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Make Your Websites Directory and File Structure Search Engine Friendly

Search engines get clues about the nature of a site from its domain name as well as from the site’s directory and file structure. The added lift is probably not large, but every little bit counts, right? You might as well name directories, web pages, and images by using keywords.

For example, rather than create a directory named /events/, you could name it /rodent-racing-events/. Rather than have a file named gb123.jpg, you can use a more descriptive name, such as rodent-racing-scores.jpg. Don’t have too many dashes in the file and directory names, though, because overdoing it may cause search engines to ignore the name.

You should separate keywords in a name with dashes, but not with underscores, despite what your web designer may tell you. Google has dramatically changed the way in which it deals with underscores in URLs, so it’s no longer as important as it once was (Google regards rodent_racing, for instance, as a single word).

Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be using underscores rather than dashes in file and directory names — it’s simply not true!

It may be a good idea to keep a flat directory structure in your website — that is, keep your pages as close to the root domain as possible, rather than have a complicated multilevel directory tree. Create a directory for each navigation tab and keep all the files in that directory.

Many observers believe that search engines downgrade pages that are lower in the directory structure. This effect is probably small, but the theory is that you’re better off using a structure with fewer sublevels than with more. For instance, the first page that follows, according to this theory, would be weighted more highly than the second page:

http://www.domainname.com/page.html
http://www.domainname.com/dir1/dir2/dir3/dir4/page.html

However, a flat directory structure is probably not terribly important. The directory structure doesn’t matter to Google, the single most important search engine. And sometimes it’s nice to use a directory structure to add a few keywords to the URL to tell the search engines what the page is about. For instance, you might have the following in a real estate site:

http://www.domain.com/real-estate/colorado-homes-for-sale/denver-county/lakewood.html

Don’t use too many hyphens, though; a few here and there are okay, but overdoing it might cause problems.

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