Google’s Matt Cutts Talks About Web Address Management

Stephan Spencer reveals some key insights from Matt Cutts’ presentation at WordCamp 2007 last week in San Francisco on the CNET News Blog. One of the major points is that Google will begin to recognize underscores as word separators, which had not always been the case. That means that the usage of the term “search_engine_optimization” in a web address historically would not have been read by Google as “search engine optimization” (it would have been read as “searchengineoptimization”). Traditionally, incorporating hyphens in keyword specific terms is the SEO best practice for creating keyword sensitive web addresses. That being said, it’s unclear if Google is actually incorporating this functionality now, or in the near future, so I would still recommend using hyphens in the short term (if you are currently implementing keyword specific web addresses).

Web Address Management
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on best practices for search engine friendly websites, which included web address management. Echoing some of my thoughts related to SEO best practices for web addresses, Stephan (and Matt Cutts) also reveals:

  • Query strings can be read by Google, but Matt cautions against more than 2 or 3 parameters.
  • The number of slashes in a web address are not an issue with Google, but it may be an issue with Yahoo and MSN.
  • File extensions are not an issue with search engine crawling and indexing.

My recommendation with all of these things is to invest the time in making your site as accessible as possible for search engines to crawl and index your content. That means that if you are currently using dynamic URL’s or excessive folder directories, invest the time to fix these issues as soon as possible. The goal here is to get search engines like Google to understand and index your material as fast as possible, with as few kinks and potential roadblocks as possible.

Getting It Straight From the Horse’s Mouth
If you are attending conferences or seminars with actual members of Google (or Yahoo, MSN or anyone with documented expertise for that matter), it’s incredibly valuable to receive confirmation of these types of issues straight from the source. I recently was having dinner with a few colleagues and we were discussing a Google presentation we attended and this key point really hit home with me that night. As search engine marketers, we often learn and educate ourselves about ranking and search engine related factors through reading, testing and experimenting (not on client’s sites of course) and our conclusions often get drawn from the results, building on the years of experience and knowledge overall. Getting confirmation from the people behind the scenes (or for that matter, trusted people with more experience than you or I) is incredibly valuable as an ongoing best practice for quality search engine optimization and search engine marketing.


7 Responses to “Google’s Matt Cutts Talks About Web Address Management”

  1. Kristen on July 26th, 2007 9:12 am

    Hi Derek, Your advice on getting it straight from the horse’s mouth is great! If you’re not able to make it to a seminar or conference with subject matter experts, a good option is to correspond through tools like Google’s WebMaster Help group and the like.

  2. capecodseo on July 26th, 2007 5:34 pm

    Nice point Kristen – Google Webmaster Help Group can be very beneficial.

  3. Steven on July 26th, 2007 6:00 pm

    Thanks for the information, it’s definitely important stuff.

  4. Wilbur on July 27th, 2007 3:30 am

    Trial and error is good too. You need to see what works for you and keep up with that.

    If you’ve been using _’s and they work good for you don’t change to -‘s just cause you read it “from the horses mouth”.

    It’s never that simple. Run some tests with the -‘s before you change everything over!

  5. capecodseo on July 27th, 2007 8:54 am

    Wilbur – that is an excellent point and something I personally was worried about (in terms of conveying an inaccurate message) when I was writing.

    Just because someone (even a Google Engineer as qualified as Matt Cutts) says something does not mean that everything you (or your company) is doing online needs to change immediately (or at all). It’s an ongoing process of evaluation, testing and implementation (as needed)

    That being said, if you are indeed using best practices (and are successful or building success) there is a lot of noise out there that can become confusing or conflicting. Obtaining clarification from trusted sources can be incredibly valuable and not taken for granted.

  6. Wilbur on July 27th, 2007 12:20 pm

    To futher my point, I think everytime someone says “it works THIS WAY” if we go and change everything to “THIS WAY” we will be running in circles even if the horse says “THIS WAY”.

    For example, going and setting up 301 redirects to get all out _’s to -‘s is gonna be a mess.

    If you are getting good results with _’s why would you punish yourself with all that.

    However, if you have been keen on things you would have by now used _’s on some sites and -‘s on others and have a pretty good idea if one is better than the other FOR YOU.

    Years ago someone (a friend?) asked me for some advice on a website and I told them A… B… C… basically things I had been doing with good success for myself.

    His response was that I was completely full of it because he had personally talked to the founders of (a great big huge internet company) and they said “B” didn’t matter.

    I haven’t talked to him since and did not see his website garner any success nor make use of any of my suggestions.

    Now, I believe my point “B” is very important, however for any BIG internet company it may not be.

    My points were basically use well formed urls, few if any query parameters, good titles (not a site title on every page), good meta tags (per page tags, not one set repeated for the site), decent font sizes (are you listing Cape Cod???) and not making goods of the site hidden behind a user login.

  7. capecodseo on July 28th, 2007 6:04 am

    If I had the time I would redesign this – but on the list of priorities right now, it’s pretty low.