Many things are often overlooked when doing SEO for your business. Writing proper meta descriptions that convince people to click through to your website and optimizing your images for SEO is another one. This article will talk about the URL structure of your website and how that can affect your search engine rankings.
You see, having an SEO-friendly URL structure can play a vital role in determining the visibility of your website on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). After all, it helps search engines understand the content on your page better, making it easier to rank higher in search results.
That is why we have an entire article dedicated to the importance of URLs in SEO, and we will provide you with practical tips on how to create SEO-friendly URLs. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned digital marketer, a small business owner, or responsible for the website of a large corporation. We will teach you everything you need to know about optimizing your URLs for search engines.
Table of Contents
- Why are URLs Important for SEO?
- How to Create SEO-Friendly URLs
- Are keywords in URLs used for ranking?
- Multiple URLs serving the same content? Canonicalize ’em!
- Exclude Dynamic Parameters when Possible
- Why Fewer Folders are Generally Better in your URL
Why are URLs Important for SEO?
URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) play a crucial role in SEO by assisting search engines in comprehending the content and structure of a website. They offer meaning to your web pages and make categorizing them easier for search engines.
With proper keywords and a logical hierarchy, a well-structured URL can boost your website’s visibility, resulting in a higher click-through rate from the SERP.
Additionally, URLs provide context for the content on a page, giving users a preview of what to expect before they click on a result. As a result, optimizing your URLs can significantly improve your website’s search ranking, making it more straightforward for potential customers to find and interact with your content.
How to Create SEO-Friendly URLs
Creating an SEO-friendly URL may seem like a small detail, but it can significantly impact your search rankings. Getting it right the first time is essential, as changing the URL structure later on can result in broken links that are difficult to fix. Not only do you have to fix links on your own website, but you also have to reach out to other websites linking to your content.
So, to save yourself the headache of fixing broken links down the line, it’s worth taking a moment to consider your URL before hitting publish. It’s a small investment of time that can pay off big in the long run.
If you’re looking for some best practices for creating SEO-friendly URLs, here are a few to keep in mind:
Describe your Content
The first step in creating an SEO-friendly URL is to describe the page’s content. This helps search engines understand the context and relevance of the page, making it easier to rank for relevant search queries. Ensure your URLs accurately describe the content of your page by avoiding using vague or generic terms.
Include Keywords in URLs
Including relevant keywords in your URLs is another way to improve their search ranking potential. Keywords in URLs can help search engines understand the context of a page and what the main focus, the main topic of that page, is about. Next to that, it can also increase the visibility and click-through rate (CTR) of search results. When you start to include keywords in your URLs, ensure they are relevant to the page’s content and don’t start to keyword stuff by adding the same keyword multiple times.
The importance of keywords in URLs has decreased over the years, though. While they were confirmed in 2016 by Google’s John Mueller as a ranking factor, in 2017, he made the stance a little bit more nuanced by stating, “Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO.” Instead, like most things in SEO, Mueller recommends choosing the right keywords in URLs mainly for the users and not for search engines, going as far as to say in 2021:
“We use the words in a URL as a very very lightweight factor. And from what I recall, this is primarily something that we would take into account when we haven’t had access to the content yet.
So if this is the absolute first time we see this URL and we don’t know how to classify its content, then we might use the words in the URL as something to help rank us better.
But as soon as we’ve crawled and indexed the content there, then we have a lot more information. And then that’s something where essentially if the URL is in German or in Japanese or in English, it’s pretty much the same thing.”
Use Hyphens to Separate Words
Using hyphens to separate words in your URLs will improve their readability and search ranking potential. Hyphens help search engines understand the structure of your URLs and can also make them easier for users to understand and remember.
As Google itself points out in one of its webmaster articles, search engines like a simple URL structure. So make sure your URLs are as simple as possible. Complex URLs, especially if they contain a lot of parameters, can cause problems with indexing and crawling your website and content.
A dynamic URL is also less understandable for a user and will, therefore indirectly affect the click-through rate from the SERP (more on that in a moment).
Just look at this URL: https://www.yourwebshop.com/ce/en/category/34926474/bluetooth-speakers. There are a lot of items in that URL that most people and Google can’t figure out. A better URL would be https://www.yourwebshop.com/audio/bluetooth-speakers so you and Google can tell right from the URL what to expect on the page.
How many words should you use, or what is the ideal URL length for SEO?
Words matter when it comes to URLs and search ranking! It’s best to be succinct and strategic, utilizing only the keywords that matter most. The sweet spot? Keeping your URLs under 60 characters, with spaces included. The fewer words, the better!
At Backlinko, they did research on this. After examining 11.8 million Google search results, they concluded that shorter URLs often ranked better than longer URLs.
Even so much better than URLs at the first position on the search results page were, on average, 9.2 characters shorter than the URLs that appeared at position number 10 in the results. The average URL length in Google’s top ten came to 66 characters.
See, not only is it easier for Google to understand what your page is about (see also the point about readability), but a longer URL tends to point to a page several clicks away from the home page. That usually means less authority going to that page. Less authority means lower rankings.
