Over the years, many things that were important for optimization have become less so. But even as the search engines add, remove or tweak the factors in their algorithms, even things that become less important overall are still important.
Quick example: If today the search engines looked at 10 factors for rankings and tomorrow they added 5 more, would you assume that the first ten are no longer relevant? No, of course you wouldn’t. Certainly they are less relevant, but not irrelevant. Each factor went from a relevance of 1 in 10 to 1 in 15, but that doesn’t diminish the the fact that it is still a factor.
It’s with this premise in which we look at SEO. While the search engines look at hundreds of factors, and the weight of each factor changes with each tweak, we still understand that a factor is a factor.
And URL readability is a factor. Do the search engines care about readility? No, but using relevant keywords in the URL can and does play a small role in the ability of the search engines to determine the topic of the given page.
But more importantly, a readable URL is a factor when the visitor is presented the URL. Just like search engines, the potential visitor can look at the URL and use it to determine how relevant it is to their needs.
The URL of each page should provide a somewhat accurate representation of the page’s topic. Long, complex and undreadable URLs don’t offer the visitor much. While the reader may choose to ignore the URL when presented with other information, even in the presence of that information the URL may be enough to tilt the reader in your direction rather than that of another site.
You don’t need long-winded URLs either. Each page needs only 2-3 URL words to make the visitor aware of the topic. Today, most CMS systems will allow you to customize page and post URLs rather than using default settings. Take advantage of this.
In web marketing, we call it controlling the message. Yes, controlling your message, even in your URLs, matters.