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Should you care about what kind of marketing is hot? I got a question recently from a small business owner on how important readable URLs are for a Web site. The reason he was asking is that his technical adviser told him that "SEO just isn't that important anymore." Is he right? Well, you probably wouldn't expect me to agree with that point of view, and I don't, but there is some truth in the idea that search engine optimization is not the be-all end-all of Internet success that it was a few years ago. And the question of readable URLs is as good a topic as any to use to explore the larger issue of the importance of SEO.

I got the question for a site called JamSeed, which shows off musical acts so they can get publicity they don't get from mainstream media. Each act has a profile page, with a computerized URL (

So the question was, for SEO purposes, should JamSeed be using a more readable URL ( The technical adviser said, yes, but not for SEO reasons. He said that you want something readable for links and social media, because SEO isn't that important anymore.

Now, readable URLs are something I think are very important, for both search and social media. Search engines still, to this day, index fewer pages with dynamic URLs than with static, readable ones, especially those with ID attributes like this one. But this is less of a problem than it once was, and there are alternatives (such as sitemaps) that can help you get your pages indexed.

But the point on social media is a really important one. Readable URLs are far more likely to be passed along. They are more likely to be linked to. They are more likely to be clicked when shown in e-mails. In every way, readability of URLs helps your Internet marketing--including your search marketing, because more links helps you in search, too.

So, is SEO less important than it once was? Yes. Just a few years ago, most companies could afford no expensive Internet marketing, so SEO was everything. It was the only game in town, so it was of paramount importance. Now, with the myriad social media options that cost nothing, SEO takes its place as an important technique among many. So, in that sense it is less important.

But that's not the point. It really doesn't matter, decision by decision, because you don't need to think about what kind of marketing is most important. What you need to do is to decide what you will spend your time on, tactic by tactic. You need to think much more granularly.

This example shows why. After thinking about all the reasons to create readable URLs, you decide that it is the right thing to do. It's easy enough to change the automatic schema for your dynamic content, so it's worth doing because the time expended will bring you more value than doing something else right now.

So, instead of deciding whether SEO is important, think instead of the value of each particular piece of work you can do. Many of these tactics, such as readable URLs, help you across many kinds of marketing. It's fun to think about what's hot and what's not, but it's profitable to spend your time on what matters, regardless of its trendiness.

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January 8, 2009

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Yes, I agree with you Mike. SEO now less important, but readable URL is still being major factor to gain high rank on search engine. Creating real useful content for internet user and let others help spreads it (via microblogging, feeds, and recomendations) will be effectively enough than pay bucks to SEO services.

Many people believe that Human Readable URLs are the only way that Search Engines can correctly index a site, or that it is the best method for spiders to index the site. Or that Dynamic URLs somehow hurt our serps. But I think this is not the case. Readable URLs mainly benefit Search Engines as added Keywords within the page, this only reinforces the keywords already set by the page and topic title, which Search Engines already use for the index.

Search Engines have just as easy of a time indexing dynamic URLs as they will with Human Readable static URLs. The benefit is minimal after all.

Just my $0.02 though ;)


SEO is definitely not the 'golden child' of internet marketing it once was. Just an indication of how the landscape has changed is the fact that we talk about internet marketing now more often than we do search marketing.

Like anything else, each individual business much assess what is going to drive results for their business. That could be a combination of several avenues both old and new school. It's all about results.

One thing to consider though regarding SEO is this: No matter what you do to promote or advertise your business there is a good chance that the party that 'consumes' your marketing message will not remember your brand right away. They may remember WHAT you do but not WHO you are. At that point they then go to the search engines to help 'remind' them by searching by the product or service you offer. If you are not in the SERP's at that moment you may, in effect, be advertising for your competition. When you look at it his way SEO is still pretty critical.

Hi Axid. While it's certainly true that search engines improve each year at indexing dynamic URLs, and that there are more ways around problems than ever, readable URLs are still better for getting pages indexed. But you're right than readable URLs are important for many other reasons, too.

Your post is very interesting.It will definitely help SEO's. I would like to thank you for sharing this information.

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It isn't that SEO is less important, it's that SEO has changed from gimmicks and short term tactics to a marketing strategy.

If site design and content is around your buyers interests, in their language, and what they want to read, then search engines will pick you up.

You'll need to use relevant keywords, build context, use human readable URLs, and have clean navigation -- not so much for the search engines but for your human visitors.

SEO and SEM is changing for the better, back to serving visitors who can become buyers.



I don't now which one search engines prefer but I prefer seeing instead of a long list of¶m2=anotherblah

gps trackers ...

I am usually put the same title name and file/URL name. will that be an issue with duplicated content for title and url name?


The key point I think that is missing here that social media fits into a solid long term SEO effort. Going forward SEO and Social Media Marketing will be like bread and butter...that is my 2 cents :o)

Great comments, everyone. I'll try to answer a few questions and comments at once.

Search marketing and social media absolutely do go together in many ways, so as with the example in my post, sometimes you don't need to choose between them.

Don't worry about putting keywords in the URL. That won't trigger a duplicate content penalty--that penalty is for whole articles duplicated on multiple pages across the Web.

Search engines prefer readable URLs, but many dynamic URLs (with ? and & all over the place) now are properly indexed by search engines where they were not in the past.