Write memorable URLs
Aside from having the all-important search engine advantage, crafting URLs that stick in mind and are easy for users to comprehend is equally critical. This can not only increase the CTR from search results but also boost the chances of users sharing your content and linking back to your site – a win-win situation!
Are keywords in URLs used for ranking?
The use of keywords in URLs has been a topic of discussion in the SEO world for a long time. In the early days of search engines, keywords in URLs were considered a crucial factor in determining search rankings. However, with advancements in search algorithms, the significance of keywords in URLs has diminished.
Nowadays, other elements such as high-quality content, backlinks, and user engagement play a more substantial role in determining search engine rankings. Yet, this doesn’t mean that keywords in URLs are obsolete. On the contrary, keywords in URLs can still benefit SEO, as they provide a clear context for the content on a page, making it easier for search engines and users to understand.
However, it’s essential to avoid overstuffing URLs with keywords, as this could have a negative impact on search rankings. Keywords should be included naturally and relevantly rather than solely for ranking purposes.
In short, keywords in URLs may not hold the weight they once did, but they still have a role to play in SEO and improving user experience. When crafting URLs, focus on clarity, conciseness, and relevance to the page’s content.
Multiple URLs serving the same content? Canonicalize ’em!
Multiple URLs with identical content? It’s time to choose a “canonical” one!
Having multiple URLs that lead to the same content can lead to confusion for both search engines and users. To avoid this, it’s crucial to canonicalize your URLs. This means selecting the best URL among several options and directing all traffic to that URL. This way, search engines can identify the preferred URL to be indexed and prevent any penalties for duplicate content.
You can add a
"rel=canonical" link element in the HTML code of the pages with duplicate content. This tells search engines which URL is the preferred one to be indexed. Keep in mind that this tag should only be used for pages with nearly identical content; it’s not intended for completely different pages with similar content.
Server-side redirects, such as 301 redirects, are another way to handle multiple URLs with the same content. Any traffic to the duplicate URLs will be redirected to the preferred URL, eliminating confusion and avoiding penalties from search engines.
In short, canonicalizing your URLs ensures that search engines understand your website’s structure and prevent any penalties for duplicate content. It’s a crucial step in making your website SEO-friendly and optimizing it for better search engine ranking.
Exclude Dynamic Parameters when Possible
Dynamic parameters also referred to as query parameters, are elements of a URL that change based on user actions, like sorting or filtering. While they are convenient for users, they can lead to a few problems. They result in multiple URLs serving the same content, causing confusion for both users and search engines, as well as leading to duplicate content issues that negatively impact your search engine ranking.
To avoid these issues, it’s best to exclude dynamic parameters. This is achieved by a process known as URL canonicalization, which involves choosing one URL to represent multiple pages with similar or identical content. For example, instead of https://example.com/?sort=price, you can use https://example.com/products for all products on your site.
If you can’t avoid using dynamic parameters, monitor your site performance using Google Search Console, and use the rel=”canonical” tag to indicate your preferred URL. Additionally, ensure each URL has unique and relevant content to avoid duplication issues.
While there used to be a special tool inside of Google Search Console called the “URL Parameters tool,” that one is now deprecated. Instead, Google is recommending making use of your robots.txt rules to control how search engines need to handle potential dynamic parameters they find.
An example of how to achieve this:
Disallow: /*/post // any segment that starts with "post"
Disallow: /*?post= // the post query parameter
Disallow: /*=post // any value that starts with "post"
Understand, though, that not all bots support wildcards, and of those that do, some are buggy. Bing and Google handle them correctly. There’s no guarantee if other bots do. So it is always better to use the
"rel=canonical" tag to make sure ALL search engines get the correct URLs indexed.
Why Fewer Folders are Generally Better in your URL
URL structure plays a crucial role in website optimization, and a well-structured URL with fewer folders can provide numerous benefits. Here are just a few reasons why shorter, more straightforward URLs are the way to go:
- Navigating with Ease: Users have a simpler time navigating shorter URLs with fewer folders, enhancing their overall experience on your site.
- Enhanced Crawlability: Search engines can swiftly index and crawl websites with concise URL structures, boosting your site’s ranking in search results.
- Link Equity: Shorter URLs tend to have higher link equity – the value passed from page to page via links. This is crucial for ranking and visibility.
- Higher Click-Throughs: With an easier-to-remember and type URL, the likelihood of users clicking through to your site increases, resulting in higher click-through rates.
In short, having a shorter URL structure with fewer folders can improve website optimization by making it easier to navigate, crawl, receive link equity, and drive traffic to your site.
In conclusion, URLs are crucial in determining a website’s visibility in search results. By following the tips we have outlined in this article, you can create SEO-friendly URLs that will help search engines understand the content of your website better. The result will be a higher ranking in search results, leading to increased traffic and more visibility for your business.
Remember, a well-structured URL is a small but essential part of a comprehensive SEO strategy. So take the time to ensure your URLs are optimized for search engines, and your website will reap the benefits.