Structuring SEO-friendly URLs
One of the most straightforward ways to improve SEO for a website optimization of URL structure. If you want to improve your website’s search engine optimization, you can start by taking a look at your URLs. SEO-friendly URL structure will give your website a considerable boost in search performance. But what exactly is URL structure, and what makes it SEO-friendly or SEO-unfriendly?
Anatomy of a URL
While URL structure varies from website to website depending on the individual need or purpose of a given site, URLs all feature these five parts:
[scheme] [sub domain] [second level domain] [top level domain] [subdirectory]
[https://] [www.] [computertechreviews] [.com] [/structuring-seo-friendly-urls/]
A URL’s scheme refers to its protocol, ideally HTTPS rather than the less secure, outdated HTTP. Sub domains are added to URLs to differentiate large sections of a parent website, represented here by the root domain. A sub domain can be anything, but www (world wide web) is used by default. The top level domain is the last part of a domain name, such as .com, .org, or .net. Lastly, subdirectories or subfolders determine which part of a website is being viewed. As a visitor goes deeper into a webpage, it will be reflected in nesting subdirectories; a URL can potentially have several subdirectories.
How URL Structure Affects SEO
URL structure helps or harms search engine performance in two distinct ways.
The first should come as no surprise: complicated, obtuse URLs turn people off, which negatively impacts visitor engagement. Because search engines determine search rankings partly by measuring visitor engagement, it’s extremely important that user experience is streamlined and intuitive. A URL featuring relevant keywords, with subdomains and subdirectories acting as concise labels for easy identification and navigation, will perform better than a URL made of seemingly random strings of letters and numbers.
Which would you feel better about clicking? Which clearly describes the webpage’s content?
The second way URL structure affects SEO is via Google PageRank. Just as people have an easier time navigating your website when its URLs are helpful, rather than obtuse, web crawlers like Google have an easier time indexing and categorizing clean, effective URLs for inclusion in web searches. Like visitor experience, URLs are a variable in Google’s search ranking. Better URLs have a higher likelihood of being clicked, thus increasing that URL’s PageRank.
One excellent example of using URLs to their full capacity is observed at GoPromotional, a promotional products company that generates 100% of their leads through the web. CEO Gareth Parkin happens to have a deep understanding of SEO, and has mastered the use of URLs in maximizing organic traffic. Years of URL development, employing these general rules, coupled with other SEO best practices, has lead to incredible rankings and traffic for GoPromo.
General Rules for Better URLs
1. Intuitive structure
Your URL’s structure should follow an easy to understand, functional model. By reading a URL, a potential visitor should be able to guess what the content of the webpage will be based on sub domain, domain, and subdirectory. While there is technically no limit to the number of subdirectories in a URL, try not to let it get out of hand.
2. WWW is Obsolete
A sub domain is an important part of a URL’s organizational hierarchy, unless it’s www. While www was once considered a necessary and fashionable part of a URL, it is no longer necessary, and makes URLs appear longer than needed. Go ahead and strike it from your URL. While you’re at it, consider organizing your website with proper sub domains.
3. Words are Key
Just as you should strive to make your URLs meaningful to human readers, so too should you make them appealing to Google’s search by including valuable keywords. In fact, it’s not hard to find a good balance between SEO-friendly keywords and human-friendly language — search engines and people both appreciate clarity and relevance.
4. Lowercase Only
Subdirectories are case-sensitive, but web search queries are not. In order to avoid being skipped in a search due to an all-lowercase search query, avoid capital letters in your subdirectories. The other parts of a URL are not case-sensitive.
5. Upgrade to HTTPS
HTTP, the old standard protocol for hypertext transfer, has long been superceded by the improved HTTPS, which features added end-to-end security via data encryption. If your URL is still built on HTTP, upgrade as soon as you can to HTTPS. Upgrading to HTTPS will increase visitor confidence, especially where ecommerce is concerned. Additionally, using the outdated HTTP standard will cause a URL to be flagged as potentially unsafe by Google, impacting your unique visitor rate.
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