With one of my most recent website projects, I decided to try out a CMS (content management system). For those who don’t know what a CMS is, it basically simplifies putting together a website. You simply log in to it through your browser, and add content, manage templates, the site itself, categories, etc. Depending on your abilities, and on the CMS itself, you can have a pretty nice website together in under an hour, plus the time to add content of course.
After reading up on various CMS’s, I decided to go with Joomla. Joomla is based on another CMS called Mambo. It’s quite popular, and easy to use once you get the hang of it. It is also one of the ones offered by the Fantastico installer available through my web host which means installation took only a minute.
Anyway, getting on to the subject… Once the site was up and running, I realized that the URLs were pretty cryptic. Now search engines don’t particularly like URLs with certain characters in them, for example the questionmark. Browsing through the configuration in Joomla, I found a section where you can enable “Search Engine Friendly URLs”. Great I thought. After a few minutes of browsing some forums to make sure enabling this wouldn’t do anything unfortunate (like erasing everything on my site), and ensuring my web host supported the things they needed to for it to work, I enabled it. And it worked. Well… sort of.
The problem is that while it did remove all those unpopular characters, web addresses were in a format like this: http://www.WEBSITE.com/component/option,com_search/Itemid,5/
I don’t know about you, but if I were a search engine, and your website had an address like that, you definately wouldn’t be getting as nice a rank from me as if your URL was something a little more like http://www.WEBSITE.com/articles/why-joomla-is-cool.html.
A little disappointed, I looked to the Joomla forums, and the only talk I really found was about someone who develops for joomla owning sakic.net, which sells an add-on Joomla component called “SEF advance” which he happens to sell for $40. A little bit of a conflict of interest I read, having him develop the SEF part of an Open Source CMS while he sells an advanced SEF. I tend to agree, and while it is his right to do so, and no-one really has the right to complain, Joomla is pretty big, and I would think they should be able to find someone else willing to work on the SEF section of Joomla. Regardless, I’m not the type of person to spend a lot of money for an addon to open source software. I decided I was just out of luck and my next site wasn’t going to to use Joomla.
Fast forward to today. I started looking for an alternate CMS that had good SEF URL support. None of the ones I came across struck me as great at what I wanted them to do. Eventually, I somehow ended up back at the Joomla forums where I saw a post I had missed, which referred to http://www.open-sef.org/.
http://www.open-sef.org (Web Archive) is exactly what I was looking for. Open source, and it changed the URLs for me. Now my site shows as http://www.WEBSITE.com/category-name/page-name.html. Fantastic actually, and I really wish I had come across it before.
Hopefully, Joomla makes their search engine friendly url’s a little more friendly in the future. But until then, OpenSEF will do just fine. In fact I’ll probably throw a small paypal donation their way later on this week. For anyone looking for a CMS with friendly url’s, I definitely recommend Joomla with OpenSEF. I’m sure there are other CMS’s that are great too, but personally, this combination is exactly what I was looking for.