URL Rewriting

 Introduction to URL Rewriting
URL Rewriting is a technique that consists in redefining page addresses (often called URLs) to make them more understandable and more meaningful for search engines.

In dynamic sites (using dynamic pages(1)), the pages are often characterised by complex URLs that generally include a question mark, possibly the "&" character, as well as the variable names and the value names.
For example:
http://www.MyDomain.com/Catalog.asp?ViewID=2&ProductID=7429&CatID=47

When reading this address, it's difficult to get a clear-cut idea about the content of the displayed page. You may suspect that a product from the catalogue is going to be displayed, but it's impossible to determine what type of product that may be. Furthermore, certain search engines (increasingly rare) don't necessarily like these parameters and only index the first two or three to limit the combinations.

The URL rewriting technique consists in "recoding" the URL to transform the parameters to something more "static".

Using the previous example, this technique could give the following result:
http://www.MyDomain.com/Catalog-ViewID-2-ProductID-7429-CatID-47.htm

Search engines now have an "html" page name and can, at times, index this page more easily than the dynamic page. This being said, even if indexing is a bit better (if even...), this does not provide more relevant information as the address is still not explicitly descriptive in regards to the page content and still doesn't include any valuable keywords.

Furthermore, the implementation of this type of automatic rewriting is extremely complicated for a novice, it often implies changing all of the links published in the site, and poses problems in high-availability redundant server farms.

(1) In contrast to a static page, which is always displayed in the same way, a dynamic page displays different information according to the context by pulling data from a database. The context may correspond to a request (a Google results page for a keyword request is a dynamic page), a series of variables (skimming through a catalogue, through a FAQ), etc. You can often recognise a dynamic page by its URL, which includes variables. Examples: MyPage.asp?x=1&y=2 or MyPage.php?x=1&y=2.
 
 The Actinic Approach
Actinic has chosen a simpler and more pertinent approach to URL rewriting by developing a technology that allows you to create virtual addresses that redirect to any page of your site.

Using the URL example form the introduction paragraph, we could define the following rewritten URL:
http://www.MyDomain.com/Ford-Mustang-Scale-Model.htm

We can decide that this address simply redirects to the original introduction address, that is to say:
http://www.MyDomain.com/Catalog.asp?ViewID=2&ProductID=7429&CatID=47

This redirection is completely transparent for the visitor or the search engine. If the page that is actually displayed contains Title, Description and Keyword tags that have been properly personalised, then chances are high that the search engine will be fully satisfied with the correlation between the "page name/page title, tags, and content" and will result in the favorable indexing of your site.
 
 Important Warning
With this technology, Actinic provides a simple method for carrying out a highly complex operation. This technology is dependent on the evolution of the Web itself, technologies available on our servers, and also on the "Web ecosystem" that your site is swimming in (search engines, best practices, etc.). In the middle or long term, modification in this ecosystem could call this technology into question. We will do everything in our power to guarantee the durability of this functionality. However, we can't guarantee that it will be infinitely possible.

Obviously, there aren't any risks, but rather a realisation that the work your are going to perform to rewrite your URLs is most certainly going to pay off in the short and middle term, but that there are no guarantees that it will be profitable in the long term.
 
 Must-Read Notes - Consult Before Implementation
Limit yourself in the set up of this technology! Absolutely DO NOT begin rewriting ALL of your URLs. This would be absurd! Concentrate on 10 or 20 links (the most important): those of your menus, your home page, etc. Look at URL rewriting as a strategy to highlight the most important pages or products in your site. Do not rewrite URLs leading to pages where the content is not dense or the META tags have not been worked on. In other words, be coherent and consistent in your reasoning.

Optimised URLs are automatically and systematically added to the Sitemap files that you can generate to improve your search engine optimisation ([Marketing\Sitemap SEO] menu).
The automatic URLs for your products and categories generated in the Sitemap file contain the name of the product or category, for example:
http://www.MyDomain.com/PBSCCatalog.asp?ProductName=Ford-Mustang-Scale-Model&ItmID=112233

This first level of optimisation is free of charge and included with all of the Actinic services. Therefore, it is completely pointless to overuse URL rewriting. Reserve this function for high level optimisation.
 
 Implementation
Imagine an e-commerce site dedicated to the sale of all sorts of tea.

This site contains shortcuts in the vertical menu allowing for quick access to certain categories or products (the most popular ones).

Imagine that one of the menu elements is called "Organic Tea" and that the associated navigation behaviour is "Open the catalog to the Organic Tea category".
The HTML code of the home page will contain this type of link:
<A href="PBSCCatalog.asp?CatID=1234">Organic Tea</A>

Use the following procedure to transform this address for URL rewriting:
  • Go to the [Marketing\URL Rewriting] menu in the admin console.
  • Next, create a new rewritten URL by clicking on the [Add] button.
  • Enter the name of the new rewritten URL.
  • For our example, we are going to use:
    Tea-organic-fair-trade.htm
  • Now, indicate the navigation behaviour that will be performed when the rewritten URL is called. All you have to do is to define the same navigation behaviour as the one defined for the menu element, that is to say: "Open the catalog to the Organic Tea category".
  • Last but not least, save the new rewritten URL. From now on, this URL is functional and we encourage you to simply test it by clicking on it in the administration page.
Now, to complete the loop, you need to modify the site menu to benefit from this new URL.
  • To do so, go to the [Site\Menus] menu in your admin console.
  • Select the menu element to be modified and pen the dialog box allowing you to modify the associated navigation behaviour using the [...] button.
  • Next, select the following type of behaviour: "Display a website in the same window". To the right of the text zone allowing you to enter the URL, you will see a small [...] button. Click on this button and select the rewritten URL to be associated to the menu ("/Tea-organic-fair-trade.htm" in our example) in the new dialog box.
  • Click on OK to close the dialog box, then on OK again to validate the navigation behaviour. Lastly, save the menu modification, and you're done!
Now, if you display your site's home page and you look at the page's HTML source code or your browser's status bar when you hover over the menu, you should find:
<A href="Tea-organic-fair-trade.htm">Organic Tea</A>
This verification isn't necessary. We point it out so that the most experienced among you can understand the impact of using rewritten URLs at the HTML code level.

Creating Valid Links
Creating a rewritten URL requires a minimum of 6 characters (not including the extention).

Supported extentions: .htm and .html
A rewritten URL can only contain unaccented alphabetic characters, dashes (-), or underscores(_).

Example: blog.htm only has 4 characters in the URL.
Therefore, we recommend creating a more descriptive URL, such as: ecommerce-blog.htm

Please consult the following FAQ for more information about applying rewritten URLs on your site:
How to link a rewritten URL to a menu element?
 

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