The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

Search Engine Safe URL Scare!

I moved this site to a new server last weekend. The server is running ColdFusion
MX 6.1 on JRun to facilitate multiple instances of ColdFusion. However, I had
quite a scare when I moved this site to the new server. As you can tell by looking
at the address for this page, my URLs are "search engine safe", meaning
that some characters which search engines supposedly don’t like are changed
to characters which search engines don’t seem to mind. I had quite a scare on my new server because I couldn’t initially get them
to work!

Before I get into how I fixed this, here’s what a standard URL might look like:

A search engine safe version might look like this:

The problem I had was probably due to changing web servers from Apache to IIS
and maybe due to using ColdFusion on JRun. (I didn’t nail this down exactly,
it wasn’t really very relevant to the problem.) In the end I googled around
and found this
(see item #52942). This pointed me to the web.xml file which can be
found under this path:


This file has a number of nodes which look like this:

<servlet-mapping id="macromedia_mapping_3">

These nodes tell ColdFusion what it can process. I simply went to the bottom
of this list and added this:

<servlet-mapping id="macromedia_mapping_11">

The ID was based on adding one to the ID of what was previously the last node.
The *.cfm/* tells coldfusion to process files even when they have a trailing
slash as do my search engine safe urls. After adding this I restarted CF and
my urls worked again! Woo Hoo!

Comments on: "Search Engine Safe URL Scare!" (12)

  1. Sean Corfield said:

    I’m curious, do you have any factual evidence to suggest that the SES URLs are worthwhile?

    I’m seeing my pages showing up in Google just fine even tho’ I’ve always used non-SES URLs…


  2. Doug Hughes said:

    First a little background information: When I started working at Interstate Hotels and Resorts years ago the marketing department was forcefully keeping us from making completely dynamic websites because of their opinion that standard query strings kill search performance. At the time they were pretty good at supporting that notion.

    I did a little research and found out about SES URLs and how they fixed the problem. I did a test implementation on and it seemed to work great (in combination with other SES techniques).

    A couple of my clients are very happy with their results using the SES URLs but they never had anything to compare against. Ive read that standard query strings do impact ratings, but once again I just dont know.

    All in all, its become habit for me, more than anything else. The one thing I can point to us this. Go to Google and do a search for coldfusion. My company site,, comes near the top of page two and its not even devoted to ColdFusion. I think that says a lot!


  3. Doug Hughes said:

    Oh, and I just discovered I’m comming up on page one when you search for Doug Hughes! And I only added this site to google a week or two ago.


  4. Trond Ulseth said:

    Could you blog a little about how you manage SES URL’s. I’d like to start using it my self, but not quite sure how.


  5. Doug Hughes said:


    I’d be quite happy to. Give me a few days and I’ll put something up.



  6. Trond Ulseth said:

    Waiting in excitement 🙂


  7. Doug Hughes said:

    I haven’t forgotten about this. I’ve started writing it a couple times but got pulled away. Hopefully today!! (If my wife will let me.)


  8. Thanks so much for posting this… it fixed my problem too. We use SES URLs for a section of our site that supports content managed by non-experts through a custom interface we provide. My feeling is that the SES URLs are easier for newbs to recognize and therefore not screw up when cutting and pasting. 🙂


  9. Hi Doug,

    I notice now that your site is not using your SES method – what up?


  10. Doug Hughes said:

    Andrew, That’s a great question. About 6 or more months ago I rolled out a new version of my blog which used ReactorBlog. RB doesn’t support SES urls.

    Anyhow, it’s interesting because after removing the SES urls my site’s page rank with Google dropped from something like 7 or 8 to, well, 0 on this page.

    I’ve decided I don’t like modifying existing apps to make them SES friendly either. To that extent I’m exploring a product for IIS that will automagically turn non-SES sites into SES sites.


  11. Hi nice to read this I realy like to

    Thanks for such a nice post.



  12. Where can i have more info on this ?



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