Best Practices for Structuring URLs

June 04, 2018
Best Practices for Structuring URLs

What Is a URL?

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the address of a certain website, web page or any other resource on the Internet. A URL indicates not only resource location but also the protocol to access it. Each URL includes the following information:

  • 1. Server location
  • 2. Resource access protocol
  • 3. Resource location in the directory of the server structure

In addition to these basic points there are also two optional ones:

  • 1. The port number on the server
  • 2. A fragment identifier
A URL is also often called a web address. Despite all its simplicity, a URL is more than just a combination of words and numbers that leads you to a website. A URL is an extremely powerful SEO tool that can boost your online presence but it can also make your website have a lower ranking in search engines.

Why Do URLs Matter for SEO?

URLs are a serious thing to think about when building your website. Have you been racking your brain trying to decide whether to build long URLs or short ones? Have you been asking yourself “What is an SEO friendly URL?” If so, then keep reading this article. We are going to give you some useful tips on the best site structure for SEO and URL making secrets here.

First, let’s figure out why a page URL and its structure is so important for SEO.

How Does URL Affect SEO?

URLs affect your ranking
The URL is the first thing seen by a search engine. It’s very important to make sure your website URLs are always consistent with the page content.

URLs are important to users
When people see your website URL in search results, they pay attention to whether it’s relevant to their search query. Additionally, URLs should be short so that users can remember them easily. The more optimized URLs your website has, the more chances to increase organic traffic you have.

What Is URL Structure? What Benefits Do SEO Friendly URLs have?

To put it simply URL structure is a set of elements. Web address includes:

  • 1. Hypertext transfer protocol
  • 2. Website domain name
  • 3. Subdirectory of the file
  • 4. File name of the requested resource

URLs can be short and long, SEO optimized and not SEO optimized, with keywords or without them. All these things make a URL structure. The first - and the most important - rule you should remember is that the more complicated URL structure you create, the harder it will be for you to maintain your website.

Another important thing for you to consider is SEO friendliness. Each time you create URL, you should make sure it is SEO friendly. What are the main signs of SEO friendly URLs?

  • 1. Simple wording
  • 2. Keywords
  • 3. Proper length
  • 4. Minimum of dynamic URL strings
  • 5. Proper length
  • 6. Proper logical structure
Let’s have a more detailed look at creating a perfect URL structure that will work great not only for search engines, but also for users.

The Best SEO Practices for Perfect URLs
Keep it simple

According to Google, the URL structure should be as simple as possible. Avoid using superfluous words and characters. You are making this not only for search engines, but also for your users! Your URL should be easy to read as well as easy remembered.

Keep it simple
Keep it short

Length matters. It really does. As soon as you ask yourself “How long can a URL be?”, be quick to answer “Short!”. If you want your URL to be perfect, it should be about 50-60 characters long. However, if they are a bit longer (up to 100 characters) they are still good to go. If there are less than 60 and more than 100 characters in the URL, you should probably consider rewriting it. URL length affects SEO, so be careful and attentive.

Use keywords

The URL should include keywords because it affects SEO. When you use keywords, you target for rankings. Why? Well, it’s simple. First, URL allows users see if your source is what they are looking for. The more keywords you have in your URL that are relevant to the user’s query, the more likely it is for them to follow your link. Besides, when the URL is copied and pasted (for example, someone wants to share the link to your source with friends), it’s much easier to understand what information the source provides. It’s perfect when the URL speaks for itself. However, be careful and avoid keyword stuffing.

Use keywords
Use hyphens and underscores

If you need to separate words in a URL, you have only three options: hyphens, underscores or… nothing. No spaces! If you don’t want your URL have ugly %20 or something like that, forget about spaces.
There is no big difference between hyphens and underscores, so it all depends on your personal preferences. Hyphens are more common so we would recommend you going with it.

Use canonicals when possible

Using canonical URL is good for SEO, so no wonder this is one of the best practices in search engine optimization. If your website happens to have a couple of pages with similar content, it’s recommended to use 301 redirect or canonicals. Having pages with similar content can have a bad effect on your rankings because search engines will be forced to split the value between these pages. Canonicalizing means that you tell search engines to consider one of the pages as the primary one. It means that this is the very first page that will be shown in the search results.

Avoid dynamic parameters

If possible, try to avoid using URL parameters. The more static your URL is, the better. In fact, if there are more than 2 parameters, it’s not a disaster, but it may still cause certain difficulties. For example, dynamic parameters can create strange and unreadable URLs. However, if you your website content is constantly renewed or changed (this can be something like a review platform when users provide new content on a daily basis), more likely you will not be able to avoid having dynamic elements in the URLs.

Avoid dynamic parameters
Be careful with stop words

Stop words are short words such as “like”, “the”, “a” etc. Basically these are articles, prepositions and conjunctions. They are called “stop” words because quite often people do not include them into URLs. Why? Well, some developers believe that these words make URLs look better (and shorter, obviously). However, what is often forgotten is that omitting stop words makes URLs read differently! For instance, /keeping-up-with-modern-trends/ is absolutely not the same thing as /keeping-modern-trends/. These are two URLs with absolutely different meaning, right? This is the very reason you should be careful with stop words. You CAN remove them on certain pages but make sure the meaning remains the same.

Create an XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a list of all your website pages that are crawled by search engines. Sitemap helps search engines see what content your website has and give users results relevant to their queries. The two main purposes of a sitemap are providing search engines with information on what pages of your site are the most important and helping search engines see URL duplicates (if any).

Match URLs and titles (where possible)

A situation where the URL matches the title in every single detail would be pure perfection. However, it’s not easy to get there. Despite the fact that a matching URL and title are great for better user experience, different variations of titles would also work. When working on titles and URLs, try to achieve as close of a match as possible.
Website development is a challenging thing that requires lots of thinking, comparing and analyzing. If you don’t want your site to get lost among other websites, you should consider each detail, especially such an important one as creating URL.
Creating URL structure, making it SEO friendly, choosing domain name for your website - all these are challenging yet exciting things you will face when working on your website. We wish you all the best with your project and hope this article was helpful!

Match URLs and titles

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