URL Mapping: Who knows how and when?

Marjory Meechan - March 8, 2007

URL Mapping is a good way to get lost — especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. And, it’s important because doing it wrong can have dire consequences for your site. This is definitely a job for the professionals. So, who’re you gonna call?

Before you pick up the phone, you need a few facts. First, it depends on how you’re going to do it and that depends on your web server. Lost yet? Consult this handy guide:

Apache server: Mod Re-write.
Microsoft IIS: either an ISAPI Rewrite or the URL Mapping option of ASP.NET.

If all this sounds like Geek to you, call a web developer and do it right.

Professional web developers cost money so make sure that URL mapping is really for you. If you are moving your site from one domain name to another — there’s no question that you need to map the old domain to the new one but there are other reasons for URL Mapping.

A good way to improve your site for both search engines and users is to make your URLs search engine friendly. You want URLs that are friendly to humans and spiders:

  • URLs that are short
    1. If you make them longer than 78 characters, they will wrap into two lines in e-mails and other tight spaces.
    2. If they have too many parameters, the spiders won’t crawl them.
  • URLs that are easy to type and easy to remember.
  • URLs that follow a logical site structure.
  • URLs that do not change.

So you have URLs that look like this:


No question that this is one unfriendly URL but is URL beauty really worth all the trouble? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. It depends on what is on all those hundreds of pages.

Let’s say you have a hotel website and your only real dynamic pages are your calendar pages. Do you really care if the search engines index the same manager’s Monday night cocktail party listing every week? Probably not. In your case, you are better off to ban the robots from your calendar pages, optimize the static pages and use all that developer money to buy extra drinks for your customers.

But what if you sell airplane parts or electronics and your vast inventory is constantly changing? To manage your business you need dynamically generated pages and a fancy shopping cart or content management system with access to your database. Tracking customers through their shopping experience requires complicated URLs. Your URL page names are going to be scary. Furthermore, the content of those dynamic pages is exactly what you want the searchers — robot or otherwise – to find. You want friendly URLs. URL Mapping is for you.

So, check with your web host and find an expert and change those unfriendly URLs to be more like this friendly URL right here:


Whatever you do, make sure that all of your old ugly URLs respond with a 301 redirect code so that the search engine robots know that this new address for your page is permanent. And, don’t delay — do it now.

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