergne/Cantal_hiking

Any advice or words of wisdom would be most appreciated.




4:15 am on Sep 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

the number of characters doesn't matter (I think), rather it is the levels down it is (the forward slashes)

you should always go for the first example than the later (when it is practical and makes sense)


12:47 pm on Oct 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

i've seen a heat map study that shows shorter urls are more effective than longer urls in the SERP.
users tend to click the result after a long url.
this isn't to say that the url length itself affects the ranking.

however, repeating the keywords in the url may be directly counterproductive for seo.

my comments are not directed toward the number of levels (slashes) in the path.


1:05 pm on Oct 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Phranque,

Many thanks for your words of wisdom. Where can one see this heat map study?

This issue is critical for me as I set about launching a site over which I have complete control of the urls for the first time.

My company name does not ‘do what it says on the tin’ so to speak, so I’m keen to have the word France in the urls somewhere. My gut reaction from seeing competitors show up higher than me is that their use of key words in their urls has improved their rankings. This contradicts your point that “repeating the keywords in the url may be directly counterproductive for seo.” What proof do you have for this?

The option mysite.com/Cantal_hiking may be a nice shallow option, but lacks the keyword content.

I have been toying with mysite.com/France/Trekking_France/Cantal_hiking

because I may venture into another country in the future. However, if depth is to be avoided, And key word repetition, I suppose I could go for:


What do you think?




3:06 pm on Oct 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

First suggestion: use hyphens rather than underscores as word separators.

Second suggestion: try to avoid directory names where word separators would be required!

Keywords within URLs can be a small positive factor for both SEO and for usability if you keep a light hand about it, but they can quickly become a negative if you overdo it.

In the example you gave, it's redundant to have "trekking" and "hiking" in the same URL. That does not project the message "quality content organized by a skilled editor", it just says "newbie SEO trying too hard".

It would make good sense to include synonyms like that within the page content, or perhaps in links to the page, but within the URL itself? Overkill.

Aim for URLs that are meaningful but concise. Think carefully about your information architecture because that will not only affect how your URLs turn out, it will lay the foundation for future growth. Coming up with an intelligent structure for the information the site will present is by far your most important issue at this stage. Start with that and work your way down to the question of what this or that individual directory might be named. When you get to the stage of actually naming directories, lean towards using single words rather than multi-word phrases.

Something like


would be attractive to users and meaningful to search engines. You don't need more than that.

Conciseness is a virtue.


6:46 pm on Oct 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Many thanks for a concise and thought-provoking response. It will help me immensely and is much appreciated.



6:33 am on Oct 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

"Aim for URLs that are meaningful but concise"

Good advice.

Working keywords into URLs will provide some benefit. From a usability perspective the shorter, word-based URLs will be more useful.

From a ranking perspective I don't see length to be an issue. You can see examples all around. Take a look at the huge book site or the huge auction site's URLs. They're fairly evil looking (probably something that the search community would have frowned on several years ago). On the other hand, big brands get away with quite a lot.

Also, use dashes and slashes for spacers but don't go overboard. Youmaygetawaywithnospaces but usability degrades.


11:08 pm on Oct 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


would be attractive to users and meaningful to search engines. You don't need more than that.

Conciseness is a virtue.

I'm going to agree, that anything more will look spammy. I'd try to keep the url to something manageable vs using every last character MS IE will read:

Microsoft Internet Explorer has a maximum uniform resource locator (URL) length of 2,083 characters. Internet Explorer also has a maximum path length of 2,048 characters. This limit applies to both POST request and GET request URLs.

Excerpt from: [support.microsoft.com...]

Yikes, that's a hefty url (the War & Peace edition)! However a concise descriptive url won't hurt you. I'd stick to no more than 2 - 3 hyphens. source-folder/quick-brown-fox.html Of course there will be occasions when you need more or less. The most important thing to me is keeping it relevant.

