What I learned about SEO from Celebrity Jeopardy!

I was having a conversation with my best friend a few days ago and we got on the subject of our preferences for how URL's are rendered for blogs.

I fall on the side of lowercase letters and hyphens splitting the words:

http://www.somesite.com/2008/05/my-url-preference-is-like-this/

He falls on the side of title case lettering and no hyphens splitting the words:

http://www.somesite.com/2008/05/HisURLPreferenceIsLikeThis/

He has his reasons I have mine, I just think mine are more valid. Sorry Al that is my opinion. I am going to layout why I think mine are more valid, with an example from Celebrity Jeopardy. For those of you who aren't familiar with this famous skit:

Celebrity Jeopardy! was a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live. It parodies the Celebrity Jeopardy! edition of the television game show Jeopardy! where celebrities compete and the game's level of difficulty is significantly reduced. Thirteen sketches have been aired to date, two per season from 1996 to 2002, and one in 2005.

Before I get to my commentary lets first watch this excerpt from Saturday Night Live's Celebrity Jeopardy!:

I really tried to find a good example of one of the famous Sean Connery mess ups in a legal video sharing site, but none of them had anything usable. The skit I was really looking for was the famous "An Album Cover" where Sean Connery pronounces it as "Anal Bum Cover".

As you can see Norm MacDonald playing the character of Burt Reynolds transforms the category in Celebrity Jeopordy!, on purpose for comedy reasons. In my analogy Google is going to be the Burt Reynolds of your search, however instead of finding the wrong words on purpose it is going to do it because it is a dumb machine that does what it is asked even if the results are not contextually accurate.

An Album Cover Google Example

Notice in the image above, in the highlighted words, Google finds both "An Album Cover" and "Anal Bum Cover". This is because Google understands that the words you may be looking for don't always fall in the same order and spacing as the exact phase you are looking for. This is something that SEO experts have known for a long and try to control so that their content shows in the top spot for the keywords they designed in to the page.

If you don't control your URL, which is one of the highest ranking keywords on your site. You could end up decreasing the effectiveness of your keywords, as an almost duplicate keyword penalty. Granted I don't know if something like this exists as a penalty, but when you are dealing with SEO it never hurts to be as careful and precise as possible.

So again I ask which URL would you rather have? Now knowing how a URL can be misconstrued :

http://www.somesite.com/2008/05/an-album-cover/
http://www.somesite.com/2008/05/AnAlbumCover/

So this is my way of saying be careful what your URL spells out, you may get unintended search rankings that you may not want, or you may offend a person who reads the URL wrong. Either way it is always good to control your environment with in reasonable means to make sure the message is received as you were intending it.

note: There are other factors in play that yielded the search results above.  However one thing that you will notice is that none of the URL's were falsely highlighted, that is because they used a non-whitespace character to break up the words.

Nick Berardi

Entrepreneur, Microsoft MVP, ASPInsider, co-founder and CTO of @CaddioApp, Father, and @SeriouslyOpen host