SEO Myth Series – Page Extensions

For our second installment of our SEO Myth Series, we’re going to address page extensions – as in what your filenames end in for your website. With the variety of programming technologies available for web development, a number of different file extensions exist on the web. The most basic being .html or .htm, typically from static html written pages. As website technology advanced, so did the use of other programming languages to create dynamically driven websites – ASP (.asp), PHP (.php), Cold Fusions (.cfm), Java (.jsp), .NET (.aspx), are all examples of commonly used technologies and their corresponding extensions.

Many people hold the belief that the naming of your pages will affect your search rankings. And not to pick on the same person two weeks in a row, but again, the OnTheAvenues.com blog in their Forgotten Fundamentals of SEO post states:

“As a general rule, search engines will not properly index documents that:

  • contain a “?” or “&”
  • End in the following document types: .cfm, .asp, .shtml, .php, .stm, .jsp, .cgi, .pl
  • Could potentially generate a large number of URLs.

To avoid complications, consider creating static pages whenever possible, perhaps using the database to update the pages, not to generate them on the fly.”

And Bonnie isn’t the only person perpetuating this myth. Just recently, I had a conversation with Noah at Resposio, who is a self-proclaimed SEO expert. We have a website hosted with them, and in the setup of this website we were requesting to setup IIS to handle extensionless URLs (like so: http://www.mysite.com/category/product). During this conversation, Noah disputed that these URLs would not be properly indexed by the search engines, and furthermore, the search engines preferred certain extensions over others. In particular, .aspx and .php because it “indicates to them pages that are dynamic and thus update more often”. And he wasn’t just casually mentioning it might be a factor, he was arguing it in a “matter of fact” type attitude. Exactly the opposite of what Bonnie contends.

So, who’s right? Well, neither. While at some point, a long time ago, search engines may have had trouble with dynamic URLs with querystrings, but this logic does not apply today. Just think about this concept, search engines can’t afford to give preference to one or the other – their preference is based on what website is going to provide the best results to the searcher, regardless of how the website is written (even though Microsoft does have a vested interest in the success of .NET).

About Kevin Eichelberger

Kevin Eichelberger is the founder and CEO of Blue Acorn, a premium eCommerce agency helping retailers and brands achieve growth through a data-driven approach. Founded in 2008, Blue Acorn is the byproduct of Kevin’s great passion and knowledge of all things eCommerce. Kevin’s data-driven approach has culminated in a strong, growing business that’s success is closely tied to the success of its clients. When he’s not immersing himself in eCommerce, Kevin works toward expanding Charleston’s tech community by serving as a board member for the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation, and is also a mentor and advisor to several startups. A business-savvy technologist, you can find Kevin evangelizing about data, optimization and eCommerce.


  • Noah says:

    First off I don’t “claim” to be anything. Our clients that have experienced it may call us that, but we don’t. It all boils down to hard work on content, that hasn’t changed in several years.

    I’m big on letting the performance speak for itself. You know we have billion page look ups and hundred million page look-ups in just about every industry there is, (you neglected to mention this above) this doesn’t happen by accident, and surely not by guessing and it’s done with absolutely no tricks. Just good content.

    Dynamic “non contextual” URL’s can perform fine as the URL is only one of the many many things that make up a pages ability to perform, however we all know that textual content sensitive links do have an effect.

    In the same breath, having NO extension “can” also work, but it will not work as well as a content sensitive page URL.

    Our conversation covered many other reasons why we suggested using an extension, SEO was just one of them, so using the statements out of context really leaves a lot of gray area.

    No extension is “folder structure” in computers and on the web. Man I hate analogies but think of domain.com as your home and domain.com/room/ as a location in your home and domain.com/living_room/mantle_contents.aspx as content in the room. In the same way that Google is looking for EXACT content matching, they try to avoid general matches when they can find exact matches.

    But don’t take my word for it, let performance be the benchmark. There are so many snake oil salesman in the SEO world that most of what you hear should always be scrutinized so kudos to you for digging deeper. 😉



  • Blue Acorn says:

    First of all, just wanted to say thanks for Noah in contributing his rebuttal on the subject as well as giving me a call to discuss his reasoning for providing that advice. Obviously, when it comes to SEO there are no guarantees, people have different ideas of what works and what doesn’t. And this topic is a prime example of something that people may not see exactly eye to eye on. In fact, when citing references like I do I’m sure everyone would want to argue their case (uh oh here comes Bonnie…)

    Since this original conversation with Noah, I had also brought this subject up with other “industry experts” at SEOmoz.org and HighRankings.com – both highly regarded. The feedback from both sides was that URL extensions are meaningless for SEO purposes.

