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Are page URLs important?

The actual URL (file name) of a page probably doesn’t have a huge bearing on its success in the search engine results, but it plays a small part, so why not make the most of it? Your content management system will probably at best just allocate a URL based on the title of the page, and at worst allocate a number. But it’ll probably give you the opportunity to manually define one before publication, so take advantage of that.

If the page is answering a targeted question, it’s surely a good idea to use the question as it stands. For example, my article “Should I use the ‘title’ attribute on images and links?” has the URL and I’m sure that’s helped it sneak on to the first page of my search results for that query, despite the scarily strong opposition.

However, for more product-based pages, it may make more sense to strip back the URL to the important stuff (the product name) while possibly adding some helpful descriptors. If you have a page about the Model X1 Blue Widget, titled “Model X1 – Product Specifications”, your content management system may give that a URL of …/model-x1-product-specifications/. But you may be better off amending that to …/model-x1-blue-widget/. Or think about what people want from the page; perhaps …/model-x1-blue-widget-datasheet/ is the main query that ought to lead them to your page.

It should go without saying that you should never simply rewrite a page’s URL after it’s been published, as links from search engines (and indeed all external sites) would be broken. If you do ever want to rewrite URLs – perhaps because you’ve currently got something really useless like a number – it’s essential to set up proper 301 redirects from the retired URLs.