Good International URLs

Filed under: International SEO,translation — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:57 am

Your search engine friendly website should have search engine friendly URLs.  If your home site is in English, this means having URLs that (ideally) look like this:

www.mysite.com/url/nice.html or like: www.mysite.com/nice-url.html, but not like:

www.mysite.com/url/really/too/long.html and definitely not like:
www.mysite.com/2343459/2343893skjr/gibberish/messy/url/is/uninviting/to/click_on.html.

Even if your URLs are generated in a database, cart, or CMS, you may have some ability to take one that originally looked like this:
http://www.mysite.com/browse/category.do?cid=11449 to one like:
www.mysite.com/handheld-tools.html?cid=11449.

Why should you have good URLs?  They’re better for both users and search engines.  For users, they’re more likely to click on a URL in the search results that is short and is obviously related to their search.  A study by Marketing Sherpa showed that short URLs were clicked on up to 250% more often than longer ones…even if the short ones appeared below the long addresses.  In your own life, would you rather click on a link in your email that was full of random numbers, escaped characters, and gibberish, or one that read “directions-to-birthday-party”?

For the search engines, easily parsable URLs are a good idea because they’re one more way to alert the engine as to what the content of your page is about.  Keywords in the URLs will also be bolded in the search results, another visual cue to searchers that your page has relevant information.  Good search engine friendly URLs also don’t have too many parameters in them.  It takes too much effort to crawl ones that are, well, too busy.  The URLs should also reflect the information architecture of the site, providing clues as to what the page is about and how it relates to other content on the site (think www.mysite.com/videos/2008/interesting-movie.html – it’s an interesting movie from 2008, and there might be other videos from other years for search engines and visitors to find).

In another language, your translated URLs on your translated site should be equally as clean.
For example, German URLs would read:
www.mysite.de/info/nuetzlich.html if your English site URL was www.mysite.com/info/useful.html.
Or www.mysite.de/eine-ausgezeichnite-url.html (from www.mysite.com/an-awesome-url.html).

Even in a Unicode language, like Chinese, you would want to use Unicode characters when possible.  Although Unicode URLs were not possible for a while, better translations in servers (and browsers) have allowed websites to employ these URLs, giving website owners more flexibility and benefiting users (in Chinese, characters can be transliterated, but often times the transliterated words may have many different meanings, while the original characters vary depending on the word).  A URL with Unicode could look like:
www.mysite.cn/你好 (transliterated: www.mysite.com/nihao) or even www.睡衣.cn (transliterated: www.shuiyi.cn)

In short, SEO friendly URLs for international use aren’t that hard to do.  They just require some good SEO practices combined with your target language.  To recap, here are the most important tips:
•    Keep them as short and simple as possible. Wherever possible, use static URLs without too many parameters.  Short and simple addresses are easy for search einges to crawl and for users to remember.  You want to encourage people to click on your URLs.
•    Use keywords if appropriate. Don’t stuff your URLs full of keywords, but if using a keyword in the URL is applicable, stick it in.  It’ll be highlighted in the search results just like keywords appearing in titles and metas.
•    Translate your URLs. If you’re building a site in German or Spanish, don’t use URLs that are still in English.  You’re missing a valuable opportunity for German and Spanish search engines to see that you have relevant content in those languages.  Even if it’s a short and sweet URL, you might not encourage clicks if searchers can’t read it.
•    Don’t be shy about using Unicode if you’re able to. The DNS, browsers, and Unicode translations have all improved recently.  Domains in Unicode form are becoming increasingly available.  Since website content (and keywords) will be written in Unicode (don’t write your entire website in transliterated Chinese or Russian or Hinidi!!!), why not give yourself the opportunity to begin sticking out in the search results.

Armed with these tips, you should be able to easily write SEO friendly URLs in any language, appealing to users and search engines around the world.

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