I’ve run across a few sites lately that have hashtags in their page addresses (URLs). This is sometimes built into your builder’s structure, and for those builders it may be a practical thing. But not always. I’d like to address some of the pros and cons I’ve run into.
This is by no means a comprehensive overview, and I invite comments if you’ve had a different experience.
Why hashtags are used in URLs
The primary way hashtags are used in URLs is to indicate location in a long page. So say the page’s address is patspuffypets.com/puffiness#puff. If clicked, the bit after the # would direct your browser to send you to that specific part of a (presumably long) page. So for example, if you click on this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Clooney#Activism, you will not only go to that page, but you’ll land at a specific part of that page. And that’s a cool thing.
You may also see hashtags used in dynamically-generated urls (shopping carts, perhaps) or in older sites for product descriptions.
You can read more about hashtags and their use as “fragment identifiers” in computer hypertext, here.
The positive aspect of using them
Have you ever read an article and a link sends you to a specific place with in larger article? That may have been due to the hashtag. And that’s one of the best reasons for them: they save you search time. By adding them in to a link you’re sending to a friend, you’ll save the time also, and look like quite the techie!
The negative aspect of using them
There’s a serious issue with using hashtags in URLs: the search engines do NOT index (look at; save) any info after a hashtag. So if a page is called bobspetsitting.com and its Service Area page has the address /#service-area, that page is in serious trouble. Because of that hashtag, Google and the other search engines won’t look at it; they’ll act as though it doesn’t exist. The page won’t be listed anywhere, and it won’t come up in search results.
Other than the obvious bad part about the page not coming up in search results, there is another way this can be a problem. The fewer pages from a site that come up in searches (because of the errant hashtag), the less chance you have to be seen by potential visitors. And this, for SEO is not good. You need to be seen as much as possible, and having fewer pages come up in searches is definitely lowering your chances.
This also affects your chances of coming up for a specific keyword. If you list Bob’s Bay as a location you service, but Bob’s Bay is only listed on your /#service-area page, you’re probably out of luck for coming up in searches for it. Again, not cool.
If you have hashtags in your site’s URLs…
Don’t panic! There are some justified reasons for including them. I’ve recently seen hashtags in SquareSpace URLs, and in URLs generated by the “read more” tool on WordPress sites. Both of these are ok, so let me explain what I’ve learned:
SquareSpace uses hashtags in an interesting way: they often have long home pages, so they use the hashtags to indicate the different sections. This is fine and cool. BUT if you have a site that does this, make sure that you also have separate pages that include that content Why? Because remember, search engines don’t index anything after a #, so if to get to a section on your homepage and you don’t have the same content also listed on a separate page, it will only get listed as being on the home page. And again, not getting as much traction in search results. This procedure has been outlined by Google on their official blog. The bottom line of this procedure is:
**Note, this refers to “infinite scroll” pages, but the concept is the same.
WordPress also creates some scary bits when you use the “Read More” tool for blogging. This is the tool that creates a preview on your Blog page, then a separate page for each post. So when you go to the Blog page, to read more of a post, you can either click on the post’s title, or on the “read more” link. They will both get you there, but if you look at the link for the “read more,” the URL may look like this: patsyspetparadise.com/perfectly_perfect_pets /#more-xxxx. This is totally fine, because the # comes after the post name, and also because there’s another page without it. So again, this is all fine.
Hashtags can be a blessing and a curse when used in website URLs. They should be treated carefully, with the knowledge that if they’re not placed correctly, some of your content may be overlooked by the search engines.
An interesting read on why you should be using simple, easy-to-read URLs may be found here.
And special thanks to Brooke Rozell of Animal Admiration Pet Sitting for suggesting this topic!