Thursday, April 13, 2006

SEO: Where's Your Home Page?

Okay, one quick thing for today that a lot of sites have gotten wrong. Start by answering this simple question: What's the URL for your home page?

Your answer is probably something like http://www.example.com/

Okay, now go look at your website. I'm sure you have lots of links to your home page from all over the site. There should be one on every page, right? Now, answer the next question - is the URL those links point to the same as your answer above?

Or are you linking to something like:
  • http://www.example.com/index.html
  • http://www.example.com/index.php
  • http://www.example.com/index.asp
  • http://www.example.com/index.cfm
If you are using one of the above instead of linking to the shorter URL (http://www.example.com/), you need to fix that. I can hear people out there shouting "but it's the same thing!" No, it's not the same thing... it's the same content, that you are showing at more than one URL. It's duplicate content, to the search engines, and you are the one who is linking to it so they can find it.

Pick one URL for your home page, and link to it consistently throughout your website. If you need a programmer to modify your shopping cart or content management system, maybe that's just what you have to do.

If that sounds like a major ordeal, you have another option, which is to set up a permanent redirect from http://www.example.com/index.html or whatever to http://www.example.com/ - on an Apache server, this can be handled through a .htaccess file; I won't get into too much detail here on how to set up the .htaccess file, but the entry should look something like this:

redirect permanent /index.html http://www.example.com/

This issue comes up most often with content management systems and shopping carts, but it can also happen with a lot of WYSIWYG design tools like Dreamweaver. In some cases, it's not just the home page links that are a problem, but all of the links, for example where:
  • http://www.example.com/articles/
    delivers the same content as
  • http://www.example.com/articles/index.html
    and you are linking to the latter version
Part of the configuration of your web server is which filename contains the Directory Index - if it's index.html, then you don't need to put /index.html into your URLs.

So there you go, one thing for today - clean up those URLs and links. Tomorrow I'll talk about some other duplicate content issues, and how to use .htaccess to clean them up.

If you would like an expert to look over your site and give you a "to do list" for technical issues and improving your on-site search engine optimization, I offer a low-cost site review and SEO consultation package. Check it out if you need help, in my humble opinion it's the best deal in the business.

13 Comments:

At 1:33 AM, Praveen said...

That makes sense.

there are some people who fret when their index.xxx has a different rank compared to their actual url something.com

this is a nice tip for them :)

 
At 7:30 AM, Valeriu Popescu said...

Great tips, thanks Dan!

What about the differences between:

http://www.example.com/
http://example.com/
http://www.example.com/index.html
http://example.com/index.html

How do you handle them? Using htaccess?

Valeriu

 
At 7:36 AM, Dan Thies said...

Valeriu,

Yes, the case of www.example.com vs. example.com is handled with a rewrite rule in the htaccess file.

That's actually what I'm writing about today... you jumped ahead. :D

 
At 1:00 PM, Valeriu Popescu said...

OK, I'll wait the next article. There still a good question about htaccess I want to ask.

Valeriu

 
At 11:52 PM, Uliss said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:03 AM, Uliss said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:25 AM, Uliss said...

Hi Dan, and what about on-page anchors e.g.

www.somesite.com/ and
www.somesite.com/#top

will SEs handle this as a duplicate content?

If you have a long page you'll want to provide your visitors with the possibility to go top quickly...

Dmitry

P.S. I would like to thank you for your SEM Kit I bought from sitepoint.com last June. Here, in Russia we don't have any reliable SEO related literature. Though I'm subscribed to all-possible newsletters on SEO and SEM topics, your SEM Kit is definitely the best one I've ever read. Thanks again and I'm waiting for the 2006 edition.

 
At 5:47 PM, Basicus said...

Yeah. Those are incredibly overlooked. I try to teach my clients the importance of the url's, but it seems it's hard for them to understand how important url consistancy is.

 
At 6:29 AM, Anonymous said...

This is wrong, wrong, wrong if you believe this you should not be selling advice rather snake oil. There is a little thing called Canonicalization that takes care of this. It was a problem like 3 years ago..but then again duplicate content was not really an issue then was it?

 
At 6:37 AM, Dan Thies said...

"There is a little thing called Canonicalization that takes care of this"

Yeah, wake me up when the search engines actually get that right, OK? In the meantime, for readers who don't want to leave it up to the search engines, it's easy enough to do it right.

 
At 1:18 PM, Dan said...

What about linking back to the homepage using root relative links, like

/index.php

rather than your suggestion of

http://www.mysite.com/

 
At 3:15 PM, Dan Thies said...

Using relative or absolute links won't make any difference to spiders. I suppose if you're super paranoid about some bug in the spider getting the wrong URL, you can use absolute links.

I would suggest linking to href="/" instead of "/index.php" though.

 
At 6:13 PM, cfitrv said...

Dan,

Based on your article I have put together the following htaccess modification that performs your suggestion.

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
# index.html to /
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /.*index\.html\ HTTP/
RewriteRule ^(.*)index\.html$ /$1 [R=301,L]

 

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