Case study might be a little strong, but we certainly can learn from this example that keyword URLs are much better than GUID URLs. FilmJabber is managed by a buddy of mine named Erik Samdahl. He is a movie fiend with an edgy opinion making his movie reviews an interesting read. FilmJabber also offers some pretty cool contests with good giveaways making his movie website quite appealing. Erik also is a much more adept web developer than I am so we barter services. I get web development when needed and he gets my SEO and Social Media advice.
In December 2009, we tackled his website’s URL structure. FilmJabber implemented a GUID URL structure that was driven simply by the site’s database. Further, content was buried several folder levels deep. Here is an example URL for a review of theater released movie:
Old URL = http://www.filmjabber.com/movie/details/3535/review/
His movie review, the webpage content, is buried four folder levels deep. I prefer only going one to two folder levels deep. I might make an exception for three folder levels if the site is a product site and it really makes sense. However, I think you can always manage a two folder level deep structure. The further your content is away from the root directory or the .com/ level the less important it becomes for the search engines. Now his folder structure was using “keywords” but the terms selected were way too broad and some were just not relevant.
For example, “details” just did not make sense for any page and that word was not even found on any of the pages. “Details” does not even help describe what the content found in this path was about. At least “movie” and “review” were found in the URL, but they were separated and these two should have been married welcoming arm in arm every search engine crawler. Finally, the actual movie being reviewed was referenced by a GUID; a randomly database assigned number. Sigh. How often do you use this search query “43978 movie review” in Google or Bing when trying to find a review on Star Wars? You do not and FilmJabber was missing a huge opportunity.
So we revamped the entire URL structure and the content for movie #3535 is found at:
New URL = http://www.filmjabber.com/movie-reviews/a-serious-man.html
After conducting keyword research we combined “movie” and “review” into the first folder level which is now “movie-reviews.” We then substituted the former GUID with the actual title of the movie; “a-serious-man.” Moving from a GUID URL structure to a keyword rich URL structure was the only SEO revision implemented in December of 2009. By the end of January 2010, FilmJabber realized a 30% increase in search engine referral traffic (we did compare year to year traffic and past January data). After 12 months FilmJabber witnessed an 130% increase of search referral traffic. Keep in mind Erik only implemented the new URL structure to six site sections of his website. There are still a few more site sections that need to adopt an optimized keyword rich URL structure.
It also should be noted that FilmJabber did add and promote their Twitter and Facebook pages throughout their site in the middle of 2010. Social Media does have an impact on SEO. Hence why calling this a case study is probably a tad strong. However, the immediate impact and results after 30 days should raise some flags in your head if you use GUID URLs. I also have seen these increases at much larger and global websites. This is probably the best and fastest on-site SEO method to improve your search engine traffic referrals.So if you are looking for a home run and a big ROI project review your GUID URL structure and create an optimized one.
Are there any improvements you would recommend for the new URLs?
Yes. I would recommend the following URL:
I prefer a URL to end with a trailing slash over a file extension (i.e. .php, or .html). If you change your CMS platform and it cannot handle your current file extension then you will be haunted by a massive 301 Redirect task. Most CMS platforms can be configured to handle “/” ending URLs.
I also would have added either the database ID# or year that movie was released at the end of the movie title. What happens if “A Serious Man” is remade in five years? You do not want the new movie’s content to overwrite the older movie’s content if the URLs are created programmatically. Erik accounted for this possibility and can control a movie’s permalink, so in those cases he has been adding the year that movie was released. For movies I like adding the year released, but for a product website the ID# would probably be best instead of digging up the year a product was released.
Just remember the moral of this story: USE KEYWORD RICH URLS OVER GUID URLS!