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Is pageid= in the URL Harmful to Website SEO?

September 21, 2011

Hi Jill,

I am a long-time subscriber of your newsletter. I have implemented many of your SEO/SEM ideas over the years with good success.

Recently I had a conversation with an SEO expert who claimed that the most important thing we need to do for SEO on our website is URL rewriting. Our old CMS system still usesImage Credit: chrisdlugosz parameters in the URL ("?pageid="). The expert claims that if we don't rewrite these URLs to a friendly, keyword-rich URL, there is no use doing any SEO work on our site because it cannot be successful.

That just doesn't seem right to me. Although our current URL is not the most friendly to look at, and can be hard to determine pages in Google Analytics, all of our site pages are indexed by Google, and some of the pages we have optimized do come up high in organic search results. I can see that keywords in URLs may be one of the many things Google looks at, but it is hard for me to believe it's the most important thing. I have always placed priority on page titles, page content, and outside linking to our site.

I very much trust your opinion and wonder if you could share it with me on this subject. Thanks in advance.


++Jill's Response++

Hi Doug,

You are exactly correct! While I understand that many SEOs put a lot of stock in having keywords in URLs these days, it's kind of scary to think that there are some SEO companies out there saying that your URLs will make all the rest of your SEO work useless. It's absolutely not true at all.

A quick search in Google for "pageid=" shows more than 200 million URLs contain that term.

It's not a problem at all.

I would personally caution you or anyone else about changing perfectly indexable URLs for the sole purpose of adding keywords. If you're redesigning your website and are going to be using a new content management system that will end up changing your URLs, then it's fine to consider the best use of them for SEO purposes. But I would not recommend changing URLs for the sole purpose of changing URLs.

Note: I decided to get other people's opinions on this via the High Rankings Question of the Week, which you can see here:

Do you change URLs for SEO purposes if they're not currently using keywords but are being indexed fine?

Hope this helps!


Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, Jill Whalenan SEO Services Company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen

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Post Comment

 Randolph said:
Don't do it!
We hired an 'SEO expert' years ago who said almost the same thing. I disagreed but since I was not an 'SEO expert', had to go through all the trouble of redoing the URL system for the site. Not only did that not help at all, but for a while we lost some ranking while Google got used to the change, and then I was left with that mess.
Like Jill said, if you're making the site from scratch or if you are going to change the URL scheme anyway for whatever reason, ok go ahead, but if you're thinking of doing it for SEO purposes only, don't, it'll do you more harm than good.
 Pete Eveleigh said:
You should only do this with established and indexed URLs if you are completely aware of how to do it properly.

You should ensure that there are 301 redirects set up to ensure any "link juice" your current URL has is transferred to the new URL. Since this can be time consuming and, as has been pointed out, of dubious benefit then it may well not be worth your time and effort to do so.

I don't know the specifics of your set up but why not try it with a few URLs to start with. If the redirects are set up then it won't matter if people try to visit the old URL since they'll be sent to the new one anyway. Just make sure that you use a 301 redirect and it's not possible to get to the "old" url.

However, it is true that "friendly" URLs are friendly not just for Search Engines but also for your visitors. It's easier to remember and tell someone else a URL made of real words rather than a page ID or string of parameters. So besides any real or mythical benefit with regards to search it could well be a benefit to your visitors and consequently lead to more backlinks.
 Ascentem said:
'most important thing we need to do for SEO on our website' that's quite a scary bit of advice... If google has indexed the page and is ranking it why change it. Sure friendly URLS would be the ideal but it's not 'the most important thing'. Content, links, architecture... far more important.

Just make sure As Pete says above, ensure your 301 redirects are in place if you do start playing with URLs.
 Jeff Selig said:
As in most cases, some SEO tactics work better than others. The url is only one part of the signal that search engines look at and from all the experiments I have done, little lift in rankings have been achieved in redoing them. In some instances the amount of work and pain factor are just not worth the effort in rewriting urls.

That said, urls do influence CTR;s and can help search rankings. If the pain threshold is low in converting from pageid= to a more friendly and SEO centric url then by all means rewrite away :-)
 MattC said:
I recently had one of those phone number tracking companies tell my web client that they wanted all the URLs changed from PageId to what they called "search engine friendly" /keyword-based-url/. I argued that PageId is search friendly, all of the website's URLs are indexed.

Regardless, I went ahead with the change. Despite my initial reluctance, im loving the fact that when i look at Google Analytics, I know what page is being referred to easily because I don't have to decode the pageid url.

While I don't believe its necessary, especially if your website is ranking just fine, it is nice to have for tracking reasons. The fact is everybody went crazy with URL rewrites years ago, kinda has evened everyone out.
 Jaspal Kalsi said:
I totally agree with Jill, unless your website is having crawling and indexing issues, there is no need to rewrite URL's to shorter versions / make them keyword rich.

One of the main reasons where I have had to advise for any kind of URL manipulation is where the variables being passed were over 5 ... in my experience Google does not crawl / index URL's with more than 3 variables in the query string format or those re-written to more than three sub-directories deep. There is always an exception tot he rule though but for that to happen your site has to be as popular as the Wikipedia.
 Abel Mohler said:
My understanding is that the keywords in the URL are only used to identify your page if the TITLE element is missing! While this may or may not be true, it's not worth it updating a site that is already indexed for something so minor. For one thing, it is well documented that when you 301 your pages, they lose a little "juice", so the more likely outcome is that you will actually harm your ranking a little bit, rather than help it.

Newly established pages don't suffer from this setback, since they don't need to be forwarded from old locations, so if you want to make them prettier so that they are easier to type/remember, all the power to you. But don't pretend it's anything other than prettiness, if it's even a factor to search engines, it's a very minor one.
 Rob Camp said:
I'll hold my hand up and admit that a few years ago, I learnt the hard way how changing to supposed "seo friendly" URLs can affect a site's performance in the SERPs. Client wasn't best pleased, I can tell you.

Since then, I've decided to throw that piece of advice on the Hokum pile and prefer to use URL rewrites to maintain any current ranking URLs.

If it's a new page, unlaunched site, I'd suggest doing it maybe. Depends how much effort it is - if it's wordpress or something and you know your way around, then fair enough. If the system you're running the site off isn't having it without major development work, then I sack it off.

There's more important factors to spend your time on.
 David Kwong said:
I'm not sure about the page-id. However, one of my client's website use .cgi?d= in the URL.


I have done a lot of linking. No matter what I do . I can't the page that I want indexed. Some pages are in the index but not all.
 ctrlfreak said:
Absolutely not worth the time/effort changing the url structure. If you have many pages of relevant content like on a forum, it is not worth it to change the page url's and redirect. The page age and content speak for itself.

David Kwong, try using breadcrumbs to point to your internal pages which are having trouble being indexed.
 Darren Hanser said:
I have a question... I use the keyword in all my URLs and have since the site was launched. Now I'm getting tons of backlinks over time, and when setting up the backlink campaigns, some of my outsourcers are using the page id and others are using the actual URL.

I would assume the power is the same, as the backlinks are all directing to the same page, but does this effect it?
 Jill Whalen said:
Darren, you should never have more than one working URL to the same piece of content. Be sure you page I'd URLs redirect via a 301 to the clean URLs.