If you’ve selected the long-form, path-based URL structure in NetSuite – that decision is probably doing you more harm than good. First, Google rarely acknowledges more than the first 70 characters of a URL? Couple that with the fact that the URL is a powerful component within the Google algorithm, and you’ve got an issue. That is if you care about ranking well for your strategic keywords. Beware, however, if you decide to remedy this situation. Regardless of the length of your URL, if Google has indexed it and bestowed trust (measures are things like PageRank and Page Authority), then you have to be careful about making URL changes. If not, you’ll disrupt search-based traffic to your website.
Let’s examine the URL a little further. A typical long-form, NetSuite URL is made up of the domain, category, sub-category, and product. So, the typical structure would look like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/category/sub-category/product.html. Sometimes its just domain, category, and product. Either way, if you’ve always had a character budget for each component of the URL and kept all to less than 70 characters – congratulations, go read something else! If not, here’s what it might look like if you want to maintain a path-based structure:
- average domain length is 11 characters + .com + http:// for a total of 22 characters
- .html takes another 5 characters
- 10 characters for category
- 10 characters for sub-category
- 13 characters for product
If your domain is longer – mine is 12 characters longer than average – then you’ll need to adjust your character budget accordingly. What happens, as you go through this process, is that your ability to insert a descriptive keyword into either the category, sub-category, or product is severely hampered by the character limit imposed by your new budget. That means these URL components are probably not worth much from a strategic keyword/search engine optimization (SEO) perspective. So you have to ask yourself a big question:
Why are you concerned with maintaining a path-based structure? Do you think it improves the visitor experience? Please! Most people won’t even read your product descriptions (that includes buyers). What makes you think they care about or could extract benefit from your URL structure. So, our advice is to migrate your site to the short-form structure. It would look like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/product.html. There is another concept called canonicalization that we’ll save for another day, but depending on whether the www. version of your site is essentially more popular than the non-www. version – you might be able to drop another 4 characters off your URL. That would provide an even better opportunity to incorporate a long-tail keyword into each URL.
So how do you do it? Unfortunately, there’s not an easy fix, especially if your website is large (greater than a hundred pages) and has been around for more than a couple of years. It will require three things:
- a map of your existing URLs (the complete URL beginning with http) to the new, anticipated URLs
- courage to change your URL structure from the long-form to the short-form
- execution of 301 permanent redirects for each URL that experienced a change in structure (no matter how slight – any change matters here)
That’s it! By the way, the 301 redirect process in NetSuite is a bit of a pain. It is a manual process for each URL.
Is Your NetSuite URL Structure Hurting Your Search Engine Performance? by John-Scott Dixon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.