Home » What’s the difference between dynamic and static URLs? Which is better for SEO?

What’s the difference between dynamic and static URLs? Which is better for SEO?

From an SEO perspective, there are two types of URLs: static URLs and dynamic URLs.

And a lot has been said about their importance for SEO. Some people, though, still get confused by these terms and don’t really understand why static and dynamic URLs are treated in a different way.

This article represents a general overview of the main differences, advantages, and disadvantages of static and dynamic URLs

What are static and dynamic Web pages?

Before speaking about the two types of URLs, let’s first clarify what are static and dynamic web pages.

A web page can be either static or dynamic.

A static web page is a page that contains HTML code, which entirely defines the structure and content of the page. The static pages are stored on a server and each time when a users make a request by entering its URL, the server will load the exact same page with the exact same prebuilt content.

The user may interact with the page through clicking available links, but the static page will never be able to return information that is not pre-formatted.

Therefore, all updates and changes to a static page need to be hard-coded into the HTML code of the page – a very difficult and time-consuming task, especially on big websites with thousands of pages.  For that reason, many website owners prefer to build dynamic websites and have dynamic webpages.

On the other hand, a dynamic web page is a page that contains a “server-side” code.  When a user makes a request, the server generates unique content each time the page is loaded.

Very often, dynamic pages use server-side code to access database information.
In this case, the content of the website is stored in the database and the page’s content that is displayed is generated from information stored in the database: the user requests data (contained in a database) and in response, the server will assemble on the fly the data and generate the page content, according to what is requested. The site serves basically as a template for the content

Normally, you should be able to tell if a page is static or dynamic by looking at its file extension in the URL. If it is “.htm” or “.html,” the page is probably static. If the extension is “.php,” “.asp,” or “.jsp,” the page is most likely dynamic.

What are static and dynamic URLs?

Therefore, we identify two types of URLs: dynamic and static.
Normally, you should be able to tell if a page is static or dynamic by looking at its file extension in the URL. 

A static URL is a page address of a static web page – a page that has the same hard-coded content each time it is loaded.

A static URL never changes and does not contain any URL parameters.

Normally, if finishes with the extension “htm” or “.html”.

Some typical examples of static URLs are:

  • About us page –  http://www.example.com/about-us.hml
  • Contact page – http://www.example.com/contact.hml

As you can see, static URLs are pretty simple and do not contain variable strings.

A dynamic URL is a page address of a dynamic web page – a web page that results from the search of a database-driven web site.

Normally dynamic URLs have “.php,” “.asp,” or “.jsp,” file extensions and they contain variable strings (e.g.: ? & =).

An example of a dynamic URL:

  • Forum Thread: http://www.example.com/forums/thread.php?threadid=12345&sort=date

You can spot dynamic URLs by looking for characters like: ? = &.

The URL portion after “?” is called the page’s query string parameter(s), or simply query parameter(s). It represents a database row identifier that is used to retrieve the specified data from a database table.

Every time when the URL parameter(s) changes, the resulted page will be different.

This means that the following dynamic URLs point to two different pages (because they have different page’s query string parameter) :

  • Forum Thread 1: http://www.example.com/forums/thread.php?threadid=12345&sort=date
  • Forum Thread 2: http://www.example.com/forums/thread.php?threadid=67890&sort=date

Dynamic URLs can contain multiple URL parameters and more than one “?” character.

Which is better for SEO: static or dynamic URLs?

Even if Google says that they can effectively recognize, crawl, and index dynamic URLs, most SEO experts strongly advise to avoid using them.

The reason is that dynamic URLs have multiple disadvantages, related to their crawlability, indexability, and usability.

Crawlability/Indexability disadvantages of dynamic URLs:

  • Google can crawl dynamic URLs and interpret the different parameters, however, they advise to remove unnecessary parameters and to keep dynamic URLs as short as possible

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines explicitly say that “If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e. the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them small.

  • Yahoo confirms that they prefer static (or static looking) URLs

Yahoo helpYahoo! does index dynamic pages, but for page discovery, our crawler mostly follows static links. We recommend you avoid using dynamically generated links except in directories that are not intended to be crawled/indexed (e.g., those should have a /robots.txt exclusion).”

  • Most search engines still have difficulties to index dynamic URLs containing more than one “?” character.
  • Different dynamic URLs can have the same content

Another disadvantage of the dynamic URLs is that different URLs can have the same content. So different users might link to URLs with different parameters that have the same content.

If User A wants to link to a specific page of your website, he will use the URL he sees in his browser. At the same time, User B who also wants to link to that same page may see a different URL (with different parameters), no matter that the page is the same.

Usability disadvantages of dynamic URLs:

  • Too long, difficult to remember and complicated to type manually

Dynamic URLs are almost impossible to remember by the visitors. They’re tod difficult to type and even when copying/pasting, there’s a possibility of cutting off the end of the URL, because it’s too long. Dynamic URLs are also too difficult to read out on a small screen (smartphone).

