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Old 08-25-2004   #1
rustybrick
 
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Dynamic URLs, Using Dynamic 301 Redirects

For those that know me, I am a firm believer that going the dynamic route, when it comes to site development and maintenance, is the best and most efficient method. Many web designers and seos don't share my passion. However, this is a dynamic web site issues forum, so I thought I share a challenge I came across.

My company has built dozens of e-commerce sites, all very dynamic. We empower the customer by allowing them to manage the whole site. So if they want to add a category, they can do it. If they want to add product, pictures, new sections, brands, and so on - they can do it without calling us. Actually, I recently and finally finished an article I named Search Engine Friendly E-Commerce Catalogs which discusses many of the basics. Here I would like to touch on one area of the dynamic e-commerce site, the URL.

Our e-commerce sites use mod_rewrite to make search engine friendly and keyword rich URLs (not that I feel keywords in the URL make a big/any difference in rankings, but I feel they can be helpful with usability and click-through rates). So what we do is dynamically build the URL based on the name of the product. Let me give you a real life example; look at: http://www.smarttuxedo.com/Tuxedos-1...Lapels-45.html.

That URL is way long! Right? Well look at the product name in the h1 tag or the title of the page. My client gave that product a 17 word title! Now that is not good for usability, not good for seo and not good to look at. So I told my client to go into the products and shorten them to about 5 words. he said ok.

The problem is, when you would change the product name, the old URL (the one the search engines indexed) would work and the new URL would work. So the search engines would re-crawl and find the new URL, but also see that the old URL worked. My client would have two pages with exactly the same content on them. Not the best idea.

Solution: We built a dynamic 301 redirect which automatically redirected one from an old URL to the new URL. How does it work? Simple... If the URL does not match the title of the page, redirect (301 style) to a URL that matches the title of the page. For example try; http://www.smarttuxedo.com/OLD-CATEG...CT-URL-45.html

So what are your thoughts? See anything problematic with this?

Thank you.
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Old 08-25-2004   #2
Opie
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I like it...

I like it... I have to agree that dynamic is the way to go... Our site is built in asp.net and uses an isapi filter to create our static urls.

The only problem to your solution is the guys that don't seem to follow the 301. This is rather frustrating.

We have an employment website with thousands of jobs. These jobs are spidered pretty quickly, but only last about 23 days. Its tough to get these pages to be dropped from the indexes. We created a custom 404 page that looks at the expired posting then displays links to jobs from that same category and state back to the user. This has caused our 'single page views' for expired postings to drop considerably.

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Old 08-26-2004   #3
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I ran into that trouble too on one of my mods. Then I just ended up adding a field to the database called seo_title. My clients were doing the same thing when changing a title they would change the url and lose PR. now they know the unique seo_title is 3-4 word "unique description" for that product that will form the name of the page.
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Old 08-26-2004   #4
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Quote:
The only problem to your solution is the guys that don't seem to follow the 301. This is rather frustrating.
I can not think of any way any agent would ever have a problem "following" a server side redirect. There is realy nothing to "follow" the server simply return a different location than what was requested. Can you explain what situations you are talking about?
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Old 08-26-2004   #5
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Mikkel, I think he is referring to Yahoo's trouble with 301 redirects, I wrote about it at my blog at the end of May.

seomike, But otherwise, I am very happy with the solution. I was thinking about building a url field, but I wanted to keep it real easy and transparent to the client. Less typing, less maintenance for the client.
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Old 08-26-2004   #6
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Yahoo

We have launched 2 new sites here in the last 8 weeks. One was a situation of merging 5 seperate sites into 1, the other was moving from Java to asp.net.

I should have phrased it differently. Pretty Much - Yahoo. The spiders will follow the 301 redirects with no problem. Its Yahoo that wont index the proper pages. They have been keping the old url with the new information.

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Old 08-26-2004   #7
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OK, I thought you where talking about users

Yes, Yahoo has been having this problem, and to quote Greg Boser from the last SES conference "Its ridiculous!" and it is! I truely can't figure out why it has to take them this long to solve a problem that seems almost trival.

