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Unlock SEO Success with Correct URL Structures!

Ultimate guide for URL best practices

What’s a URL?

A URL, short for Uniform Resource Locator, is the digital gateway to the web, the address you type into your browser to reach a specific webpage.

Think of URLs as the digital signposts to your online presence. They’re more than just web addresses; they’re the links that beckon visitors to your website. So, is the appearance of your page URL important? Absolutely! Your link’s aesthetics matter.

What is URL Structure?

A URL, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, is essentially an internet address composed of various components: a protocol, domain name, and path.

URL Structure Breakdown:

  1. Protocol: This indicates how the browser communicates with the web page. It can be either http:// or the more secure https:// (where the ‘s’ denotes ‘secure’).
  2. Subdomain: The subdomain comes before the main ‘root’ domain in the URL. Multiple subdomains can be created, but they essentially represent different websites. It’s advisable to limit the use of subdomains unless necessary, as they are primarily used to organize content on your site. You’re not limited to ‘www’ for subdomains; you can use any string of characters.
  3. Domain Name: The domain name is the unique identifier that points to the website’s location.
  4. Top-Level Domain (TLD): Examples of TLDs include com, org, net, among others. There’s a wide variety to choose from.
  5. Path: The path specifies the exact location of a page, post, or file within the website.

The URL structure of a website is shaped by its distinct requirements.

For instance, an international website’s URL is often designed to accommodate multiple languages or regions. The URL structure of a blog site may contrast with that of an eCommerce or membership platform. Likewise, the URL structure for a government website is likely distinct from that of a social network.

While the purpose of the website dictates the variation in URL structures, it’s essential to note that regardless of the chosen structure, fundamental best practices should always be adhered to in order to maintain a well-structured URL.

Why Does URL Structure Matter for SEO?

URLs serve as the backbone of your website’s content organization and act as the bridge between your content and its intended audience. The significance of URL structure in SEO boils down to two key reasons:

  • Enhancing User Experience

Exceptional user experience stands as the paramount factor in SEO success.

By employing a rational URL structure that incorporates page hierarchies, you can elevate user experience significantly. Content that is intuitively organized makes navigation a breeze for human visitors. The goal is to create a website that users can confidently navigate, free from confusion.

Moreover, optimizing URLs for SEO involves crafting user-friendly web addresses. SEO-friendly URLs are straightforward, easily comprehensible, and contain keywords that aptly describe the content of a web page.

For instance, if you’re in search of information about pancakes, a URL like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/pancake is not only user-friendly but also aids in your decision to click on that link.

On the other hand, a URL like https://www.example.com/index.php?id_wca=470&clcp27sap is convoluted and fails to provide a clear insight into the destination page’s content. Simplicity in URLs contributes to a superior user experience. Therefore, optimizing URLs with descriptive keywords fosters a precise understanding of the page’s content.

Optimizing URLs is not just beneficial for users but also for search engines. It enables search engines to deliver pertinent results to searchers while ensuring that users are well-informed about what they can expect when they click on a link.

  • PageRank

URL structures play a crucial role in communicating to Google the content and relationships between different pages within your website. Internal linking, which involves links between pages within your site, further assists in this communication.

When you optimize your URLs for human readability, you simultaneously enhance the accessibility of your website for search engine bots. This optimization facilitates the crawling and indexing of your site, ultimately leading to the delivery of more relevant content to search engine users.

It’s worth noting that URLs are a determining factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Consequently, well-optimized URL structures contribute to improving your Google PageRank (PR). PageRank serves as Google’s method for assessing a webpage’s value and its relevance to user search queries.

Typically, root domains possess the highest PageRank. While incorporating keywords into your root pages can boost your rankings, it’s essential not to overuse keywords in your URLs. Instead, include only relevant and meaningful keywords.

SEO-friendly URLs not only increase the likelihood of users clicking on your links but can also bolster your PageRank.

Once your website is live and whenever you make changes to page URLs, it’s advisable to (re)submit your sitemap in Google Search Console. Doing so ensures that search engines promptly crawl and index your pages, keeping Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) up-to-date with your site’s content.

12 SEO Best Practices for URLs

  1. Establish a Solid URL Structure

Defining your URL hierarchy is a critical step before embarking on website development. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule for the perfect URL structure, it should align with your site’s purpose.

However, a superior URL structure is one that strikes a balance between simplicity, logic, memorability, and meaningfulness. Craft your URL structure to be intuitive, enabling both users and search engines to readily grasp the relationships between different pages on your site. Once your URL framework is in place, selecting the right URL keywords for each page becomes a straightforward task.

  1. Implement the HTTPS Protocol

HTTPS represents the secure iteration of the HTTP protocol, incorporating a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data transmission between your browser and a website. This encryption ensures that even if hackers intercept the data, they cannot decipher it.

By adopting HTTPS, your website gains credibility as it fosters user trust. Visitors feel more confident when making online transactions, providing credit card information, addresses, and phone numbers. Surprisingly, only 69% of all websites currently redirect to HTTPS.

Personally, I avoid making purchases on non-secure sites, and I’m not alone in this sentiment. If your site operates solely on HTTP, you might be missing out on potential business, especially from tech-savvy users.