  • Lower click-through rate in the search results, in emails, on web pages

Dynamic URLs are difficult to understand and may look spammy to some website users. As a result they get lower click-through rates compared to static URLs.

  • Lower keyword relevance and no information about pages content

In dynamic pages generally don’t contain keywords. The URLs are automatically generated and webmasters are deprived of the possibility to create keyword-rich URLs.

In addition, the user can’t have an accurate expectation of what he will see prior to reaching the page.

How to convert your dynamic URLs to static: Rewrite your URLs

Obviously the many disadvantages of dynamic URLs could be avoided if you use static URLs. But can you use static URLs on a dynamic website?

The answer is YES, you can – but you’ll need to do some extra work called URL rewriting.

Whether you can implement URL rewriting on a website depends on the software your Web server is running:

  • Apache comes with its own built-in URL rewriting module – Apache Mod Rewrite Rule.
  • IIS (Microsoft’s server software), doesn’t include URL rewriting capability by default, but you can purchase an add-on that can provide this functionality. ISAPI_Rewrite (about $100 US) is the most popular one.

By using URL rewriting module you’re able to create URL rewriting rules that inconspicuously redirect one URL to another, without the user’s (or a search engine’s) knowledge. The URL rewriting rules are included in the .htaccess file in your website’s document root.

When a request comes to the server for the new static URL, the URL rewriting module redirects the URL internally to the old, dynamic URL, while still looking like the new static URL. The web server compares the URL requested by the user with the search pattern in the individual rules.

Let’s say you have the following dynamic URL:

  • http://www.example.com/forums/thread.php?threadid=12345
    and you want to transform it into a static looking URL:
  • http://www.example.com/forums/what-is-url-rewriting

By specifying URL rewriting rules, you are able to tell the server to internally redirect all requests for the URL “what-is-url-rewriting” to “/thread.php?threadid=12345”

In that way, the URL is more memorable and your website can take advantage of all usability benefits of “static” URLs

If you want to learn how to create URL rewriting rules I recommend you to read the Apache URL Rewriting Guide or this article: https://www.addedbytes.com/articles/for-beginners/url-rewriting-for-beginners/

How to write SEO friendly dynamic URLs

Of course, if the URLs rewriting process looks too complicated and you don’t feel able to do it, you could continue to use dynamic URLs.

Back in 2008 Google published a blog post saying that you should avoid rewriting dynamic URLs because if it’s not done correctly Google “might not be able to interpret the information correctly in all cases”. Sometimes you can do more damage than good if you do the do wrong URL rewriting.

SO if you continue to use dynamic URLs you can try to make them more “SEO-friendly” by following these simple rules:

  • Keep the parameters short – Each individual parameter has a specific number of characters (also called query parameter length). You should keep the number of characters as low as possible.

For instance, the length of the query parameter in this example URL http://www.example.com/forums/thread.php?threadid=12345
is 5 characters.

There’s no official rule about query parameters’ length or about the maximum number of characters that are accepted.

  • Keep the number of parameters small – avoid using any unnecessary parameters and keep the number of parameters in each URL as small as possible.

10 FAQs on Static and Dynamic URLs: In-Depth Insights for SEO Optimization

So far, we saw the fundamental differences between static and dynamic URLs. But it’s crucial to delve deeper into this topic to gain a comprehensive understanding of their impact on SEO. There are other important considerations on the impact of dynamic URLs that webmasters should take into account, such as website loading speed, user experience, link building, and the influence of URL structure changes on search engine rankings and organic traffic

Understanding these intricacies is essential for making informed decisions regarding URL structure and optimizing websites for improved SEO performance.

How do static and dynamic URLs affect website loading speed and performance?

Static URLs generally have a positive impact on website loading speed and performance. This is because they are more easily cached by web servers and content delivery networks (CDNs), leading to quicker retrieval and display of web pages. On the other hand, dynamic URLs, especially those with numerous parameters, may require additional server requests and processing, potentially slowing down the loading time. Therefore, from an SEO perspective, using static URLs can contribute to a better user experience and improved website performance, which are important factors for search engine rankings.

Do search engines prioritize websites with static URLs over those with dynamic URLs?

Search engines do not inherently prioritize static URLs over dynamic URLs. While static URLs are often considered more user-friendly and can contain keywords relevant to the page content, search engines have evolved to effectively crawl and index dynamic URLs as well. What matters most is the structure and relevance of the content on the page, the overall website quality, and the user experience. Both static and dynamic URLs can rank well in search engine results if they are optimized effectively and provide valuable, relevant content to users.

Are there specific industries or types of websites that benefit more from using static URLs over dynamic URLs or vice versa?

