URL Structure: Understanding URLs & How They Impact SEO
Creating and developing a powerful SEO strategy for your website should always be one of your highest priorities. With that in mind, you have to consider all aspects and stay open to every possibility that will come in handy to make sure your site will rank positively.
But little do we know and are less likely to notice the importance of URLs in driving traffic to our website. A URL is equal to a home address that allows people to find you easily. Most importantly, it defines your business, which helps visitors and even Google understand what your page is all about.
Can a well-structured URL grow your online presence? Does it help you rank and establish your roots on the first page of Google’s SERP?
Let’s find out how URLs can make or break your SEO strategy.
What is a URL?
Uniform Resource Locators, or URL for short, is commonly known as a web address. When you type the web address on the search query, the browser will locate or access the certain web page you entered or resources on the internet.
As we are all aware, computers have language that comes in numbers and letters. But, as can be seen – a URL or web address is composed of human-readable text. The URL is particularly designed in text to replace the numbers known as IP addresses – which are used by computers to communicate with the servers.
The Two URL Types
URLs are classified into two types:
- Static URL: A Static URL has no variable strings which mean it remains the same as it is not dynamically generated. Unless there are changes made in the HTML coding – the content will remain the same.
- Dynamic URL: Have variable text strings that change depending on variable parameters that are provided by the server that delivers them.
Regarding ranking, the key is consistency, which a Static URL offers. Also, URLs are imposed with shorter than 2,083 characters that are ideal in all browsers.
We recommend keeping your URL short, consistent and keyword-rich (without stuffing). This will allow you to have the best chances for your chosen keywords.
How to Structure URLs
With modern-day technology and platforms, such as WordPress’ SEO, creating an SEO-friendly URL is simple. You need to understand what keywords you can target, and then populate those keywords into the URL. This is the simplest form to explain it. However, there are many methods to do so more effectively.
It’s crucially important that URLs are named correctly straight off the bat. This will prevent having to implement any redirects later.
We have taken the below example from Google to best explain how simple URLs convey content-relevant information. This would classify as an SEO-friendly URL, contrary to the unfriendly alternative.
URLs like the following can be confusing and unfriendly:
If your URL is meaningful, it can be more useful and easily understandable in different contexts:
We can easily deduce that the above URL is a resource page about Australian internet statistics.
Tiers of URLs: Breaking It Down
HTTP or HTTPs (“s” stands for secure) is the web browsers and servers standard language. This web protocol is responsible for enabling communication online and transfer of data from one machine to another. Moreover, it may also include the following protocol such as “mail to://” which opens your default mail client or “ftp://” which handles file transfers.
For online security, HTTPs is more ideal than the standard HTTP. Today, people are increasingly aware of identity theft and other cybercrime on the internet. By implementing this security protocol, it will protect your visitors, assure them your website is secured and help your site rank better on Google.
The sub-domain in a URL which is the WWW exists for one purpose – it is to identify the address as a website. For the most part, WWW serves no technical purpose, it’s an unintentional and widespread standard practice.
Although it’s possible to create a domain without including WWW, there are necessary steps to consider.
The domain name or the hostname is a human-readable text of the specific location of the resource, which in most cases is the web address of a website.
Top-level domain or TLD for short, refers to the website’s category, which we’re all familiar with .com. Moreover, there is a range of categories available today such as .edu for educational sites, .gov for government sites and many more.
PATH & QUERY STRING
A URL also contains a subdirectory or extensions that help define specific content. It helps people understand which section of the webpage they’re on.
Why URL Matters in SEO
Google’s search engines factor several variables such as title tag, content and link anchor text in their decision-making process, including a URL that is on top of their list.
The URLs help Google and other major search engines understand what the webpage is all about. That’s why it’s important to format the URL appropriately to support the search engine bots preference in indexing and ranking your web page.
Therefore, this is where your short, consistent and keyword-rich URL comes into the picture. An SEO-friendly URL meets the needs of the searchers and the users; because they too, have to understand what your page is all about.
