URLs for SEO are an important, though often overlooked, element of optimization that can benefit your website’s rankings. Typically, when best practices for SEO are discussed, the focus is on using the most important keywords throughout your website in places like meta descriptions, title tags, the alt text of images and page copy. Given the fact that more than 3.5 billion Google searches are performed each day, visibility in search engines is critical to the success of a website and anything that can give your web pages an edge to help it top the rankings should be done.
Setting Your URL Structure Getting a standard URL structure into place can take some time and planning, but once you have your main structure defined, picking the right URL for each web page on your site can be one of the easiest parts of on-site SEO. Make sure you customize your URLs for best results every time. A well-structured SEO friendly URL looks concise and clean, provides a better user experience, is easier to share, and is optimized for search engines. While it is not a major ranking factor, URL structure can help a page show higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and impact the decision-making of searchers. Jul 17, 2018 Setting Your URL Structure Getting a standard URL structure into place can take some time and planning, but once you have your main structure defined, picking the right URL for each web page on your site can be one of the easiest parts of on-site SEO. Make sure you customize your URLs for best results every time.
You can get one over on your competitors by creating a strong URL structure that can help set your site up for SEO success in Google, as explained in the Google Search Console Content Guidelines.
Competition to rank as high as possible in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) is higher than ever before as digital marketing teams are heavily investing in SEO. Taking your site optimization to the next level can help you stand out from the crowd and rank higher than the competition.
To make a start, follow these steps to optimize your URLs for SEO – appealing to search engines like Google and Bing, as well as search engine users.
Take control of your links with Rebrandly
Creating consistency between what your URL reads and your page title can boost your rankings in search engines. One way to do that is to match your URL structure to your page title.
Let’s say your page title is ‘Build a Memorable Brand Experience’. If a user performs a Google search and clicks through to your site, the expectation is that the URL for that page matches the page title – and the page content matches both.
This practice helps search engines index your site, but it also builds trust and authority with your audience. Here’s what we mean in action.
Page title: Build a Memorable Brand Experience
Your SEO-friendly URL could be: https://www.domain.com/build-memorable-brand-experience
Your URLs should appeal to two audiences: Google and its users. If the topic of your page isn’t quickly understood by glancing at the URL, it’s not optimized for SEO. Words that don’t add meaning are considered extra and can be removed. On their knowledge base, website optimization company, Yoast, has compiled a list of stop words that are the most common words in the English language. The list includes words like “and” and “the.”
An example of a URL containing stop words would be:
The same URL optimized for SEO by removing stop words would be: https://www.domain.com/optimize-url-structure-seo
Like stop words, elements of punctuation can be considered non-necessary characters. But they deserve to be explained in their own section. With the rise of content marketing practices and companies heavily investing in the development of helpful resources to answer commons questions, your page title might be a question. Or it may include commas, parentheses, quotation marks, etc.
While punctuation is completely fine in SEO elements like title tags and meta descriptions, don’t include them in your URLs. They will only create confusion for search engines and distractions for users, which will negatively impact your search engine rankings.
Web development and design blog, Perishable Press, has a great list of safe vs. unsafe characters to reference.
Break up descriptive words within your URL to improve readability for users and search engines. A recurring debate in the SEO community has been hyphens (these-are-hyphens) vs. underscores (there_are_underscores) and which format Google prefers. Interestingly enough, Google does not treat hyphens and underscores the same when indexing URLs. Hyphens are considered word separators that improve URL readability while underscores are treated as word joiners.
Google would read https://www.domain.com/optimize-url-structure-seo as ‘optimize url structure seo’.
But it would read https://www.domain.com/optimize_url_structure_seo as ‘optimizeurlstructureseo’.
As you can see, Google’s translation of your URL with hyphens is easier to read than the jumbled one with underscores.
A dynamic URL is a “URL that results from the search of a database-driven website or the URL of a website that runs a script.” They often contain characters like ?, &, %, +, =, $, cgi-bin, .cgi and are common on e-commerce sites.
Whenever possible, avoid URLs with dynamic parameters as search engines prefer static, SEO-friendly URLs with a logical structure and descriptive keywords. If your content management system automatically creates URLs with dynamic parameters, a workaround to create URLs for SEO is to use a custom link shortening tool like Rebrandly to have more control over the parameters and unique keywords included in your URL.