The choice between static and dynamic URLs is not solely dependent on the industry or type of website, but rather on the specific content and purpose of the URLs. Generally, websites with predominantly static content, such as informational pages, product pages, and blog posts, can benefit from using static URLs for their stability and perceived reliability. Conversely, websites with dynamic content, such as e-commerce platforms with frequently changing product listings, may find dynamic URLs more suitable to accommodate their constantly evolving content. Therefore, the decision to use static or dynamic URLs should be based on the nature of the content and the user experience rather than the industry or website type.

What are the best practices for transitioning from dynamic URLs to static URLs without negatively affecting SEO?

When transitioning from dynamic to static URLs, it is essential to implement proper 301 redirects from the old dynamic URLs to the new static URLs. Additionally, updating internal links, sitemaps, and canonical tags to reflect the changes is crucial.

It’s important to ensure that the transition is seamless for both users and search engines to avoid any negative impact on SEO. Properly communicating the URL changes through search engine console tools and monitoring the website for any errors or issues during and after the transition are also integral parts of the best practices for this process.

How do static and dynamic URLs impact user experience and engagement on a website?

Static URLs can contribute to a more predictable and user-friendly experience for visitors, as they often contain clear, descriptive keywords related to the content of the page. This can potentially lead to higher click-through rates from search engine results pages and improve user engagement.

Dynamic URLs, if not optimized properly, may appear less readable and relevant to users, which could impact their perception of the website’s trustworthiness and relevance. Therefore, using static URLs can positively impact user experience and engagement by providing clear and descriptive links that are more likely to attract clicks and satisfy user intent.

What role do static and dynamic URLs play in the context of mobile and voice search optimization?

In the context of mobile and voice search optimization, the structure of URLs, whether static or dynamic, plays a role in providing a clear and coherent website navigation experience.

For mobile search, shorter and more descriptive static URLs can enhance the user experience by displaying neatly in mobile search results and improving the overall mobile-friendliness of the website. Similarly, in voice search, static URLs enable clearer and more concise communication of website addresses, which can be beneficial in voice search results. Therefore, utilizing static URLs can contribute to a more favorable mobile and voice search optimization strategy by providing clear and easily understandable website addresses for users and search engines alike.

Are there any specific SEO strategies or techniques that can mitigate the disadvantages associated with dynamic URLs?

One effective strategy to mitigate the disadvantages associated with dynamic URLs is URL rewriting, which involves transforming dynamic URLs into static-looking URLs through server-side techniques. Implementing URL rewriting can help create more user-friendly and search engine-friendly URLs. Additionally, utilizing canonical tags to consolidate duplicate content variations of dynamic URLs, creating an efficient URL structure through proper categorization and parameter handling, and optimizing internal linking to ensure search engine crawlers can access important dynamic URLs are all valuable techniques to mitigate the SEO disadvantages typically associated with dynamic URLs.

How do static and dynamic URLs influence the effectiveness of link building and backlink acquisition for SEO?

The structure of URLs, whether static or dynamic, can influence the effectiveness of link building and backlink acquisition for SEO. Static URLs are generally preferred for link building efforts as they are often more aesthetically appealing and tend to contain relevant keywords, making them more likely to attract clicks and shares. Additionally, static URLs have the advantage of potentially retaining descriptive anchor text when used as the destination of a backlink, which can positively impact SEO. On the other hand, dynamic URLs may be perceived as less trustworthy or less likely to contain valuable content, potentially impacting the willingness of other websites to link to them. Therefore, utilizing static URLs can enhance the effectiveness of link building and backlink acquisition for SEO.

What impact do static and dynamic URLs have on the overall crawl budget allocated by search engines to a website?

The impact of static and dynamic URLs on the overall crawl budget allocated by search engines to a website is largely determined by the website’s structure and the efficiency of its internal linking. Static URLs are generally considered more crawl-friendly as they are often perceived as stable and permanent, leading search engines to allocate crawl budget more efficiently. Dynamic URLs, especially those with numerous parameters and potential for infinite variations, may present challenges for search engines in allocating crawl budget effectively due to the potential for duplicate content issues and inefficient crawling. Therefore, utilizing static URLs and ensuring an efficient website structure can positively impact the overall crawl budget allocated by search engines to a website.

Do changes in URL structure from dynamic to static or vice versa affect a website’s search engine rankings and organic traffic?

Changes in URL structure from dynamic to static or vice versa can potentially impact a website’s search engine rankings and organic traffic if not executed properly. When transitioning to static URLs, it’s crucial to implement proper 301 redirects to ensure that search engines understand the change and transfer the accumulated ranking signals to the new URLs. Conversely, transitioning from static to dynamic URLs requires careful consideration to avoid potential loss of ranking signals and disruption to organic traffic. Properly communicating URL structure changes to search engines, updating internal and external links, and monitoring the website for any issues post-transition are essential steps to minimize the impact on search engine rankings and organic traffic. Overall, changes in URL structure should be approached cautiously, with a focus on maintaining the integrity of the website’s SEO performance.

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