Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

Just say no to URL stubs

I was told by Mahroof Ali today on Twitter that I ought to use post title stubs in my URLs.

This is kind of the standard advice in SEO circles. A URL like this:


is considered better than a URL like this:


And from the perspective of the Googlebot, it probably is.

From the perspective of human beings, I think it is pretty horrible. Firstly, not every post can be adequately summarised with a bunch of ASCII characters with hyphens between them. What about just a photo post, without a title? Even my “formatted titles” are a bit of a bad hack I might turn off.

Other than SEO, there’s no particularly good reason why people should prefer a long URL with the title in than one that just has a unique identifier. The title is also not immutable on posts. That is, I can change a title, or even remove a title, after publication. Should I change the URLs? Well, no. URLs, once announced, should stay the same. Okay then, I’ll have URLs that are inaccurate.

If I have a post called “I like kittens” and the URL stub says it is a post called “I just had my laptop repaired”, surely Google should punish me for being an evil keyword-stuffing bad guy? No thanks.

I consider titles-in-URLs a horrible and ugly monstrosity. I’m happy to take the SEO hit to not participate in such ugliness. Microformats rightly prioritise humans first, machines second.

Note, I don’t deny that titles-in-URLs has SEO benefits. I’m not some kind of SEO denialist or something: it works. I just choose not to do it because it is ugly.