Incorporating Keywords in a URL
As search engines are less likely to value words towards the end of a URL – keep in mind to place your keywords at the beginning of the URL.
Take a closer look at the following examples of an optimised and non-optimised URL, and learn how to incorporate keywords properly when creating an SEO-friendly URL.
- Optimised: https://www.redsearch.com.au/resources/australian-mobile-statistics/
- Not optimised: https://www.redsearch.com.au/category-24/post-32425
A URL should be made for the search engine bots and users for easier access to the desired content or page. So, you have to bear in mind the key aspects of an optimised URL, including:
- A URL should indicate an accurate term or phrase that pertains to your content
- Practise optimising every web page with one keyword
- Separate the words using hyphens
- Avoid using capital letters, as it can lead to duplicate URLs and loss of page rank
Best SEO-Friendly URL Practices
All digital marketers have a common goal of ranking at the top of Google’s search results. To successfully make it to the top, start with optimising your URL.
Although there are several methods that you can use in creating and implementing an SEO-friendly URL, here are the best SEO-friendly URL strategies.
1. Limit folders in the URL structure
URLs should contain only the necessary amount of characters for URL structure and folders.
2. Use hyphens in between words
According to Google, it’s best to keep away from using spaces or underscores in the URLs. Therefore, hyphens are the standard way of separating words in a URL.
Here’s an example of utilising a hyphen as a word separator in the URL structure: https://www.redsearch.com.au/blog/url-optimisation-tips
3. Short and Keyword-rich
Simply put, short and sweet but do not place irrelevant words. As mentioned earlier, the URL should be created both for Google’s search engines and users. This will help the search engine and users to figure out the topic of your content easily.
4. Make it inviting to Click and Share
The URL plays a vital role in improving the click-through rate from Google’s search results. So, create a unique and enticing URL for the search engine and users. It is given that if it doesn’t look pleasing to the eye, the person will less likely click and share it.
5. Use lowercase
Even though this doesn’t cause a big deal since modern servers don’t mind whether it’s in lowercase or capital letters, it’s the same. However, some servers take this issue to another level. To be safe or as a precautionary measure, it’s best to use lowercase in the URLs.
Bad SEO URL Practices
When search engines crawl the web, they search for a coherent URL structure. So, in case the search engine finds it difficult and confusing, without a doubt-it’s not going to pull it out of its hat.
An SEO-friendly URL structure allows search engines to make sense of each page. Besides learning about what makes a great SEO-friendly URL structure, it’s also important to learn what to avoid.
1. Avoid creating complicated URLs
Needless to say, a URL that doesn’t make sense makes it harder for the search engines to realise what your page is about.
2. Overlooking the use of Canonical Tag
Most eCommerce companies encounter this type of issue by accidentally creating multiple URLs for the same content.
3. Creating multiple Homepage URLs
Some developers don’t realise how it’s best to merge the Homepage and lead users to a single URL.
4. Keyword stuffing
Overdoing keywords to the URL will not do any good for your ranking. It might even hurt your webpage’s ranking as Google penalises this type of activity.
5. Creating an excessive amount of redirects
Rule of thumb, do not abuse 301 redirects especially if the homepage no longer exists. Use it only when you change the URL’s name, moving contents to a new page and other similar activities.
6. Take precedence with subdomain
Always take into consideration that search engines will treat the sub-domain as a separate entity from its primary domain.
Therefore, it’s best to utilise a subfolder as this action can affect multiple functions of the SEO, such as trust value and link building, unless you have a valid reason to use a subdomain.
Overall, the key component of URL and all aspects of SEO is usability. Also, when creating your website, keep the user in mind, including Google’s search engines. Utilising these best practices for SEO-friendly URLs, should help your website rank higher in the search results and invite users to visit your pages.
Furthermore, bear in mind that Google likes to change the rules. So always keep your eyes peeled for changes in the world of SEO. To discuss the best URL structure alternatives for your business, speak with our Sydney SEO specialists today.
We serve a multitude of industries across Australia and are confident we can help you too!