Such a simple task but easily looked over. What does URL even mean? URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. Essentially, it acts as the location of a specific webpage. That being said, each URL should fulfill two important requirements:
- Tell web visitors where they are on a website
- Let visitors know what the page is about
This is how URLs improve user experience, but URL structure is much more important than that. It also helps search engines understand your site’s organization and content.
Quick test – which URL do you think is more efficient for search engines?
Hair salons have services too, so wouldn’t it be best to state exactly what the service is? Your URL should be structured so that it is easily understood by both the searcher and the search engines. In this blog, we’re going to show you how your URLs impact your SEO strategy and some of the ways you can optimize your current URLs.
Tip 1: The Basic Structuring of a URL
It doesn’t matter what website you’re on or if you’re on a mobile site, they all have URLs. In fact, you may not even realize you subconsciously do this, but we trust sites more when the URL matches the content we’re looking for. URLs are broken down into 3 basic parts:
- The protocol
- The domain name
- The path
You may even have a subdomain for your blog or landing pages.
A visual representation of the structure of a URL is here:
If you’re wondering about the difference between http:// and https:// read more on our blog here: Having a secure webpage also improves the SEO of your site.
Tip 2: How are URLs so Important for SEO
Google starts its search for relative pages starting from the top down. By this point, you’ve already purchased your root domain, so we’ll be focusing on the path/slug. The auto example above is a perfect example of why being specific is better than being vague. Although the actual equation for Google ranking is never stated, it is believed by many digital marketing experts that among the top 200 ranking factors for Google, the following is true:
- URL length is ranked 46
- URL path is ranked 47
- URL keyword inclusion is ranked 51
- URL string is ranked 52
Returning to the trust factor, if the URL matches what a searcher is looking for, this instills trust and impacts how likely they are to spend more time on the page or will share the link. A bad URL structure will affect your website’s credibility and the ability of your site to convert new prospects. Simply put, you good URL will better help you achieve your business goals.
Tip 3: How Do URLs Improve SEO
URLs aren’t known to have a direct effect on your search engine rankings, but a proper structure has high potential to improve the search performance and result.
Strong URLs can improve your Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
When a person is reviewing their results on the search engine results page (SERPs), they can view 3 things:
- The name of the page (meta title)
- The description of the content (meta description)
- The URL (now breadcrumb*) for the page
*It is very important to note that after recent changes, Google no longer shows the direct URL but shows it in Breadcrumbs.
The URL accounts for one-third of what people see in the SERPs and shows second in the hierarchy. So the structure of it can directly impact whether a person decides to click, thus impacting the CTR. If the URL is clear and descriptive, you have better odds of getting that click-through. And if Google recognizes that people searching specific keywords or phrases click your link often, that improves your ranking! See how that all ties together?
Organized URLs Help Search Engines Do Their Work
When your URL is structured and strong, search engines more easily index your website. This improves your odds of getting more exposure on the web.
Structure URLs Reduce User Confusion
Many people think that SEO is only technical and that is not true. User experience is integral to SEO strategy. The easier it is to navigate a website and understand where they are on the website improves the user experience and will increase activity on your website. The second a user gets confused, they will either hit the back button or won’t click through to another page.
Tip 4: What does “SEO-Friendly URL” mean?
Simply put, SEO-friendly URLs help Google figure out which page to direct search traffic to. It is also intuitive enough for users to comprehend where they are on the site and where to go next.
Another quick quiz, without knowing the definition, can you identify which URL is the better one?
We bet you got that question right!
It is fairly obvious that the second link is not optimized for SEO and gives the user no information about the content of the page. And it is more than just a pretty link. From a UX perspective, pretty permalinks show what a page is all about, even before clicking through to the page.
But wait, what does permalink mean?
Most people that have their site in WordPress use the terms Permalink and Slug, but it’s just fancy words for the URL.
“A permalink or permanent link is a URL that is intended to remain unchanged for many years into the future, yielding a hyperlink that is less susceptible to link rot. Permalinks are often rendered simply, that is, as clean URLs, to be easier to type and remember.”
With WordPress, for example, this is very easy to do yourself.
Simply Go to Settings->Permalinks->Post Name->Save. Ta-da!
