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Parameters Vs Anchors


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6 replies to this topic

#1 JeremyH

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 01:11 PM

I have a static html homepage that doesn't change, but I want to pass a variable so I can pre-populate a text field. This pre-populated field is a luxury, not a requirement, and doesn't impact anything else on the page.

I'm not using php to do this because I wanted a flat html file (as well as a highly compressed pre-generated gzip version) to ensure minimal server load and maximum speed. Instead I'm using javascript inside the html file to grab this variable to insert it into the field. Since its just a luxury, I'm fine if some of the visitors (those that don't have javascript enabled) won't have their field pre-populat.

I'm debating different ways of doing this:

example.com/ (No variable passed, default)
example.com/?variable=value (Using parameters)
example.com/#value (Using anchor text that doesn't correspond to anything)

Regardless of what I use, I plan on using a canonical link to specify that the url is just example.com/.

I'm wondering how the search engines treat parameters vs anchor text, and how browser caching works for anchor text. I know that using the parameter would be considered a separate page, and the browser would have to re-download the page (even though the html will be the exact same).

I'm leaning towards anchors, but I'm very interested in some feedback.

#2 qwerty

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 03:00 PM

By "anchor text," I'm assuming you mean named anchors, as in <a name="value">, which creates a spot on a page that can be navigated to directly.

As you noted, as long as you use link rel="canonical" properly, this isn't going to be an issue, but for whatever it's worth, I've found that URLs containing parameters are often treated as documents themselves, so you have to explicitly tell Google to ignore the parameter, whereas named anchors (which I've tried to get treated as separate pages on a couple of occasions) are ignored by search engines.

#3 Michael Martinez

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 08:35 PM

I think the third example is the one least likely to impact your search experience -- and coupling that with a canonical declaration is probably the best idea.

#4 Tiggerito

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:09 PM

I'd go with the anchors.

As noted:

Parameters create a new distinct page, this requiring reload and causing search engines to index them separately.

Google does not index anchors unless they are using the proposed Ajax solution which follows the #! format. That is I've never seen a # show up in search results yet, without the #!. I may be wrong.

The canonical tag would not be required if you use anchors, but no harm in it anyhow.


#5 JeremyH

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 01:54 PM

Thank you for your inputs, I think anchors will be the better option for me.

#6 chrishirst

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 10:06 AM

QUOTE
Google does not index anchors unless they are using the proposed Ajax solution which follows the #! format. That is I've never seen a # show up in search results yet, without the #!. I may be wrong.

Actually Google started displaying "Jump To" links in the SERP listing in late 2009

These are derived from the named anchors on that particular page.

#7 Catz

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 02:42 PM

Thanks for the link. superman.gif You hear our call and always come through for us!

It will be interesting to see those results working in the average site beyond places like Wikipedia and large authority sites. Since that is something we tend to do in our coding anyway, it will be interesting to watch how it pans out.

Usually those SE results take you to the top of a new page in the website, so that is a refreshing change. Looks like perhaps if there is a page about a search term, they will take you to it, otherwise, if there is a section about it, they will take you there.

Much better than having to scroll through long pages to find a particular section you are searching for. Another Google time saver, created especially for us. wink.gif




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