SEO, URL Parameters, and Search Engines

Duplicate content – ah! The everlasting issue that giving webmasters a lot of pain during site’s optimization.

SEO, URL parameters, and search crawlers..

More or less, we all know the consequences of duplicate content on optimization process. So it is advisable to follow latest SEO best practices to trace out what are the causes for having duplicate content and their respective solutions.

URL Parameters and Duplicate Content

A case study on duplicate content caused by URL parameters..

The situation: I’ve failed to convince one pay-per-click (PPC) evangelist on duplicate content often caused by using careless URL parameters.

The response: That’s the reason both Google and Bing have included an option in their individual Webmaster Tools.

In Google, the feature can be found under “Crawl” as “URL Parameters”. For Bing, it’s under “Configure My Site” as “Ignore URL Parameters”.

Benefits of utilizing URL parameters in Webmaster Tools..

  1. Stop crawlers from crawling valueless pages
  2. Help crawlers to identify which pages they need to crawl and index
  3. Effective way to utilize allocated crawl budget/site bandwidth usage
  4. Minimize the duplicate content issue
  5. Prevent URL cannibalization i.e., multiple URL variations are fighting with each other

Final thoughts on URL parameters and duplicate content..

Google Webmaster is currently reporting its own UTM parameters as duplicate that not actually change page content.

As you can see in the example above, Google considers these two pages to be identical. They have every right to do so. The utm codes are used for tracking purposes only and the page content remains same.

So, it is necessary to specify which parameters should be ignored by Googlebot. Using the available features in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, webmasters can actually able to do that.

Optimize URLs for both people and search engines..

However, if using URL parameters are absolute necessary or if it does change the content of a page, then keep the thing as it is!

Personally, I would like to vote for using limited number of URL parameters since too many parameters surely have ill-effect over optimization process in long run and keep my focus on clean SEO-friendly URL structure for better usability!


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