I agree with you Justin that good SEO was always more about marketing than search, about serving customers ratjer than fooling search engines, and now those gimmicks are even harder to pull off than before, which is good for the rest of us who are playing it staright.

online marketing is a backbone of today's web world. it's never ended till websites are alived....

I hear this question about SEO for years as for today it didnt become non important but it changed a lot.

I think on a long range, "SEO" is more than puzzle onpage code and URL-designing. SEO is also thinking about usefull things to give it to the web. Backlinks are the "money" one gets back. These backlinks and the ancortext are very important (and getting more important I think) for further rankings.

That's a great explanation. Short but understandable.

"instead of deciding whether SEO is important,..." think of something how you ca n be creative and resourceful in doing seo. And SEO is very broad. It has a lot of task from.

BTW, may I ask. What are the reasons why a website wasn't index in certain google. For example, a website can be index through yahoo and msn but nit on google.

I think an SEO program for Web based businesses is still an important part of the overall marketing strategy. Of course, the Web has grown and we must keep up with it; what worked yesterday may not work today. But, hey, isn't that life?

raising capital

For me SEO is important, and readable URL is also important too. But the most important is "high quality topics" in your website/blog.

Isn't readable url is part of SEO too?

Personally I think SEO is important, as well as contents of course :) Like all skills SEO can be learned and if you have the time and ability to work through everything required you can make your site show up well in search engines, or alternatively if you want to specialise on what you know best you engage the professionals, not the slick marketers.

Pro solution

I think Frank Reed says it all on his comment. While tons of social sites like Twitter are now popular, it is where the search engines where potential buyers and customers will go to get more information.

And yes, SERP can be a question if your site is relatively new and not properly optimized. But then, there are still ways to bring targeted visitors to your site.

Article marketing is one of them, which I believe is still effective. If your articles are doing well in the search engines, then they can be helpful enough.

Mike great piece. The last paragraph especially resonates with me. I've read it more than once because it offers the best possible advice. Spend your time on what matters and the rest will come.

I don't agree at all, but let me mention this first; having keywords in your url still help, so that is also an important reason to do a mod_rewrite

anyway, it's just a matter of perception, SEO is still important, no wait a second, SEO is more important than ever!

why? well, because it's almost impossible to find any site that's ranking that haven't done SEO, so if you want to out rank them you just have to do SEO

a bit the same as with directory submissions, while a few years back doing 1000 directory submissions was enough to rank, it changed to doing 3000 submissions, while now it's changing to have links from the top-500, not just from the se point of view, but simply because most of your competitors have those kind of links, still, it's not enough. why? because directories lost all their value? no, just because next to those directory links, your competition also has forum links, blog links, article links etc.

so, it's just got more difficult, not less important

anyway, back on-topic, what's confusing you is the difference between less important and shared importance, again, SEO is more important as ever, but now also social media has become important, it's not 1 or the other, you need all of them to stay on top of the game ...

remember, each and every day the amount of [people keep raising

In today's current economic climate SEO is extremely important. I totally agree that SEO as an individual activity is not the be all and end all any more since Internet marketing is a much broader topic encompassing many concepts and activities. But, as Michiel mentioned, its not that Social Media marketing is more important now, its that as a mix of activities Internet Marketing is very important and included in there is SEO.

Traditional marketing mediums will fade this year and although marketing budgets will reduce - advertising is still a big part of any business. For this reason, people will start to look at marketing in the digital world, where one can analyse, track and calculate effectiveness and returns. Internet Marketing will become the main advertising tool for businesses during an economic downturn, since you have clear methodologies and clear measurement/analysis.

SEO has always been important and will continue to become so, its just that its now part of a bigger arsenal of tools entitled Internet Marketing.

SEO isnt less important ...put the pipe down.

The reality is with the convergence of Web 3.0, it just isnt one of a 2 or 3 strategies you employ, anymore. Assuming there are 24 hours in a day, before we had more time to concentrate on SEO. Today, that same 24 hours in a day, is split between the emerging strategies of SMO, Video optimization etc.

Let's be real. The importance of any given strategy is defined by ROI - and SEO still provides among the top in ROI, therefore assuming you SEO your site - you have more resources, to allocate to your marketing efforts in any given 24 hour day.

I redesigned my website couple months ago. I had good rankings in Google for many keywords within a week but three weeks go suddenly I lost all my rankings without doing any thing to the site. This week though out of no where I got all my rankings back again without doing any thing to the site.

Any one have any idea what happened to the site so I can prevent this in future?


Sometimes, Mohammed, there's no explanation. Google and other search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, their search indexes, and other stuff, and often they have glitches. In your case, however, it could be caused by the way you redesigned your Web site. Did you change your URLs? Put in 301 redirects from the old addresses? Sometimes site migration is done badly or only after the redesign launches, which can cause erratic ratings until they calm down.

It is funny to read someone expounding on how SEO is no longer important, and then talk about URLs, relevant site content, and giving your customers exactly what they are looking for.

Those items ARE ALL PART OF not sure the people at Jam Seed even get their own point.

Develop a clean, well written, optimized website - with descriptive URLs and lots of regularly updated content, and you will be a winner on line. Dont believe the hype, SEO isnt going ANYWHERE

Seo is still important. Seo means traffic, traffic means more sales.

As long as there is the world wide web seo will always be needed inn one form or another, just like the world neeeds oil cause it makes money

It's probably a better investment than the hot chocolate and coffee i probably would of wasted the gift card on.

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