Furthermore, HTTPS aligns with Google’s ranking criteria, with a preference for SSL-secured websites. In the Chrome browser, the padlock icon in the URL bar indicates the website’s secure connection status. Users can click on the icon to access more details about the connection.

3. Omit the ‘www’ Prefix

The ‘www’ prefix was historically used to eliminate ambiguity, as it clearly indicated a website domain. However, in today’s digital landscape, its inclusion is no longer imperative.

In fact, retaining the ‘www’ prefix can appear outdated, increase typing effort, and consume additional space in the address bar. Notably, the Chrome browser conceals ‘WWW’ and ‘HTTPS://’ in its address bar, deeming them less crucial to display due to the presence of the secure lock icon. To view them, simply double-click within the address bar; they remain accessible.

By omitting the ‘www’ prefix, you streamline your domain, creating a cleaner appearance. It’s advisable to set up a redirection from the ‘www’ version to the ‘naked’ domain for a seamless user experience.

  1. Tailor Page URLs for Relevance

When you publish a page on your website, it should serve a distinct purpose. Avoid using arbitrary and perplexing randomly generated numbers. Instead, customize your webpage URLs to reflect the content they contain. This not only enhances the user experience but can also boost click-through rates.

5. Keep it Concise and Clear

URLs often default to using the page or post title, which can sometimes result in overly long and convoluted strings of characters. Shorter URLs are not only more user-friendly but also tend to perform better in rankings.

  1. Incorporate Relevant Keywords

Include 1-2 keywords in your URL that accurately reflect the page’s content and convey its purpose in search results. Avoid excessive keyword stuffing, as it may appear spammy. It’s advisable to utilize a keyword present in the page or post title.

In addition to optimizing the URL, consider incorporating these keywords into your page’s meta description. Google highlights these words in search results, making your page more conspicuous.

  1. Separate Words with Hyphens

URLs don’t employ spaces or underscores to separate words. To enhance readability, adhere to SEO best practices by using hyphens between words. This practice aids both Google and users in identifying word boundaries, making URLs significantly easier to read.

Here’s an example showcasing the difference hyphens can make:
designpowers.com/blog/urlstructureseobestpractices
designpowers.com/blog/url-structure-seo-best-practices

  1. Exclude Unnecessary Stop Words

Remove stop words (e.g., ‘the,’ ‘and,’ ‘or,’ ‘of,’ ‘a,’ ‘an,’ ‘to,’ ‘for,’ etc.) from your URLs to shorten them and improve readability. For instance, in the URL of this post, the word ‘for’ has been omitted for brevity and clarity.

  1. Utilize Lowercase Letters

URLs are case-sensitive beyond the domain name. Ensure uniformity by using lowercase letters for your URLs. If you’ve used uppercase letters, update your links and set up redirects to the lowercase versions. Fortunately, platforms like Squarespace default to lowercase, eliminating concerns about case sensitivity.

  1. Implement Redirects for Old URLs

As your website evolves, you may make structural changes to enhance usability. In such cases, it’s crucial to employ permanent redirects (301 redirects). Redirects prevent broken links for both users and search engine bots.

Whenever you modify or alter a URL, add a 301 redirect to automatically guide users from the old URL to the new one, sparing them from encountering a frustrating 404 error page. However, be cautious about excessive redirects, as they can slow down your site. Aim for simplicity, and avoid redirect loops by selecting an optimal URL structure from the outset.

  1. Eliminate Dates from Blog Post URLs

Removing postdates from blog post URLs ensures that content remains relevant to searchers, fostering improved click-through rates from search engines and enabling content to rank for extended periods. Unless a post pertains to a specific event or date, omitting the date can prevent a decline in click-through rates, as users are more inclined to engage with current content.

This approach also facilitates the creation of evergreen content, allowing for easy updates and republishing with a new date without the need for URL redirection. Refreshing and republishing older content is a potent SEO strategy that can prolong the life of your posts. Ultimately, omitting the post date enhances URL navigability for users.

For instance, with the post date (adding 11 characters):
vetcare.com/blog/2018/10/18/obesity-in-our-pets-an-ounce-of-prevention-is-worth-a-pound-of-cure

Without the post date (simplified URL with keywords):
vetcare.com/blog/pet-obesity-prevention

  1. Spell Out Numbers (Sometimes)

Numbers in URLs can occasionally lead to confusion. If your business name or root domain includes a number, consider purchasing the spelled-out version of the domain as well and set up a redirect. This ensures that users who are unsure of the spelling will still reach your site.

For instance, seveneleven.com redirects to https://www.7-eleven.com.

Avoid using numbers in URLs for all other cases, as numbers can be easily mistaken for words (‘4’ for ‘for,’ ‘2’ for ‘to’), leading to potential confusion. If a number represents a year or a specific date, it’s best to use the actual number. Use your judgment when incorporating numbers into your URLs, considering factors like clarity and potential for misinterpretation.

Unlock the Power of SEO-Friendly URLs

URLs serve as the foundational elements of your website, and when optimized, they become powerful tools for boosting your website’s traffic. Clean and well-structured URLs not only enhance search engine performance but also convey trustworthiness and simplicity, making them more shareable.

We trust that these best practices will prove invaluable in optimizing your website’s URLs. If you have any questions or seek further assistance, feel free to drop your queries in the comments section below. Need personalized support for your website?

Contact us, and let’s have a conversation.

Source: Design n Powers

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