If you want to make the most of both user experiences and search engine optimization, your URLs must follow a set of best practices.
URLS are kind of important. They’re oftentimes the first impression we have when we navigate to a site, and are also one of the first things the mighty Google takes a look at. In fact, URL length is #46 in their top 200 ranking factors, and keyword usage in the URL isn’t far behind, at #51. The kicker here, is that if you don’t plan ahead for greatness, they can be difficult to fix.
With that being said, if you want to make the most of both user experiences and search engine optimization, your URLs must follow a set of best practices. Let’s take a look at the most effective steps!
1. Select a Top-Level Domain
Before you start anything, use a “.com” domain, rather than “.tech”, “.biz.”, etc. if possible. If you opt for a domain other than “.com”, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, it won’t affect your rankings at all.
What it does do, however, is increase trust in your users. We’re more inclined to trust “.com” domains, and while it’s not always feasible to acquire your brand’s name with that domain, it’s something to keep in mind.
2. Work in Your Keywords
That’s right; there’s no resting on the seo keywords, even with your URLs! You’ll want to work each one of your webpages around a single keyword. This keyword, along with other relevant terms should also be featured in your URL.
Make sure that the more important each one is, the closer they are to the beginning of the URL, as words towards the end aren’t much taken into consideration by search engine spiders.
As is a common rule with content, keyword stuffing should never be practiced, as this can hinder your site rather than help it. Using too many similar words in a single URL can also be seen as keyword stuffing, so it’s best to keep things brief.
3. Word Count
So, just how many words should be used? Try to aim for around three to five words per URL. This gives users a straightforward idea of what the site is going to be about. Select a few that describe the essence of your content while trying to keep in under 60 characters. Google will actually truncate your URL in search results pages after 512 pixels, so keep them as short as you can while still delivering your main idea.
4. Create a Logical Structure
This is what I’m referring to when I mention planning ahead. You want to create a kind of hierarchy which gives a natural flow from your domain, to category, to sub-category, and so on. Start with the broader subject and work your way down to the specifics. If you start out with a very particular subject, it’s likely you’ll end up with a jumbled mess of sub-domains and conflicting paths.
Static URLS which have a logical folder structure and relevant keywords will help users figure out what your page is about just by glancing at the URL name.
5. Stop Words Aren’t Needed in SEO
Take a look at your title/headline. Does it include stop words (and, a, of, etc.)? Regardless of whether does or doesn’t, you don’t need to add them in your URL. You don’t necessarily need to leave them out, either, but it could make the URL shorter and easier to read if you don’t include them.
Use your common sense in this case to determine if it’s going to make more sense to leave out the stop word or not. If taking it out makes it sound like an incoherent mess, just leave it. We’re aiming for readability for both humans and search engines, remember.
6. Canonicalize Similar URLs
If you have a couple URLs which serve very similar content, think about canonicalizing them. While duplicate content doesn’t penalize you, it can create a split of ranking signals which can damage your search traffic potential.
Boost your pages’ chances to rank and gain visitors by using either a 301 redirect or a rel=canonical. The 301 redirect is ideal if you don’t really need to keep your duplicate.
7. Use Hyphens and Lowercase Letters
Our next tip may seem small, but will make a big difference. When separating words in URLs, Google recommends using hyphens rather than underscores.
It’s quite simple: hyphens are looked at as spaces between words, while words connected with underscores are viewed as a single word. Spaces can work, but they may render oddly in URLs as “%20” which makes your pages less readable and user-friendly.
While you may already know this, it’s also crucial to use solely lowercase letters.
Using uppercase letters can cause potential redirects or 404 errors on some servers. This probably won’t happen often, but why risk it?
More than anything, just make sure your URLs are easily digestible. There is always going to be a direct relation between how user-friendly your site is, and overall SEO. Not only is this just easier for your users, but it can potentially bring in more visitors when the links are shared.
We’re probably not very likely to click on a jumbled mess of words. In fact, many of us are going to be worried an incoherent URL is a virus or a link to a sketchy site. In contrast, one which portrays a clear idea/image may just capture our interest and lead us right to visiting a page.
As previously mentioned, overall, user-friendliness is king. Making your URLs search engine optimized doesn’t have to be a difficult process, and over time, these steps will be second nature for you. Happy creating!