SEO Pitfalls of URL Parameters:  Contents

SEO Pitfalls of URL Parameters: Contents


Parameters are a great way of passing information from a URL to a web page, but they're often overused and can cause some very complex issues. This article will cover how parameters work and look at some of the most common pitfalls that prevent them from being added to URLs in an SEO friendly manner.


1. What exactly is a parameter?

Parameters are defined as GET variables, which means they add additional content to your web page for search engines to crawl through. These types of variables only show up on the front end on your website, meaning it's impossible for visitors to see what you've used them for - although if their values give away key elements of the site (such as price or stock levels) then this may be a problem.


2. The benefits of using parameters

Parameters have a few obvious advantages:

They allow you to hide content from visitors that is not relevant to them - such as links to other pages within the site, duplicate control pages and so on. Parameters can be used as a very efficient form of personalisation for users - this would encompass things like customer numbers or zip codes, allowing you to show customers information relevant to where they live or their previous purchase history. They can also be used as a means of tracking actions and behaviour within your website (for instance, viewing search terms that led people to your site).


3. When should I use a parameter?

The first thing you need to consider when deciding whether or not to use a parameter is whether or not your site would be more user friendly if the information was stored in the URL. If this is the case then it's probably best to take advantage of them - however, if you're using them only for search engine optimisation purposes then there are other alternatives that could actually have better results.


4. Common pitfalls with parameters

There are some common pitfalls associated with parameters which can stop them from being indexed properly by search engines, these are:

Using too many parameters on one page - while they do offer increased flexibility for content on your site, search engines will interpret this as an attempt to spam them and may choose not to crawl certain sections of code hidden away in URLs. Overusing filters after parameters - many webmasters use a system of filters after a parameter, which is fine as long as they don't interfere with the ability for search engines to crawl properly. Some common examples of this are using an apostrophe in the title parameter (which breaks crawling), adding another set of keywords through blog categories or meta tags or even renaming pages with consecutive numbers. Putting too much information into one URL - while it's good practice to keep individual URLs containing only relevant content, you want to try and avoid having multiple parameters that contain too much information. This makes it more likely that some search engine spiders will overlook parts of your code when crawling because it contains elements they can't recognise or read.


5. How do I identify if I have a parameter problem?

There are a few different ways you can identify whether or not your website is suffering from lack of indexation due to the use of parameters:

You notice that certain sections of your site aren't getting indexed by Google - if this is happening for multiple sections on your website then it's probably because you're using one or more parameters to target specific parts of your code which prevents other spiders from crawling properly. You find that you have content hosted on separate URLs but returning the same result - while there are valid reasons for doing this, it can get confusing when someone tries to access either URL and both offer the same page in the search results. This means you need to make sure every single version of these pages includes an appropriate canonical link to point back to the original version. You find that certain sections of your site are returning duplicate results when viewed in Google - this could also be due to having multiple URLs return the same result but in this case, you should check whether or not any of these pages contain identical content (but different parameters). If they do then you will need to make sure Google knows which one is the best version which you can do through a canonical tag.


6. How can I avoid using parameters?

There are some ways around using parameters on your site altogether - for instance, it's possible to store information about products within an algorithm instead of within the URL itself. This can give visitors more flexible options when searching for items without impacting how search engines crawl your site - here are some alternatives for using URL parameters which you could consider:

Adding search functionality to each page of content on your site - this doesn't increase the risk of duplicate results as long as you're able to properly configure it so that results from different pages can't overlap. Using a sitemap file - these files allow search engines to know every page on your website and their exact locations, rather than relying on code hidden away in a URL. If a webmaster is aware of any issues with SEO problems caused by their use of URL parameters they should look for ways around them instead of trying to hide them.