For example, with a custom link shortening tool, you can transform https://www.domain/xyzproduct/i?HAPL=u#abc43567qw into nike.sneakers/running
Your URLs should be as straightforward and as short as possible. URLs often contain many subfolders and this structure can make it difficult for search engines to crawl your site. To create SEO-friendly URLs, keep them clean by limiting the use of subfolders.
A URL with subfolders could be:
While a URL for SEO would have subfolders removed like this:
Keeping URL redirects to a minimum will put you in a favorable light with search engines. For users, redirects slow down their experience with your site and negatively impact usability. That information is shared with search engines and included in the algorithm used to rank your site.
For search engines, the redirects might not be followed correctly (or at all). That means those ranking signals might not be counted.
Avoid the risk and limit redirects when possible and, if completely necessary, use a 301 redirect for a permanent redirect, which passes between 90-99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page.
Domains are made up of three parts:
Using a descriptive domain that’s relevant to your business and incorporates your most important keywords will improve readability for users.
According to Moz, “Because of search engine’s growing reliance on accessibility and usability as a ranking factor, the easier a domain, or URL, is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines.”
So, a rule of thumb when creating URLs for SEO would be to use a descriptive, memorable domain that’s easily read by users and search engines alike.
A key element of an optimized URL is readability. The goal is to structure a URL in a way that can be easily indexed by search engines and, by default, improve search engine rankings. Long-winded, complex URLs should be avoided.
Instead, develop a URL structure for your website that follows a shorter is better philosophy.
Avoid URLs like this:
Instead, rewrite the above link into an SEO-friendly URL like this:
SEO-friendly URLs support Google’s guidelines for readability. That’s why creating URLs that use lowercase letters and standard characters is a best practice for improving search engine rankings.
Capitalized letters mixed with lowercase letters can make a URL messy. This structure also confuses search engines and users, so avoid them at all costs.
Common non-standard characters in URLs are ones we see in dynamic URLs like %, &, #, @. Some content management systems will also add non-standard characters to document files like PDFs, so be sure to check the structure before sharing your links.
Avoid URLs like this:
Instead, rewrite the above URL like this:
Domains matter when it comes to SEO, though it isn’t as important as it used to be so don’t go ditching your domain. This tip worth keeping in mind for future websites you may set up.
Domains that are short and feature an important keyword to your business will rank better. People will often link to your website by hyperlinking its name – if you have a keyword in your domain name, this will help you rank for it.
Another SEO factor that Google will look at when competitors are neck and neck is brand queries. If your website’s name is a commonly searched keywords, this will benefit your position.
It’s not always possible to follow all of these best practices with normal links. Sometimes URL structure can be out of your control, whether its because you had no say in picking the domain name in the first place or you don’t have control over your website’s subfolders. But luckily, branded links match all of the criteria for an SEO-friendly URL structure.
Even if you have a lengthy link loaded down with UTM parameters, by creating a custom short link it’s possible to get the benefit of having these parameters to track your visitors, as well as an easy to read, SEO-optimized link that will please Google and users who see it.
Branded short links include a custom domain and a custom slash tag. So instead of having an unintelligible string of characters like short.ly/X7dl8F, you can create meaningful links like Giannis.Pizza/Menu. The slash tag is where you include your keyword, and if you want to optimize your page for secondary keywords, you can create extra branded links with your secondary keywords in the slash tag to share across your marketing networks too.
Branded links are memorable and because they give readers an indication of the content you’re sharing, search engines like them and so do internet browsers – branded links can increase CTRs by up to 39%.
Implementing the best URL structure for SEO can make an impact on your site’s visibility in search engines and can help you climb up the ranks of SERPs ahead of your competitors. Following the best practices outlined here can also positively impact conversion rates by appealing to users with URLs that are simple, easy to read, memorable and trustworthy.
Brand them with Rebrandly
This Article is About:
Photo in main image by Craig Whitehead via Unsplash
Today we are going to discuss creating a website url structure which is search engine friendly and adds to the usability of your website/blog.
First we will cover the Uniform Resource Locators (URL) system for those who are not familiar with the term url, give some quick pointers on url structure then further explain good practices when creating the url structure of your website or blog.
A url is the location of your page on the web. It is shown in the address bar of the browser, in the search results and is used when someone links to your page within their website/blog, mentions your page on any of the social networking sites or bookmarks the page in their browser.
The above url is broken down into the following parts:
The first part of the url indicates the protocol of the url. There are different types of protocols but for this discussion we will keep things simple and refer to the HyperText Transfer Protocol (http).
