7 Rules for Writing URLs

Thursday, July 23, 2009

1. Keep URLs as short as possible.

Usability impact: According to several studies, people prefer short URLs. Searchers more likely to click a short URL. Google’s Maile Ohye wrote that a long URL “decreases [the] chances of [a] user selecting the listing” in the search engine result pages (SERPs). A Marketing Sherpa study confirms that users click more often on shorter URLs.

SEO impact: Weaker sites with few inbound links are unlikely to see spiders crawling deep content. Spiders may visit and revisit content closer to the root directory more often; these are pages with shorter URLs. Also, it stands to reason that other webmasters and bloggers will be more likely to link to pages with shorter URLs; as a publisher, I trust short URLs more than longer ones and tend to avoid linking to long URLs that I’m not sure will remain active forever.

2. Remove session IDs from URLs.

Crawlability impact: Spiders are less likely to crawl a URL with a session ID because there’s a strong likelihood the content is a copy of another URL. Long parameters can look like session IDS and should also be avoided.

3. Limit variables and parameters in URLs.

Crawlability impact: At conferences, Google’s Matt Cutts has said it’s best to limit the number of parameters in a URL to “2 or 3.” As described in the Google Webmaster Central article referenced above, URLs with too many parameters are likely candidates to be duplicates of other URLs, so spiders try to avoid crawling them.

Usability impact: As mentioned above, users prefer short URLs.

4. Use keywords in URLs.

SEO impact: Keywords in the URL help tell the spider what the page is about. A URL such as www.domain.com/green-widgets.html is obviously about green widgets, whereas a URL such as www.domain.com/product.php?ID=23476234 is not obviously about anything. Keywords in the URL are an additional signal to the spider.

Usability impact: As the Marketing Sherpa study (and many others, too) indicates, users prefer short, clear URLs that help them pre-determine what the page will be about before they click.

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Awesome Online Tools And Resources For Writers

Writing, whether it be copywriting, web content, blogging, or anything inbetween, is one of the most popular, most demanded, and most sought after skill sets in the world of online work. Don't believe me? Just look at a few of the past Elance Online Work Indexes and you'll turn into a believer.

And as a writer, don’t think for one second that all online tools and resources are just for coders, graphic designers, and web developers – there's a grip of writing-related tools out there on the web for you word-smiths to take full advantage of. Here are some of my personal favorites:

OneLook: Founded in April, 1996, OneLook describes itself as “a search engine for words and phrases.” The site offers definitions and translations from over 5 million words in over 900 online dictionaries and has a robust set of search query tools so you can properly narrow down your search results. If you can’t find your word on here, it’s likely because that word doesn’t exist… yet.

GoogleDocs: As an integral part of Google Apps, Google Docs is an cloud-based text editor that boasts a healthy feature set. One of Google Docs’ strongest features is its collaboration tools – meaning while on Google Docs, you can have up to 10 people edit a document at the same time, and you can also share a document with up to 200 people. If you’re looking for other options, SynchroEdit is another browser-based editor that allows for online simultaneous collaboration.

Write Rhymes: This one goes out to all my poets, and they all know it. Okay, obviously not the best rhyming skills out there, but if you’re just as bad as I am, then go ahead and bookmark Write Rhymes. All you simply need to do is begin typing, highlight your words, press the ALT key, and a window of 2-or-3 syllable words with rhyming elements pops up. There’s even an option to save, copy, and print your new limerick, song, poem, rap, or whatever else your zany mind conjures up.

BibMe: If I had to guess, I’d guess that most writers on earth would agree with me on this: Writing bibliographies or works cited documents are the absolute worst, un-fun procedures known to humankind. I’m being a little extreme here, but if you share in my sentiment, then check out BibMe. It’s an easy-to-use, automated bibliography generator that can create entries for books, magazines, newspapers, websites, film, and more in MLA or APA format. EasyBib is another alternative, although only MLA generation is free. (APA requires a subscription.)

Advanced Text Analyzer: Who would have thought of combining analytics and writing? Advanced Text Analyzer lives up to its name by calculating a wide variety of different variables present in a document. Analyze word difficulty, lexical density, reading grade level, and more. Registration is required for the site but only takes a few moments. And after calculating this blog post, it appears that you have to be reading at the 11th grade level, according to the Coleman-Liau Grade. Neat.

Awesome Highlighter: Here’s an interesting one – highlight any text on any web page, and Awesome Highlighter creates a URL that will take anyone that clicks your link to the same page with the same highlights you entered earlier. This is a great resource for those spending a lot of time doing hitting the web for hardcore research sessions.

Any of you writing elancers have any particular tools you love to use while doing what you do best? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to add it to the list. Enjoy!

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