When to Use a SEF Component

SEF URLsThis post is intended to answer the question, “Can I avoid using an SEF URL component such as sh404SEF or SEF Advance? Joomla 1.5 default SEF URLs should be enough, right?

Simply – yes. There are many sites and circumstances where Joomla 1.5 default SEF URLs are enough. They are great for most people – certainly are a big leap forward over 1.0. Adding an SEF URL component may simply be adding an extra, unneccessary layer of complexity.

However, for some sites and circumstances, an SEF URL component is a must. Here is a rundown of the ones I’ve encountered most often:

1) Migrations Are Much Easier

I often try to explain migrations this way …. imagine if you had a coffee shop with a steady stream of customers. One day you shut your doors and moved to the other side of town. Imagine how many of them would bother to travel the extra 20 minutes to visit you. Now imagine that you didn’t even put a note on the door telling them where you’d gone.

That’s essentially what most people do when they migrate sites. They break all their URLs and often don’t even bother to redirect them. From my experience, how people manage the URLs during a migration has a huge effect on visitors numbers:

  • Kept the same URLs: no drop in traffic
  • 301 redirects from old URLs to new: Around a 25% drop in traffic. (read one example here)
  • Broken URLs with no redirects: A 50% or greater drop in traffic

SEF Components give you the flexibility to maintain the URLs from almost any kind of existing site.

2) You’re running a News Site

Google News is a huge source of traffic and the aim of any serious news site is to be included. To qualify, the URL for each article must contain a unique number consisting of at least three digits. In Joomla, you need sh404SEF or SEF Advance to do that.

3) You’ve got a Large Site or One With Complex Menus

Or even not so complicated. Because of the some problems with our shopping cart, we had to use default SEF URLs on joomlatraining.com. By having a link to Atlanta directly and also from inside a dropdown menu we ended up with two URLs indexed for one page:

  • joomlatraining.com/atlanta
  • joomlatraining.com/south-west/atlanta

The problem is worse if you’re using Joomla’s sections and categories. These are all links to one article:

  • woofandwarp.com/joomla/32-joomla-and-duplicate-content-what-does-google-think
  • woofandwarp.com/blog/2-joomla/32-joomla-and-duplicate-content-what-does-google-think
  • woofandwarp.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article=&id=32
  • woofandwarp.com/component/content/article/2-joomla/32-joomla-and-duplicate-content-what-does-google-think

SEF components solve this problem with automapping – 1 URL per page.

4) You’re in a Very Competitive Market

I often hear these complaints about SEF components:

  • “Joomla.org has a Page Rank of 9 and it doesn’t use an SEF extension”. True, but Joomla.org isn’t really competing for traffic. That’s not its purpose. It also has the advantage of a stellar reputation and literally over 12 million incoming links. Most of us aren’t so fortunate.
  • “I’m a non-profit / school site. Why should I bother?” You probably shouldn’t. Unless you’re in a frantic competition to attract students via the internet, you don’t need the competitive edge.

But, if you’re in a hyper-competitive market with other companies optimizing their sites to the max, you need to be doing the same. In addition to managing the URLs, SEF components often offer a host of other features from h1 tags and improved 404 handling to inserting titles in read more links. Every little helps.

Over to You …

Can you think of any more circumstances when SEF URLs components are needed? Do you find them useful or simply frustrating?

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