SEO is a big term and involves a lot of concepts, and SEO-friendly URL structures is one of them. There are many SEO experts who still believe that URL structures do not play a role in ranking your website higher in search engines. However, there is still no evidence that they do not.
Therefore, it is always advisable to use SEO-friendly URLs instead of overlooking them. Today, we have created a list of best SEO practices for URL structures, which should be served as a guide to improve your site for search engines, not as a guide to see SEO friendly URLs as a must have thing.
As a matter of fact, search engines have changed a lot since their first inceptions, thus they are capable enough of handling any technical challenges, but when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, it is always better to make things easier for them in order to get better results.
A website or a webpage is determined by URLs. Keeping them accurate, compelling and relevant is the key to getting higher rank in the search engines.
You need to keep your website’s URL as brief and descriptive as possible. For an instance, if your website has many levels, it should be reflected with folders and subfolders. In addition to this, individual pages must have descriptive length and should be human readable to make it easier for the search engines and visitors to understand it.
Before getting started on how to optimize your URL for search engines, you need to understand the important elements involved in your website URL. Having in-depth knowledge about these elements, you can easily fix problems and effectively optimize your website. A URL basically contains 4 important elements, which are as below:
A simple URL may appear like this:
Which is not only difficult to read, but also makes it hard for crawlers to crawl your website. In addition, it’s not human readable. A visitor may not understand what is inside the webpage by looking at the URL, consequently may navigate away to another website.
On the other hand, a URL like this:
Is not only human readable, but also improves your chances of getting noticed by search engine crawlers.
URLs should be human readable, easy to understand and have relevant keywords. Simple and easy to read URLs make your website SEO-friendly and drive more traffic to your website.
It is always better to have human readable URLs on your website. Easy accessibility is a major part of search engine optimization. Not until today search engines give more importance to user engagement.
If your website has more than one URL serving the same purpose, it is always better to canonicalize them for better usability. In order to canonicalization, you can either use a rel=canonical or a 301 redirect. Google does not penalize you for duplicate content not unless you start duplicating on a very large scale. But it sure can affect your website’s ranking drastically. Therefore, it’s better to play safe.
Dynamic parameters make it difficult for a user to understand the URL. If you use dynamic parameters, exclude them! It’s definitely worth your time, effort and money to make this serious change. In addition, if your website is built on one of the most popular content management systems, WordPress, you can easily perform this task with just a click. You can do so by changing permalink settings in your wordpress dashboard and exclude dynamic parameters.
If your page title or post title has stop words like a, the, of, for, but, and etc., it is not necessary to add them in the URL of the page. You don’t have to exclude them completely either. The point is you can use stop words only if your URL isn’t going out of length since shorter URLs are better than the longer ones. Therefore, check the length of the URL and then add or delete stop words accordingly.
Make your URL obvious for your visitor. If a visitor can make a right guess regarding the content inside it without even reading your content, you’ve done an amazing job. You should be aware about the fact these URLs are written down, emailed, shared and pasted, and if they are difficult to understand by a layman, no one probably even bother reading them.
As a matter of fact, static URLs are given more preference than dynamic ones. No visitor likes to see a URL where symbols like “?,” “&,” and “=” are used. Not only this, even search engines prefer to see descriptive and static URLs.
Have you been using numbers in your website URLs? If so, you have been missing out on a lot of things. You are not only holding your website back from ranking higher in the search engines, but also pulling visitors away from your website. Using something like 114/cat223/ can confuse your visitors regarding the content you’re offering inside this link. Therefore, it is always advisable to use” /brand/adidas/”instead. Even if the keyword you may want to use isn’t enough, it’s way better to make use of sensible words. If nothing else, your valuable visitors will appreciate you for making this major change.
You probably have a lot of keywords to target and you may be using a lot of them in your content and web pages to make them appear in the search results. But did you know using keywords in your website URLs can help you target them more effectively? A majority of website owners are still unaware of the fact that using keywords in the URLs can help them rank higher in the search engines in less time. Keywords are indeed one element that plays a vital role in making your website visible in search engines. Therefore, make URLs a strong marketing tool and use relevant keywords in the URLs to target them more effectively.
If you want to separate two words in your URL, it is always advisable to use hyphens instead of underscores. As a matter of fact, Google does not even consider underscores anymore. It has announced it very clearly in its algorithm. It is specially written to consider dashes and hyphens, not underscores. No matter what type of website you have, in order to rank higher in the search engines, you need to follow their algorithm strictly, and you can’t deny the fact that Google is one of the largest search engines on the internet. You obviously wouldn’t want to disappoint Google. Therefore, you have to abide by their rules and algorithms.
As an example:
When it comes to using capital letters in the URL, websites using windows as their hosting servers have upper hand. Your website www.yourwebsite.com/contact would be treated similarly to www.yourwebsite.com/Contact. However, if your website is on linux server, you may need to be more careful in structuring and writing your URLs since linux is case sensitive and does not consider the above mentioned URLs as same. The linux server will consider these two URLs as two different links. Consequently, one link will display the website, whereas the other link will not. Not only this, if you were using windows server to host your website and recently moved to linux server, you will have a lot of confusion and problem in serving your valuable visitors and customers. Moreover, capital letters only make things more complicated, including search engines and people. Using capital letters encrypt your website URL and makes it hard to keep into account. Therefore, it is always advisable to avoid capital letters and using only small letters to write your URL.
It may come as a surprise that Robots.txt is one of the most important files that may be holding your website back for ranking higher in the search engines. A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages to crawl and which to avoid. Robots.txt is normally used to block webpages with delicate or duplicate information on pages that can be reached via multiple URLs. As an example, if you don’t want your one webpage to be listed in the search engines, you can block it with the help of robots.txt. In addition to this, robots.txt helps you to not get penalized for the duplicate content in two different URLs. For instance, using a search feature on your website creates duplicate and dynamic and duplicate URLs to the same page, depending on the user’s filtered search.
A majority of websites overlook the importance of using a Favicon. A favicon is usually a little icon next to the URL of your website. Adding a Favicon has number of advantages including getting higher rankings in the search engine. Search engines like Google consider Favicon as an important element in determining the worth of your website. In addition to this, a favicon also builds a unique brand image for your website. Favicons also highlight more in browser bookmarks, assisting in brand trust and recognition. These may not have direct impact on your ranking in the search engine result page but they do play a vital role in pushing your website to the first page of the search engines. There is a direct correlation between search engine ranking and favicon. The bottom line is it’s always better to have one.
URL optimization and cleaning for simple navigation and indexing by users and search engines are a vital part of search engine optimization. It’s worth spending time on creating human readable and SEO-friendly URL structures.