This portion is your domain name. It is also referred to as the host or server id.
As the name used implies, this shows that the web page referenced in “filed” in a folder on the web server.
This portion of the url is actual web page file name. The .htm at the end indcates it is a static web page. File names can have different extensions (the .htm part) or depending on how the web server is set up, it could end with a / or nothing at all.
A web page does not have to be “filed” in a folder. It can be in the root of your web server file system. e.g. http://www.yourdomainname.com/web-page-file-name.htm.
Quick tips for search engine friendly and user friendly urls:
Building on the quick tips above,
A complicated url structure makes it harder for you to maintain the site and complicates the usability of the site for your visitors.
If you are considering the search engine optimization aspect of things consider what your url looks like in the results.
As you can see from the image above, your url will be truncated in the search results if too long. What does this mean? People may be less likely to click your result because they do not see a clear picture of where on your site they will be taken.
A shorter url shown in the search results could lead to more clicks if it is clear to the user where they are going to end up when they click your result.
The example above shows a more consise explanation of how the article/section relates to the user’s search.
A Note About Using Folders: Don’t forget to create an index (home page) for the folder. An advanced user may go up to the address bar in their browser and backspace the web page file name out of the url to see what else is in that folder/category. If there is no index/home page/category page in the folder they are not going to see anything. A lost opportunity to have the user explore what else you have to offer.
What is the best logical url structure for a site? The one that meets the needs of your target audience and the theme of your site. (smiles) Yes that is a vague answer but no one set up will work for all sites and audiences.
In the planning stage of your website/blog you should have done research about your target audience and learned what they are looking for and how they search the net for your particular product/service/information. This will give you an idea how they like things organized.
Do they like to search by brand? If so then maybe a url structure of http://www.yourdomainname.com/brand-name/product-name.htm would be the best url structure for your project.
Did you pick a subject where sorting into folders is not really required? e.g. http://www.yourdomainname.com/topic-of-page.htm Would work just fine.
Pick the url structure logic that best suits your target audience’s needs (keeping in mind the url length issues pointed out above). Make it easy for them to understand where to find things on your site.
When possible use words for the names of your folders and web page file names. Why? Because it is much more user friendly that is why (and may give a bit of a boost to your search engine optimization plan). Which of these are you more likely to click in the search results?
See how this previous example used words for folder (directory) names and web page file names:
Not only did they use words, they used keywords/phrases their target audience would use in the search box to find this information. Now just because we have pointed this out that does not mean you over use these phrases. That would be considered a spammy or over optimization technique which will not serve you well as far as getting found in the search results.
This however would be a poor example of using words:
Why is this a poor example? Because:
Notice how we included hyphens between words in our examples? This makes it easier for the user and the search engines to see each word.
Don’t use spaces! Some web servers (and browsers) do not like these plus it makes for a messy url listing in the search results. e.g. http://www.yourdomainname.com/queen%20size%20blankets.htm is really hard to read.
You will see some use underscores between the words (e.g. queen_size_blankets.htm). If your existing site already uses these it is not a huge deal but if you are starting fresh use hyphens. Here is a video from Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Spam Department explaining the difference:
Aug 5, 2011
Matt Cutts explains the difference between how Google interprets underscores and dashes in a URL.
When using some content management systems you will notice that they recycle the title you give the page:
Depending on which content management system you are using, you can change the web page file name. WordPress for example has an edit button to the right of the url box which you can click to edit the name:
This is something you should look into if you are using something other than WordPress. You do not need to include the, and, a, etc. in your web page file name as they just make the url long and they are ignored by the search engines.
You will notice we have used lower case for our folder and web page file names. This is because it is easier to maintain the consistency across the site (we also name images in lower case for the same reason). It is also easier to read in the search results.
Many things you do to accomplish one thing, like usability, also improves other things, like search engine optimization. A proper url structure is one of those things.
If you decide to give your existing site or blog an overhaul after reading this don’t forget to use 301 permanent redirects to guide incoming links and the search engine to your new improved url structure. Also have a custom 404 error page in place for those changes you forgot that you will fix once you run your site through a broken link check. Look for your internal links that reference the changed pages also. The broken link check will help find those.
Any questions? Ask away in the comment section below.
Copyright © 2005 - 2021 Web Page Mistakes. All rights reserved.
Follow our new articles via RSS, follow us on Twitter and submit to your favourite social networking site: