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Does A Question Mark In Your URL Affect Ranking?

by Jon Ricerca

ong ago, it was the SEO consensus that dynamic URLs
(those with a question mark in them) weren't indexed by
the major search engines. Later, the SEO consensus was
that Google indexed some URLs with question marks, but
ranked them lower. Currently it seems like the SEO
consensus is that Google indexes dynamic URLs just fine
and ranks them right along with other URLs unless there is
a long number after the question mark or an "id=" in it
which might indicate a session ID.

That a lot of SEO theories. It's probably time to get the
facts. The methodology used to find this answer is very
simple. I gathered the results of the queries naturally
performed last month by myself and four associates using
Yahoo and Google. I then tallied the URLs that contained a
question mark for each ranking.

Those results were further refined by converting them into
a percentage of the total pages found. Here is the graph
showing Google and Yahoo results:

The X-axis shows the rankings from 1 through 8. The Y-
axis shows the percentage of URLs found that contained a
question mark.

The first thing I note is that both Yahoo and Google do
contain URLs that contain a question mark. Those major
search engines DO include some URLs with question marks.

The second thing to notice is the small percentages for
both Google an Yahoo. The average percentage of URLs with
question marks is only about 5% on Google and 3% on Yahoo.
It isn't known what percentage of total URLs have question
marks, but it seems very likely that it is a much higher
percentage. The difference between Yahoo and Google
further shows that Yahoo doesn't include as many dynamic
URLs as Google.

It is clear from the data that Google ranks dynamic URLs
(those containing a question mark) lower on average than
other URLs. The ranking correlation is a -42 on a scale
of -100 to +100. That same bias doesn't seem to occur on
Yahoo where the ranking correlation is a -7 on the same
scale. If dynamic URLs make it into the Yahoo index, they
rank as well as other URLs.

Advice: Don't use dynamic URLs (URLs with question marks
in them).

Jon Ricerca is one of the leading researchers and authors
of the Search Engine Ranking Factor (SERF).

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