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Google: We prefer short URLs

In one of the Google Webmasters Hangouts, Google’s John Mueller made an interesting remark regarding URL lengths. This article tells you more about URL lengths and how you can identify URLs that are too long.

(...) when we have two URLs that have the same content, and we are trying to pick one to show in the search results, we will pick the shorter one. (...) It doesn’t mean it’s a ranking factor, but it means that if we have two URLs, and one is really short and sweet, and the other one has this long parameter attached to it, and we know they show exactly the same content, we’ll try to pick the shorter one.
John Mueller - Google

The URL length is not an official ranking factor for Google, but if the search engine has to choose between two URLs, the shorter URL will usually be preferred in the search results. According to Google, there is no concrete optimal length. However, a URL should generally have less than 2000 characters.

The fact that Google prefers the shorter URL version can have an indirect effect on the ranking. This is particularly the case when all internal or external links of a website point to a long URL that has many parameters.

In our OnPage.org Zoom Module, you can easily identify your URLs that are too long (based on a maximum length of 160 characters) and those that have too many GET-parameters. To do this, simply go to "URL Structure" in OnPage.org Zoom and select "URL Length".


Figure 1: Select the URL Length report

The "URL Length" report shows you all indexable and non-indexable URLs that are too long. By clicking on the bar chart (1), you can specifically look for URLs that are too long. Simply click on the URL group for which the analysis should be started. The underlying table (2) provides you with a quick overview of all your URLs that are too long.


Figure 2: Graph + table showing all URLs sorted according to their length

According to John Mueller, shorter URLs are preferred if the search engine detects duplicate content. In order to generate a report that shows both the indexability and the duplicates, it is important that you activate both filters. This gives you a useful list containing URLs that meet both criteria.

Activate both filters


Figure 3: Activate the "show only indexable URLs" filter


Figure 4: Only show URLs that point to more than one duplicate filter

Combining these two filters shows you the corresponding URLs in the URL table. If a large number of URLs is hereby affected, you can first view the URLs that are too long (yellow bars) by clicking on the respective bars.


Figure 5: Activate filters via the bar chart filter

In the underlying table, you can now have a closer look at the affected URLs that contain duplicate content and are indexable. Clicking on the magnifying glass behind the respective URL takes you to the Inspector where you can then view the respective duplicates.


Figure 6: View the duplicate content of an indexable URL that is too long


For content that appears on different URLs (duplicate content), Google often prefers the shorter URL. OnPage.org Zoom allows you to easily identify these URLs and apply corresponding measures e.g. redirects, use of canonical tags, or noindex. This helps optimize your website’s link power in order to sustainably improve your rankings.

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Published on May 6, 2016 by Katharina Bscheider