URL not only gives the location of a web page on the internet but also provides information to the search engines about the content of the page, its context and its target.
A SEO-friendly URL structure is the one that is optimised for the search engines to boost raking and also enhance the user experience.
These are the main aspect of URL optimization:
- URLs must be readable to the search engines as well as the users. URL tells the search engine what the page is about so you should customise your URL rather than use dynamically generated ones. Search engines read the URLs and connect you to your target market. Make use of short URLs as they tend to rank higher on Google.
For example, if you own a ecommerce site selling brown leather shoes then you should use your URL as http://yourdomain.com/brown-leather-shoes/ rather than http://yourdomain.com/index.php?=45657676=t77=?p=898
- Search engines regard the web pages which are in the root folder as top content that has to be prioritised over the other content. Therefore you should categorise your URLs to clearly show the search engine which URLs are important.
For example, the URL http://yourdomain.com/primary-keyword/ will get more authority than the URL http://yourdomain.com/category/primary-keyword/ which will get more authority than the URL http://yourdomain.com/category/subcategory/primary-keyword/
- Do not use capital letters in the URL as it can confuse the search engine and it may become more difficult for the readers to understand and remember. Do not use stop words like ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ and others in your URL. Avoid using special characters in the URL.
- Google bots can read hyphens and not underscores. In your URL you should separate the words using hyphens. For example, http://yourdomain.com/black-chairs
- If a site search feature is used then it can lead to dynamic and duplicate URLs to the same content. You should block the search engine from indexing multiple URLs to the same content in order to avoid duplicate content penalty. Use the robot.txt file to block the extra URLs and search pages from Google.
- Dynamic pages with filters can sometimes create duplicate content and this can lead to duplicate content penalty. To avoid this, use canonical URLs. The URL with this tag becomes the preferred URL over the other ones. You have to add rel=’canonical’ link element.
Canonical URLs If you have duplicate pages then you can use the canonical tag to tell the search engine which is the main page.
For example, If you want http://yourdomain.com/red-shoes to be your preferred URL then add rel=’canonical’ link element in the head of all those pages with the same content. This will tell the search engine to index only http://yourdomain.com/red-shoes.
In Google yourdomain.com and www,yourdomain.com are considered two different websites. You can fix this by setting one as your preferred domain and this will redirect your non-preferred domain to your preferred domain. This will avoid the search engines from thinking that you have duplicate content.
You should direct your IP address to your preferred domain. Otherwise the search engine will think that your IP address and your website are two different websites with exactly the same content.
- A favicon is a small icon next to your URL in a browser. Favicons do not impact rankings but adding them can lead to many benefits. They stand out more in browser bookmarks and this helps in brand recognition and building trust. They can help to better recognize your brand.
- If you have to change your URL then you are removing a page that Google has indexed and other sites have linked to it. To avoid this just use the 301 redirect from your old URL to the new URL. This way you will not lose link juice from a high ranking page.
- Try to include an extra target keyword or phrase in the URL. It may not be possible to include it on your Homepage but you can use it in your service pages and blog articles. You should always use HTTPS in your URL as this ensures that all the communication between the browser and the website are secure.
HTTPS and SSL
When a URL includes ‘https’ it tells the browser to encrypt the data exchanged with a web page. To use HTTPS you will have to install a SSL or TLS certificate on your website.
Using descriptive URLs for your website helps to keep it organised and it makes them easier to understand. This creates easier and friendlier URLs. You should make your URLs as simple as possible and avoid using numbers and special characters in them.
URL parameters help you to control which URLs on your website should be crawled depending on the parameter that appears in the URLs. This helps to avoid crawling duplicate content on your website. But if not implemented properly it can prevent the URLs from being crawled.
The session ID is a unique identification number generated by the website’s server. Session IDs are used in URL strings and cause a problem for search engines. Every request can produce a unique URL with duplicate content.
Keywords in URL
You should structure your website in a way that you can use keywords in the URL. It can help the users understand what the page is about. Use the most relevant keywords and avoid keyword stuffing. To optimise your website you can approach Ethical SEO services.
You should keep URLs shorter to make them user-friendly and easy to share. The length of the URLs should not be limited to 75 characters.
Make the URLs human-readable to make clear to the users what they will find once they click on the link.
URL structure and hierarchy
Use clear and consistent URLs because Google uses them to understand the structure and hierarchy of your website. Use well-optimised URLs that clearly indicate what the page is about.
A static URL does not change therefore it does not contain any URL parameters. They have the advantage that the users can easily read them. Use static URLs as much as you can.
If the content of a website is stored in a database and can be pulled for display on demand then dynamic URLs are used. You should not try to rewrite dynamic URLs to make them appear like static URLs.
Avoid stop words
Some of the stop words are ‘a’, ’the’ and ‘and’. The importance of stop words in the URL is minimal.
A URL redirect is used to send the users to a different page. There are two types of redirects: temporary (302, 303, 307 and 308) and permanent (301). Redirects are used when a single page or the entire domain is moved and to allow URL shorteners and site migration.
You can set up separate URLs for your mobile and desktop websites. For the mobile version the word ‘m’ is added to the URL.
Avoid URL parameters
URL parameters are elements inserted into URLs to help you filter or organise information on your website. You should avoid using URL parameters because they can cause duplicate content issues, loss in crawl budget, keyword cannibalisation and dilute the ranking signal.
URL structure and site architecture
In your website structure, there should be a simple hierarchy of pages, similar types of content should be grouped and the most critical pages should be on the first level. You should use a flat architecture. Keep your URLs short and include words that relate to the content on the page.
XML sitemap and URL submission
An XML sitemap contains a list of all the important pages of your website. A single sitemap is limited to 50,000 URLs and can have a file size of up to 50 MB. If you do not want an URL to appear in the search results you can use the ‘noindex’ tag.
Tracking and analytics
URL parameters are a portion of the URL that follows a question mark. They are commonly used for tracking, reordering, filtering, pagination and more. They can create SEO issues therefore they should be avoided.
URL parameter tools are used to tell the crawlers how to handle the parameters and their purpose. The UTM parameters are used for tracking the success of an SEO campaign.
You should maintain a consistent URL structure and should not place any irrelevant details in them.
Monitoring and maintenance
You should monitor your important URLs regularly to check if they are still indexed. And you will want to check if your important URLs are dropped out of the index due to technical problems or quality problems.
You should include URL optimisation in your SEO strategy to ensure that your page ranks in the search results and gets traffic.