Part 5: Best Practices to Optimize your URL for SEO
This is why you came to this blog right? Best practice is to start out with the right URLs, instead of having to go back later and fix. You could get stuck with multiple redirect loops, and nobody got time for that. While there’s no concise blueprint or a one-size-fits-all method, there are some best practices to follow:
Tip 1: Choose your TLD Carefully
It is usually a good idea to select a top-level domain for your website, preferably a .com rather than a .biz, .pro, etc. The more familiar, the more trustworthy.
Tip 2: Host your Blog and/or Store on your Root Domain
If you are running an e-commerce store, it needs to be hosted on your root domain. Splitting the two is confusing and doesn’t make sense from site functionality, to site organization or from an SEO perspective. Users could lose trust if you send them to a different domain to purchase products. Likewise, Google Ads, if you are running them, won’t trust it as well.
It also makes your site have stronger SEO if everything is on the same root domain. You want all page views, time spent on site, and search traffic calculated on the same root domain. That way these ranking factors show positive increases.
The same rules go for blogs. It is easy to set up a blog feature if you’re using WordPress, yet a little more challenging for Shopify, but can be done. Don’t fall victim to free services like Tumblr or Blogger because you won’t own the blog, could lose content and there is no SEO value or benefit.
Tip 3: Secure your website
One of the first steps when launching your site should have been purchasing and implementing your SSL certificate. Your site will now be flagged and shown as “not secure” to a user if you do not have one. What used to be an option, is now really required if you want to keep web traffic. But also, it is an important ranking value.
Tip 4: Know what Keywords are Important to your Business and Include them in your URL (but Avoid Spamming)
In each URL, you should include at least one or two valuable keywords to your business. Place the most significant one at the beginning. Search engines love when you use keywords that match your page’s URL. But, it could have the opposite effect if you overdo it and Google begins to think your page is spam.
Another advantage to including keywords in your URL is that those keywords can become anchor text when a user shares your link. (Anchor text is the text used for an outgoing link, and it’s considered a ranking factor). So, when someone pastes your URL onto another site, those keywords can benefit your SEO efforts.
Tip 5: Make it Descriptive
Search engines and web visitors should be able to understand what content will be on the page based on its URL. It’s that simple.
Tip 6: Keep it Brief
This helps with the spamming issue mentioned above. The URL should be sweet and simple. It looks neater and more professional when you limit the number of words in a URL. Users can still comprehend what the page is by looking at the title, description, and URL name. Best practice is to limit your URL length to no more than 60 characters.
Tip 7: Avoid Definite and Indefinite Articles
Having flashbacks to English class? Definite and Indefinite articles are:
SEO best practice is to leave these words out to save your character count. Sometimes you have to, but that is in rare situations. If you feel your message is unclear without the use of these articles, then include them.
Tip 8: Use “Safe” Characters
Many phishing sites use characters, so it is best not to use them. Using characters is only fine if their safe and make sense. But we also think it is important for you to know which characters are safe and which are not.
Tip 9: Use Hyphens to break up words
Make sure not to confuse Hyphens (-) with underscores (_), aka an unsafe character. However, if you correctly use hyphens in between every word it makes it more readable for the user and easier for search engines to interpret the keywords. What an easy fix!
Tip 10: Avoid using Uppercase Letters
This one hurt as I wrote this title. It is easy for us to want to do this, but people usually don’t type in all CAPS, and search engines differentiate between uppercase and lowercase. This just leads to a mess, confusion, and loss of page rank. Using a mix of uppercase and lower case can lead to 404 errors or redirects on some servers. This will also hurt your ranking. So, let’s just keep it simple and stick to lowercase letters.
Tip 11: Limit the Amount of Folders
There are folders on a site? Folders on a website divide your site into different categories (like folders!) and can be seen in your URL as slashes (/). Using too many can overcomplicate the URL and make the structure confusing. Best practice? Try to limit it to two folders.
Do these best practices seem like a lot? Yeah, trust us, we get it. But, if you try to keep it organized from the start, it can be a manageable process. If appealing to both users and search engines while simultaneously following best practices seems overwhelming, well guess what? We happen to know a company that can manage it for you (👋).