I'm also a fan of keeping my structure simple. No more than 3 folders deep in most cases is more than sufficient to keep everything organized. source-folder/source-folder/source-folder/quick-brown-fox.html Keeping it simple seems to make search engines & users happiest.

If you do have such a deep structure, you might want to consider bread crumbs to help your users navigate & not get lost in the site.

Before you go rearranging & redoing all of your structure, make sure you 301 redirect the old location/name to the new. Or your gonna start seeing alot of 404 errors.

Or make it easy on yourself, & just adopt the new method for everything new you create.


3:30 am on Oct 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet is how long. keyword-stuffed URLs might affect the pages that link to them. Overly long URLs could add significant bloat to navigation links throughout the site.

Shorter URLs in the navigation could save hundreds of characters on every page of your site, maybe even thousands. That would obviously improve your page load speeds a bit.

Something else to ponder: I can't prove this, but I'm convinced that conciseness in the templates makes it easier for pages to be perceived as unique. If your site had a lot of pages that were 99% template and 1% content, many of them would be dismissed as "very similar". We don't know what balance would avoid that problem, but intuitively we know there'd be a tipping point somewhere.

You could change the balance by writing longer content, but you could also come at it from the other direction by improving the conciseness of your templates ... including navigation links.

SEO-wise I do a lot of things on the basis of "won't hurt, might help." A preference for concise URLS is one of them.


5:37 pm on Oct 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


I hope to be sitting down and getting to grips with all your excellent feedback late next week. I'm glad I've only just started with a couple of pages as it's not too late to start from scratch.




6:20 pm on Oct 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I was referred to this thread from my original post here: [webmasterworld.com...]

Somehow the answers are not convincing to me at all. Forget the forward slashes; taking just the long hyphenated URLs into consideration, there is something here that makes some blogs and websites choose that URL scheme religiously.

I wouldn't agree with the spammy look, because in most cases the URL slug merely parrots the title of the page. So, it tells Google that it is just about the page and I am not sneakily adding some extra keywords here. Matt Cutts in fact had once advised that we use the title as the URL except that replace the singular words with plural and vice versa.

Second point, I wouldn't agree that short URLs help for easy remembrance. Because this is the day of URL shorteners and I don't think users ever think about remembering the URL to reproduce it somewhere else.


8:21 am on Oct 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Anand84,

Glad you could join us and also glad I havent yet had time to structure my forthcoming site, so am still open to suggestions.

If I understand you correctly, you agree that some 'forward slashes' are necessary, as long as they're kept to the minimum, correct?

RE long hyphenated URLs, whether they look spammy or are not memorable is irrelevant in my humble opinion. The public want the maximum relevance to resolving their search problem, and only ther 'bots' can ensure that, surely. If it aint spammy for them, then it aint spam; and the public have enough trouble recalling company names, let alone urls!

Your observation re short and long-tail versions of urls will hopefully draw some comments here from other readers, and I'd like to know if Matt Cutts is still proposing that we use the title as the URL whilst replacing singulars with plurals.




11:21 pm on Oct 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I wouldn't focus too much on what type of separator you use... There is really enough value to really waste your time with that (_) vs. (-), vs. (+).

I also think you are looking to far into the directory depth issue... This is something that I used to worry about but upon testing it doesn't really matter.

What does matter is the URL is crawlable as well as your internal link structure.

For an example: Let's say you have a link on your home page pointing to two types of urls: mysite.com/directory/directory/directory/directory (4 directories deep) and another page linked to a page mysiace.com/super_page.php - your rankings won't make a difference.

How you link and where you link to your pages will.


12:58 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

"Matt Cutts is still proposing that we use the title as the URL whilst replacing singulars with plurals."

This is counterintuitive advice given that the singular and plural forms are different key phrases and the plural may or may not be the best choice.


1:01 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I agree and would still use the title in the URL regardless if it had an affect on rankings or not. It offers better usability either way.

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