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SEO takes work. It’s both an art and a science. When you finally achieve prominent page rank for great keywords, it’s essential to maintain that position long-term. But what if your URLs aren’t portable? What if you can’t take that page rank with you, when you switch technology providers?

Consider the case of Demandware clients, many who accept the URL generated by default. Retailers like Barneys New York, House of Fraser, Bare Escentuals, Sanrio, and Playmobil have their storefront URLs stuffed with non-essential elements, including the Demandware brand. Here are some examples:

www.barneys.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-BNY-Site/default
www.houseoffraser.co.uk/on/demandware.store/Sites-hof-Site/default
store.bareescentuals.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-BareEscentuals-Site/default
shop.sanrio.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-eStore-Site/default
store.playmobilusa.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-US-Site/en_US

Notice the bloat that follows the domain name. According to Matt Cutts of Google, when this space contains relevant keywords, it is useful in lifting page rank in the search engines. But the examples above aren’t laden with keywords. Instead, the domain name is followed by 30+ characters of no use to either search engines or consumers. This hurts SEO efforts in the short-term (because the pages won’t rank as high) and in the long-term (because the URLs aren’t portable).

Now, it is indeed possible to create vanity URLs in Demandware. Here are some examples:

www.timberlandonline.co.uk/men-footwear-shoes/men_footwear_shoes,default,sc.html
www.gardeners.com/Composting/Composting_New,default,sc.html
www.sallybeauty.com/Curling-Irons/BUYNOW01-04,default,sc.html
www.zabars.com/blue-cheese/Blue_Cheese,default,sc.html

Timberland, Gardener’s Supply, Sally Beauty and Zabars all modified their URLs, stripping out the bloat and dropping the Demandware name. URL customization can vary client-to-client and site-to-site. But research finds clients often settle for the defaults, not realizing what it might cost them down the line.

When Barneys launched its site on Demandware in May, the ‘on/demandware.store’ string was still in the URL all over the site — even after a 9 month integration effort. What will they do if they ever need to leave Demandware, like Playboy did earlier this year? Clients cannot take the on/demandware.store URLs with them.

Unfortunately, the longer Barneys waits to customize the URL, the more it will cost them in sales and marketing to switch vendors in the future. Of course, that benefits the incumbent technology vendor. But it’s never good for the client. [Note: Since publication of this post, Barneys has made significant progress customizing URLs on its product and category pages.]

More recent Demandware customers like Compact Appliance, Nine West, and Lucy.com are still in development. We’ll have to see if they choose the default route.

B2C Partners advises all retailers to plan their URLs carefully, no matter what vendor they choose. Do not settle for defaults; and never let the provider advertise their brand ahead of your product in the URL string. Keep the URL uncluttered and peppered with relevant keywords. This will do far more to help consumers find your products — regardless of the technology.

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