    Noah contends that through his experience with online Marketing that these extensions in fact do play a role, and every little edge you can get helps. Noah makes a great point about scrutinizing any SEO advice, and only through that questioning can trust be built and regardless of Noah’s view on this particular topic, his company has been successful at placement for some very competitive keyphrases. So, here’s a good example of two disputing ideas, both coming from successful SEO practices. In this particular author’s opinion (as well as others), I still consider this to be a myth, but I have been wrong on occasion – don’t count on it happening too often though 😉

  • Bonnie says:

    Here is my 3 cents (my rates have gone up)…when we develop a web site for a client, or add new static pages with content, we always name the page for the content theme as well as the text link. We have been using this practice for years and have found that these pages have always achieved higher rankings. With a page that contains proper content, keyword in headers, keywords in title, description tags, keyword phrase as page name and a text link using the phrase has helped build a theme relation for the site and the page.

    SEO has many ways of being done. There are always those who say not true, will not work, may work, myth. But we have seen this practice work for well over 1500 clients and as such, will always continue to use this as one of our SEO practices…so to us, your myth is not true, but is a success when we use it along with other factors of optimization. But then again…isn’t that what makes SEO so much fun, what works for one may not work for the other :-)


  • Blue Acorn says:

    Hi Bonnie, and thanks for your input. SEO is a varied practice, true, and I’m sure you apply many of the tactics and practices that do work very effectively for your clients. I am not doubting your abilities as an SEO, but rather one specific point on your website. It seems in your comment above that you are almost arguing that SEO as a practice does work – of which I am a true believer – however, in specific reference to your information about page extensions I find inaccuracies.

  • Abe says:

    Another common myth busted.


    Will .html be better than .php?
    Does google care if a page is dynamic?

  • Kevin says:

    Hi Abe – thanks for your question,

    No, the search engines don’t care about the extension – at all. This was further verified at the last SMX Advanced conference I attending a few months back where representatives from all three search engines indeed verified that this is in fact a myth.

    Also, just because a page has a .php extension does not mean it is necessarily dynamic. It is dynamic in the sense that data might be pulled from a database, but it by no means indicates that the page is constantly changing (or dynamic). I can take the same html page with no server side code and make it a .php page just by changing the extension. The search engines do not assume anything just based on the extension.

  • Abe says:

    Very good answer.

    I never really thought of it that way.

  • Claudia says:

    I would like to take this a step further and ask what if one website has multiple page extensions: .htm, .html & .aspx? What effect does this have on SEO? Some pages are dynamic and some are static and some are re-written to look static. In my view, this can’t be good, but I’m not finding anything definitive about this. (But then, I’ve never run into this before.) Thanks in advance for your response.

  • Kevin says:

    @Claudia – fear not. Having different extensions on the same site will have no effect on your rankings. As I pointed out, the extensions are virtually meaningless to a search engine and they are completely ignored so don’t waste time worrying about a non-issue. Spend your time focusing on some of the bigger SEO issues as this is one thing you can check off on your list.

  • Claudia says:

    Thanks so much for the reply. Great information here.

  • Paul says:

    What about uncommon or ficticious extensions? Are these also completely ignored? Especially to allow re-write rules to flatten folder structure…

    /new-york-shopping.city vs. /new-york-shopping.html
    /london-shopping.city vs. /london-shopping.html


    /new-york-shopping.state vs. /new-york-state-shopping.html
    /london-shopping.county vs. /london-county-shopping.html (which is weird as no-one says the county this way)

    Do search engines care about such things? You don’t normally see them in the top 10, but is that just because it’s an odd thing to do?

    It essentially allows you to do things like:

    RewriteRule ^/(.*).city$ /area-handler.php?type=city&data=$1
    RewriteRule ^/(.*).state$ /area-handler.php?type=state&data=$1

    and save upon DB hits when handling the data.

    Great article btw!

  • Andrea Cammoranesi says:

    I think this is an old topic, but I can’t find any answer.
    The question is: does using php template as Twig affect Seo?
    Thank you very much.

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