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SEO Website Audit

CMS Keeps Two Sets of URLs

November 3, 2010
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Hi Jill,

We are moving our site to a new CMS – same content, many identical pages, some new pages, same domain, different URLs. The CMS allows us to craft SEO-friendly URLs, like this:

www.example.com/page-keywords
Photo Credit: Jeremy Burgin
The underlying page-number URL will also load that same page:

www.example.com/123.html

Question 1. In sitemap.xml, can we use the page number URL rather than the keyword URL?

I am assuming that we will tweak the keyword URLs as we learn what works and would like to avoid making changes to the sitemap.xml all the time.

I am guessing that the Google spider will index what the page displays and not the link in the sitemap.xml that gets it there. Is that right?

Question 2. We will use Rewrite Rules with 301-redirects from all the old pages in Google's index to the appropriate page on the new site. Here, I am assuming that the Rewrite Rule will need to point to the friendly URL and not the page number URL. Is that the case?

Thanks a lot!

Terry


++Jill's Response++

Hi Terry,

You never, ever want two URLs for the same content. Let me repeat that...never, ever!

Make sure your CMS does not create those other URLs and/or 301-redirect them to the keyword ones that you want.

Regarding your XML sitemap file, it's not a requirement to submit an XML sitemap through your Google Webmaster Tools account, but if you do, use the URLs that you ultimately want them to index. Do not use the URLs that you will be redirecting.

Everything that you do moving forward should always use the keyword-URLs (or whichever URL you want to be indexed). For all intents and purposes, the others no longer exist – or at least shouldn't exist. It's critical to make sure that both versions cannot be reached by a browser and that one provides a 301 permanent redirect http header response. Your developer should be able to make this happen correctly.

You also mentioned that you were assuming you would be tweaking your keyword URLs. I would strongly recommend against that. Editing URLs isn't an SEO tactic.

Set them however you want them (even the number ones would be fine) and then leave them alone. You will do much more harm than good if you tweak your URLs, especially if you feel that you're doing it for SEO purposes. Tweak other areas of your site, but not your URLs.

Best,

Jill

 
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Services company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalenJill Whalen

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 Mark said:
In this situation I would advise Terry to make sure each page has the canonical tag set
In the head make sure the CMS adds

This tells Google you want to index on this url rather than any other that you can use to reach the page (some CMS systems can have several urls that could work!)
 Jill Whalen said:
Hi Mark, agreed, but only if they absolutely can't redirect. It's much better to do that if you can.
 Janet said:
Many thanks, Jill, for shedding light on this subject. One less thing to obsess over!

Some people say that a URL with "?" in the string will not be indexed; I don't really believe that, but is there any reason to be concerned with a "php?" URL?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Janet, I don't think anyone has said that URLs with question marks in the string can't be indexed since the 1990's. At least I hope nobody is still saying that now, as it hasn't been true for well over 10 years.

If you've seen people saying that in any article that was written in this century, I'd suggest not reading anything by that person or website again!
 Mandy Cochrane said:
Thanks for covering this subject Jill. I'm a relative SEO newbie and have just started using a well-known brand of SEO software (not sure if I'm allowed to mention it by name!) which generates reports highlighting a website's weak spots. Without fail it reports that there are no keywords in the URL, although to be fair it only recommends altering them when you create new pages/sites and not to tinker with URLs pointing to well-established or highly ranked pages.

I read your article from the link "Editing URLs isn't an SEO tactic" and that seems to back up this plan of action. Thanks for cementing my knowledge-base a little more!

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