Having an optimized URL structure is an important part of your overall SEO strategy. Improve your search ranking and performance with a well-structured website URL.
Understanding the Importance of a Good URL Structure
What is URL? URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s the address of a web page and consists of your website’s domain name. In addition to the domain name, protocol and path are the two other components of URL structures.
In digital marketing, your website URL is more than just an address, though. It plays a significant role in the overall SEO performance of your web page. A good URL structure can improve user experience in that it gives visitors an idea about the content of a particular page. The same applies to search engines as well. Without a well-structured URL, search engines will find it harder to determine what a given page is about.
Having a well-structured URL is also essential if you want to achieve the highest possible positions in search results, especially if your website is in a highly competitive industry. You can incorporate keywords into your URLs, which can have a positive effect on website visibility. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should create unnecessary pages just so you can squeeze in a certain keyword.
How to Optimize the URL Structure of Your Website
How important is URL structure for SEO? If you’re just getting started with a new website, you should pay particular attention to your URL structure. This is simply because setting things up the right way from the start is a lot easier than making changes later on.
But, even if you have a large website with hundreds of pages, you can still put together a strategy to optimize its URL structure, then get to work on making the needed changes. Here are some tips to keep in mind for an optimal URL structure:
1. Keep URLs Short and Static
Your URLs should provide a good idea of what is on a page without going overboard. In general, every word in your URL should be useful to someone looking at it, including search engines.
Search engines rely on consistency and readability, which is why you should keep your URLs short, simple, and unchanging. Do long URLs affect SEO? Yes. Remember that short URLs usually rank higher on Google’s search results. Aim for something below 2,083 characters.
There are two types of URLs: Static URLs and Dynamic URLs. Static URLs remain the same provided you don’t make any changes to the HTML, whereas dynamic URLs change. Go for static URLs — web page addresses that stay the same regardless of who’s looking at it or how many times it’s been visited. To make sure your URL remains static, go to the permalink settings of your website platform, and choose “Custom Structure.”
2. Use a Simple Folder Structure
Being organized is a key characteristic of SEO-friendly URLs. Categorizing your web pages in a neat and structured manner can help improve your SEO. Generally speaking, it’s much better to use subfolders and directories than subdomains. This is because search engines tend to recognize a subdomain as a separate entity.
Here’s a well-structured URL example:
Main Category – https://www.domain.com/bottoms
Subcategory – https://www.domain.com/bottoms/skirts
Product – https://www.domain.com/bottoms/skirts/maxi
You can take the same approach with multilingual websites by categorizing them according to language. For instance, you can use https://www.domain.com/en/bottoms to show your website in English and https://www.domain.com/cn/bottoms to show your website in Chinese.
Folders are useful when it comes to keeping your pages neatly organized. They allow you to create a simple and attractive breadcrumb trail. It also lets search engines know what each page is about. It’s worth keeping in mind that search engines don’t consider the number of categories or levels you use. Additionally, folders are particularly great when you need to find a page quickly while doing maintenance tasks on the back end.
3. Use the Right Keyword in Each Page’s URL
You might wonder, “How do I increase my URL ranking?” If you know anything about SEO, then you know that keyword use is paramount to success. URL optimization requires the use of the correct keywords so that you can increase visibility, communicate relevancy, and improve your ranking. Including the main keyword in your page’s URL is helpful in giving both search engines and human visitors an idea of what a page is about.
Be cautious about the number of keywords you include, though. It’s best to use one to two keywords, maximum, as too much can mark your web page as spam in the eyes of search engines.
4. Go for Credibility
Search engines like Google value credibility and trustworthiness. They want to show users the most relevant results from credible websites. But, how do you make your website credible using your URL structure?
First of all, when choosing a protocol, it’s best to use HTTPS instead of HTTP. Having HTTPS means that your website is secure and all communications are encrypted. This is particularly important if your website has e-commerce features or deals with private data (like financial information).
You should also pay attention to the top-level domain (TLD) you use. If you want to come off as trustworthy, the best TLD to use is .com. You can also use other TLDs such as .edu, .net, .org, .gov, .biz, .eu, .asia, .co, .me, .sr, .nu, etc.
5. Ensure Your URLs Are Close to Your Page Titles and H1 Tags
One of the first things professional providers of SEO services look at when assessing a page for on-site SEO strength is whether the URL closely matches the page title and H1 tag. An exact match isn’t required and may not even be desirable at times, but there should be a clear relationship between your URL and the title of a page when it shows up on a search engine.
6. Avoid Duplicate Content Issues and Use Canonical Tags When Needed
Having pages with content that is highly similar to what another page shows is a bad move as far as SEO is concerned. If you have two pages showing the same information, you should pick one and remove the other, replacing it with a 301 redirect. This usually happens when you have a www version and a non-www version of your site.
If a 301 redirect isn’t an option, you can indicate your preferred version with the help of Google Search Console. Just go to Configuration, then Settings, then Preferred Domain. Of course, this will only assign your preferred version for Google and not other search engines.
There are times where you might need to keep both. One common example of this is printer-friendly versions of blog posts or articles. If you truly need both pages to stay up, use canonical tags (rel=canonical tag). This tells search engines which page is the “preferred” one and prevents the problems often caused by duplicate content.
7. Make an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a list of URLs you have on your website that allows search engines to find and crawl your web pages easily. These let you submit to search engines what specific URLs you want to appear and rank in search results. If you have duplicate web pages, search engines also use your XML sitemap to determine your canonical URL.
Things to Avoid When Structuring Your URL
Although it’s essential to know what you should do when creating your URL, it’s equally imperative to know the pitfalls of certain actions and additions. Here are the things you should avoid when crafting your URL structure:
- Unnecessary Words. Conjunctions and prepositions are considered stop words in the realm of URL structure SEO. Thus, it’s a good idea to avoid including such words in your URL. This includes words like “a,” “an,” and “the.”
- Special Characters. Stay away from special characters, including exclamation points, question marks, ampersands, and apostrophes. Including these in your URL structure can give rise to indexing issues.
- Parameters. Static URLs give your pages a better chance at ranking, so it’s best to avoid parameters. Parameters usually come after a question mark, which is a special character. Search engines tend to truncate URLs after the special character, thereby failing to index the web page in its true form.
- Underscores. You should only use hyphens when separating words in your URL. Never use underscores or spaces.
- Uppercase Letters. Only use lowercase letters when creating your URL structure. This is because uppercase letters can cause problems with duplicate pages. Search engines may recognize the same two URLs as separate when they use different letter cases.
A Critical Part of SEO
A web page’s URL structure is more important than most people think, which is why not everyone pays attention to it. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can commit when it comes to SEO. Your website’s components, including its URL, all work as part of a whole. Therefore, if you want to improve your SEO and increase your website’s visibility, treat your URL structure accordingly.
For many businesses, digital marketing can be difficult to comprehend, let alone master. Let Tanner Grey address your web design and digital marketing needs. Call us today at 844.500.1339 or contact us online to learn more.
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