[wp-hackers] Some Thoughts/Enhancement Ideas In And Around The Category Side Of Things

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at newclarity.net
Wed Feb 10 19:57:26 UTC 2010

On Feb 10, 2010, at 2:25 PM, Otto wrote:
> On Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 1:11 PM, esmi at quirm dot net <esmi at quirm.net> wrote:
>> on 10/02/2010 19:05 Otto said the following:
>>> You are mistaken. Sorry. Google doesn't care about paths or total URL
>>> length.
>> <snip>
>>> But don't take my word for it, ask Matt Cutts.
>> Do you happen to have a link that I can use as a cite for this? It's a point
>> I'd dearly love to get across on the forums.
> Mmm.. Not really.
> Searching found this interview with him where he talks about having
> excessive numbers of words in the URL:
> http://www.stephanspencer.com/search-engines/matt-cutts-interview .
> It's about a third of the way down the page.
> Google's own blogs on blogger use the month/day/name structure.
> Example: http://blog.chromium.org/2010/02/40000-more-extensions.html
> Matt Cutts runs his site on WordPress. He appears to use just
> %postname% for his permalink, but he has also changed the word
> "category" to "type" for his category archives.
> I dunno. There's a lot of incorrect and misleading SEO ideas out
> there. The whole trick is simple, really: there's no "tricks" to SEO.

As I expected, there were no explicit assertions from Cutts, just imperial evidence which you have interpreted as such.

As for SEO, I'm someone who builds for people first, SEO second. Working to avoid "category" in the URL is important for people who want to design the site to be better for people, i.e.


Is much, much, much better for people than:


However I mentioned SEO because I didn't want to go another round of debate with you on opinion topics but instead focus on things that most people want to get right (vs. just having a strongly held opinion.)

> All blogger URLs tend to get really long, and they rank fine in searches.

I believe that is because Google recognizes blog post URLs as being special and thus doesn't penalize them.  It's been said "Google loves blogs" and I think this means that Google recognizes that the pattern /{year}/{month}/{day}/{postname}/ is a permalink for a post and gives is a pass. My testing proves that to be the case, for me at least.

But I wasn't speaking about post page ranking, I was speaking about things like category pages where Google can't recognize a year/month/day pattern in the URL.  If you test it I'm sure you will find that #2 ranks higher than #1, all other things being equal:

#1 /toyota/4runner/ltd/1999/
#2 /1999-toyota-4runner-ltd/

That said, depending on the organization of the site the former might be more usable than the latter. But the site owner should be given the ability to control it to optimize for their needs.  WordPress doesn't help here.

> A site that is easier to parse and read will rank better than one that
> isn't. If your content is easier to find, it'll rank higher. This
> means having intra-blog links prominently displayed.

Yes, but that's not the full picture.  Sites that are *otherwise equal* can improve significantly from a thoughtful URL structure both in ranking and in usability.  It would be foolish to think otherwise, i.e. that URL design would have zero impact.

> It really doesn't much matter what the URL is, because people don't
> type URLs, and therefore Google doesn't place a lot of stock in them.
> People see sites, not URLs.

It absolutely matters. 

You make the fallacy that too many people make about URLs which is to evaluate the benefits of well designed URLs in a very limited context.  The people I see make that facility most often, btw, are programmers who would prefer it to be true so they aren't bothered by having to also consider URL design in their development.

People do type URLs, with typeahead in browsers.  People read them in many different contexts such as browser history, emails, places like Delicious and Google, and well designed URLs makes them able to recognize their purpose more easily. Companies promote them in advertising, when they are short. And people publish them on social networks with is quickly becomes one of the most important reasons that your URLs should be very well designed. Dismissing URL design as unimportant is much like dismissing blood pressure meds because you can't feel a difference between when you take them and when you don't.


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