You may not think it, but URLs that have been well structured and optimised for SEO are beneficial in more ways that you would think. URLs are not only crucial for telling users where they can find the content that you have produced, but they are also essential for improving both the user experience and search engine optimisation of your website and webpages.
Alike to how a page title (also known as an H1) or a meta title can tell both search engines and users what your content is about, is the same way URLs can help search engines and users understand about what your content is about before they even visit your page. That is why it’s essential to make your URLs both as descriptive and alluring as possible.
In this article, we’ll show you how you can optimise your URL structure for SEO, to ensure that you provide users with a better experience of your webpage and provide search engines with a better understanding of your webpages, their content and the value they provide.
What is a URL address?
First things first, a URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL address is the location of a resource on the internet. A URL contains both the location of a resource and identifies the protocol which is used to access the resource.
A URL address is not to be confused with the domain or a domain name, although it does makeup part of the URL. In fact, the URL is made up of 4 components: the protocol, domain, path and a query string and are as follows:
- Query string:
What is the basic structure of a URL?
Two main structures of URLs are commonly used for URL structure best practices, flat URLs and hierarchical URLs.
What is a flat URL structure?
A flat URL refers to a URL which only contains a path and isn’t more than one folder deep on the site, for instance:
What is a hierarchical URL structure?
A hierarchical URL is a URL which clearly defines the site hierarchy or the structure of the site within that URL:
What is the best URL structure for SEO?
There is not a lot of evidence to prove that a flat URL is actually more beneficial than a hierarchical URL, although many digital marketing and SEO experts have made the suggestion that a flat URL is better for best SEO practices. However, to stand you in good stead for the future of creating pages and helping you to define your site structure clearly, it is recommended that you opt for a hierarchical site structure.
How to create SEO friendly URLs
Now you understand how you should structure your URLs; your next step is to understand the tips and tricks that will help your URL structure optimisation.
1. Give a clear indication of what the page will be about
With your URL structure, you want to be able to ensure that both search engine crawlers and users who are searching for your website or your targeted keyword can understand what your page or the content on your page is about. That’s why it is essential that you ensure search engines and users with an URL that proves the relevancy and the value of your page over other pages.
2. Focus on the readability of the URL
You’ll want to ensure that search engines and users are able to read your URL; therefore it shouldn’t contain special characters or numbers in the query string without there being any words. This is because it will affect the user experience of the page as users won’t be able to understand what the page will be about before they click on your page, which can make users a little wary of clicking on your page.
As well as this it can also be difficult for search engine crawlers to understand what the content of your website or webpage is about, which is why it’s essential to focus on readability and providing users and search engine crawlers with a clear indication and description of the page.
3. Don’t keyword stuff the URL
Although you want to ensure that you are providing value to your URLs to prove that your content is relevant to the keywords you are targeting, you need to make sure that you don’t keyword stuff or over optimise your URL. Back in the day when search engine optimisation first emerged, one way you could get to the top of the search engine result pages was to include your targeted keyword or keywords as many times as you wanted. Nowadays, search engine algorithms are a lot more sophisticated and can identify when someone is spamming or over using a keyword in the hopes of appearing more relevant.
Today keyword stuffing is more likely to see you receive a penalty as opposed to seeing your pages rank in high positions, so try to strike a balance between using your keyword or a variation of your keywords 1-2 times at the most.
4. Don’t make it too long
For better user experience you want to ensure that your URL is able to be read all in its entirety in the address bar on whichever web browser you are using. Ideally, you want to be aiming for a URL that is within around 50-60 characters long, although anything up to about 100 characters is acceptable, although not recommended.
5. Don’t capitalise words
It’s poor SEO practice to put capitalised letters in the URLs of your pages. This can affect users who are typing and misspelling your URLs. As well as this, search engines can also tell the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters and can create duplicate pages of your URLs, which can mean that users will end up on a 404 error which can ultimately affect your page’s rank.
6. Opt for dashes instead of underscores
It is recommended to use dashes instead of underscores in your URL. Although you may not see much of a difference between the two, there is. In fact, search engines such as Google, interpret words that contain an underscore between them as one word which can make them harder to read. To show search engines that your URL is made up of separate words, it’s a good idea to separate your words with dashes or ‘hyphens’.
7. Try to limit your folders
Although it doesn’t ultimately matter how many folders or ‘paths’ you have in your URL, the further away your target keywords are from your domain, the less of an impact they have on the optimisation of your URL. As well as this, the more paths you have in your URL will ultimately affect the length of your URL which ideally you want to keep as short and concise as possible. So, try to keep your paths to an absolute minimum unless they are necessary.
8. Remove subdomains
Generally, subdomains prove a problem for both websites and search engines, this is because when subdomains are crawled, they are usually believed to be a separate entity to the root domain. Therefore, when search engine crawlers and bots are indexing the pages on your website and your web domain, they will be indexed as different websites, meaning that any authority your subdomain achieves will not benefit your root domain and vice-versa. That’s why it’s a good idea to get rid of any root domains which could be affecting the overall search engine optimisation of your website.
In summary, you should ensure your URLs are the following:
- Clear indicators of the content of the page
- Easily read and understandable
- Aren’t over optimised for keywords
- Between 50-60 characters or under 100 characters
- Contain no uppercase letters
- Contain hyphens instead of underscores
- Paths or folders are limited
- Subdomains are removed