Archive | May 2008

Url Canonicalization in Rails

In one of my last posts I showed how I was able to create completely custom urls for SEO, but there is an issue that sometimes comes up when creating custom urls or when migrating urls, etc.

Here is a simple way to ensure that urls that are being requested are valid. Google and Yahoo! (and others) crawl your sites links and can on occasion come across an incorrect ink from someone else’s site that may be old or mistyped. There are some stiff penalties associated with having two different urls pointing to the same page. There may also be a need to retire certain urls or to change the way they are formated.

Here is an example, the URL:

Should be redirected to:

Here is the simple solution:

I created a module that looked like the following in the lib directory and included it into the ActionController class.

include ActiveRecord

module MY
  module URL

    def page_code_object_map
        'd' => Destination, 'p' => Photo

    def execute_url_post_process
      canonicalize if params[:canonicalize]

    def canonicalize

      whole_url   = request.request_uri().split('?')[0].split('#')[0]
      url_pieces  = current_url.split('-')
      page_type   = url_pieces[0].gsub(/\//, '')
      type_id     = url_pieces[1]

        object = page_code_object_map[page_type].find(type_id)
        canonical_url = send "custom_#{page_type}_path", object, params
      rescue RecordNotFound => e
        render :file => File.join(RAILS_ROOT, 'public', '404.html'), :status => 404

      if canonical_url and canonical_url != whole_url
        headers['Status'] = '301 Moved Permanently'
        redirect_to("#{http_base}#{canonical_url}", :status => 301)



ActionController::Base.send :include, MY::URL
ActionView::Base.send :include, MY::URL

In the route below, notice that I am passing a parameter named:canonicalize with the value of true. This parameter is passed through to the controller as a request parameter and can be accessed in the paramshash.

map.d '/d-:destination_global_id-:name*other_params', :controller => 'destinations', :action => 'show', :canonicalize => true, :destination_global_id => /\d{1,20}/, :name => /[^-]+/

How does this all work you say? Simple. In your application controller (controllers/application.rb) you need to include something like this:

before_filter :execute_url_post_process

This will start the checking process by calling the execute_url_post_process()method defined above in my module. If the route that matches passes the:cononicalize parameter, the conanicalize() method will get the current url and certain important pieces. Then depending on the object that is mapped to the page code (d) it will reconstruct the url of the destination object that should match the existing url. If it matches then were golden, if it doesn’t then we redirect to the new/correct url ensuring that we do not loose page rank or be counted as spam (duplicate content).

There are many things that you can do within this code. Some of them include managing authorization, hiding pages, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this tip. If you have any suggestions, please post them, I am sure some genius will have something to add. 🙂

Really Customized Urls for SEO in Rails

I needed to build urls that were packed with keywords for SEO. I needed to make sure that the url more fully described the contents of the page.

This default rails url does not cut it.


This does cut it.


So here is the hack that I did to get the desired affect. (Suggestions or insults on my approach are welcomed!)

First, I added this code into a plugin that I was using for our custom routes stuff. You can probably add this to the environment.rb file or better yet to a a file within lib and just make sure that you require the file from within environment.rb. I really needed to add the ’-’ as a delimiter.

This is step is important because by default rails uses slashes (/) as a dilimeter for parts of the url, but by adding a dash (-) to the array things work the way they should.

module ActionController
  module Routing
    SEPARATORS = %w( / ; . , ? -)  

Then I added a named route (config/routes.rb) that looked something like this:

map.d '/d-:destination_global_id-:name*other_params', :controller => 'destinations', :action => 'show', :canonicalize => true, :destination_global_id => /\d{1,20}/, :name => /[^-]+/

Now we can create helper methods that take all of these wonderful parameters.

def custom_d_path(destination, params={})
  ) + (params.size > 0 ? create_other_parameters(params) : "")

The method string_for_url() just replaced spaces with underscored and removed illegal characters.

The create_other_parameters() appended parameters in a subtle way that ensured that Google and Yahoo! wouldn’t get prejudice about dynamic pages with parameters. (This is another topic for another time.)

In short, now we can simply call custom_d_path(destination) from any view (or controller if we included the helper in both ActionView and ActionController classes).

I realize that there may be a better way to do this to make it simpler to code, but this is a simple example of a way to solve this problem.

Now for a couple of caveats:

  1. For those who have OCRD (obsesive compulsive REST disorder) the urls may not suite your style. I use them for the read only pages of a site.
  2. You may not need to go to this extreme to keyword pack your urls… there are many other approaches that may be more robust and easier to implement.

Hopefully this example helps someone. 🙂