Sandvox 1.6.6 Tweaks Search Engine Friendliness

We've just updated Sandvox to version 1.6.6. This is primarily a maintenance update, with fixes to a few problems that people have reported over the last few months.

The one new feature we wanted to point out is a subtle change in how file names are created. After reading a blog post by Google spokesperson Matt Cutts, we decided that it would be better for our automatically generated file names to use dashes, not underscores, to separate words. At least, this is how it will work for newly created, unpublished pages.

Here's how it works: Let's say you give your page a title like "Sandvox 1.6.6 Tweaks Search Engine Friendliness." Sandvox will automatically come up with a name for that post, based on the title of the post, by stripping out non-alphanumeric characters and substituting spaces for dashes, and truncating if the file name is going to be very long. (Sandvox wants to make sure that its files can be uploaded to just about any server, so even if your web host could handle longer names or other characters in the file name, it's better to be on the safe side.

In older versions of Sandvox, the file name would become something like "sandvox_166_tweaks_search_e.html", but in the new version, the file name will be "sandvox-166-tweaks-search-e.html". It's easier to type, and apparently easier for Google to extract the individual words from.

This file name shows up in the page details area in the lower left corner of the document window. You are free to override this title if you want — we did that for this page so that the more important words "search engine" are in there and the less important word "tweaks" is not. Note that once you explicitly override the automatically-generated title, or once you publish the page to your web host, the title will no longer change even if you change the title of your post.

What's important to notice is that Sandvox does not change the automatically generated file titles for any existing pages or collections. This is extremely important. Once your website is published, there is a good chance that somebody is linking to the pages on your website. It's not a good idea to be changing the file title — from which the URL is derived — on any already-published page.

If you really want your already-published pages to use dashes instead of underscores, you are welcome to change the file names and re-publish your website, but please be aware of the consequences. There may be links to your old page URLs, and if you don't delete the old files from your web host, you may end up with your old page still on your server, plus your newly-renamed page as well. That's a big mess, and you should avoid that! (If you are using Apache, you can probably get clever with .htaccess files and "Redirect" directives, but this is not for the faint of heart!

Most people will not even notice or care about this change. We just wanted to do as close to the "right thing" as possible going forward.