However, Yahoo seems to have acknowledged the problem and are trying to fix it. So I do not think we should change long-term strategies based on this "glitch". 301's are still the right way to go - any other redirects will give you far more problems - problems that are less likely to go away

In any case, redirects is really the last solution. I have a client that change all the content (all products) every 6 month. Yes, thats a SEO nightmare. Just as you get all the products indexed and ranked, they are removed and new ones go online. All over again. I knew I had to find a more permanent solution for them.

We used URL-rewrite for this. It turned out, what I often see, that high level product categories, and even most sub-categories never changed - only to actual products as presented on the category pages as well as individual product pages. So, we designed a good URL-structure with the URL-rewrite filter and mapped each new (nice looking) URL to the current category pages and subcategory pages. Now, when everything change 6 month after we basically just map the new (re-written) URLs to new ID's in their system. So, the URL's stay the same, but the "system-URLs change" (after being decoded by the rewrite-filter). This has proven to work well. On the individual product pages we found that we could not re-map them to new products because they where basically to different. So instead we used 301 redirects for these ones, so basically if you request a URL to a product that is gone, you are taked to the first parent category, or subcategory, level. This has also proven to work well. With all the "statuc" category URLs we seem to get the new products indexed pretty fast when released and users clicking old indexed URLs still end up on a good page as closely related to what it used to be.

So, this way we are in a way "redirecting" content - we just don't technically redirect, so we avoid most of the problems associated with that.

Last edited by Mikkel deMib Svendsen : 08-26-2004 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 08-26-2004   #8
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Mikkel, Excellent advice. I can see reusing the same URLs to be very useful for a dozen industries. With the client I mentioned above, product and category turn around is low. But I have a handful of clients that can use your advice, if they want to pay.

Thanks!

Last edited by rustybrick : 08-26-2004 at 09:21 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 08-26-2004   #9
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Yes, it does take some money

What I found is that the key components for this succes is:

- A client that actually do want to make changes

- A technical staff that want to work on your side - not against you, and that are really good

- Enough money and internal resources to do what you have to do. Half way is no way. I had clients ask me if we could not just start with the first part ... ehh, do you mean, remove half your serious indexing barriers? Do you think the engines will get in if we remove just one lock on the door?

I was very fortunate with the client I did the above work for as they had it all: The dedicated staff, a good understanding of the needs and values, very good engineers and the money to do things right. Not all clients are this easy to work with!
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Old 08-26-2004   #10
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I have to agree..

I have to agree. This isnt for everyone. The funny thing is that its not rocket science. You need buy in from some open minded tech folks. When I started the V2 rebuild of my site (we went from java to asp.net) we had 70 pages listed with Google. Working with my SEM I wanted to have the site follow 100% of the best practices I had seen. I educated my developers and got them to be open minded. Now they check Google every day and proudly report back where we are.

Opie

p.s. - Mikkel, are you the guy who wears the colorful suits at SES?
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Old 08-26-2004   #11
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I really don't think this is a challenge for developers; either technically or from a best practice standpoint. All my developers love it.
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Old 09-21-2004   #12
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Dynamic URLs, Using Dynamic 301 Redirects

Hello Group,

I too have a dynamic site - and like a few others in this group think dynamic sites are great.

However, I am considering re-writing my URL's / pages to static files. I have a small directory with 4500 pages and over 10,000 links in some of the biggest search engines - obviously only those that can crawl dynamic pages.

I will implement a 301 redirect which will send any visitor clicking on an old dynamic URL in a search engine to the correct page on my site with the new static URL.

The new static pages will contain the category name in the URL. Did anyone find this helpful in terms of getting more linkbacks and better search results, by including "keywords" in the URL?

Additionally, by doing this I will obviously be changing all the URL's on my entire site. How negatively will this impact on the 10,000+ links I have in search engines?

Will search engines update their database or will I loose many of the links I already have in those search engines?

This is my first post. I realise this is an old thread, but maybe some of those members who implemented the 301 redirect will be able to post their results? It would be appreciated.

Thank you for your help and comments.

Regards,
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Old 09-21-2004   #13
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http://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=sl...ness+directory


term "small business directory"

rank 11.

wasn't even trying to get it to rank but it did

I've changed the urls 3 times. from index.php?c=11 >> /united-states/small-business-directory/real-estate/11 >> /real-estate/11.htm

Last edited by seomike : 09-21-2004 at 12:33 PM.
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