Today, I want to talk to you about URL structure best practices.
Imagine a beautiful house with a great view of a lake located in a perfect neighborhood of good people. How do you get there? Well, you need an address.
A URL works the same as an address and the house as your website. Visitors use URLs to visit your site.
Without a good URL structure, your visitors will never find you, which presents a lot of problems for your business.
In this article, I will define what a URL is, why it's essential, and a few best practices you can follow to create a good URL structure.
Are you ready? Let's start.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is a unique and specific address of a particular site on the Internet.
A URL is the web address that web searchers see under the name of a page or title of a blog when they type something on Google or Bing.
Here's how our URL looks when you type Rialto Marketing on Google:
A URL usually starts with WWW or HTTP or HTTPS, just like the example above. Then it’s followed by the root domain for a website — for instance, www.nameofyourwebsite.com.
Now what you want to define is what follows for specific pages.
A URL structure will directly relate to broader site architecture. URLs need to both reference what’s on the specific page, as well as help website visitors locate where this page belongs on the main website.
For example, your blog post URL should look like this: www.nameofyourwebsite.com/blog/nameofyourblogpost.
Now a URL structure is essential for three key reasons:
Let’s talk about URL structure best practices for local SEO in the next section.
According to Google,
URLs with words that are relevant to your site’s content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site.
With that said, here are seven URL structure best practices that can help your local SEO.
The shorter the link, the better -- this helps both crawler readability and user readability.
According to Google,
A site's URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).
Never fill your URL with useless words or characters, and avoid stuffing it with keywords. Keep in mind that having the same keyword in your URL more than once (aka Keyword Cannibalization) only hurts your ranking, and you must avoid it at all costs.
I mean www.nameofyourwebsite.com/blog/digitalmarketing is much better than www.nameofyourwebsite.com/blog/digitalmarketingthebestdigitalmarketinginthewholeworld. The latter is too long and complicated. The unnecessary words could drive users away.
In the end, you want to be confident that users would remember a particular URL if they wanted to even if most of them will use bookmarks to locate specific pages of your website instead of going directly to the URL.
Punctuation is A-Okay for title tags and meta descriptions but can mess up search engines and confuse readers.
Here’s a list of safe vs. unsafe characters that you need when creating a URL:
Consistency is important for search engine rankings. The URL should match the title of the article, so an article titled “Best Practices for URL Structure” would have a URL like website.com/url-structure-best-practices.
Which structure makes more sense for an article titled “Best Practices for URL Structure” between the sample URLs below:
A URL that's consistent with a page title is a great way to instill a great sense of what users will find on the page through the URL. It delivers on that expectation with the headline/title.
You may wonder whether to use a hyphen (-) or an underscore (_) as a space in your URL.
Google has an opinion on this when it comes to SEO. In URLs, Google considers hyphens a separation between the words, underscores continue a word. Always use hyphens.
Here's an example from one of our previos blogs:
It’s sometimes unavoidable, but websites with dynamic parameters (which are often the result of a database-driven website) can harm SEO results. Dynamic parameters often contain characters such as ?, &, %, +, =, $, CGI-bin,.cgi.
Consider rewriting a URL with dynamic parameters into static, readable text.
Here are a few tools you can use to rewrite a URL with dynamic parameters:
URLs are for two things -- to help your readers know what they’re clicking on and to help Google understand what it is linking to.
For easy reading comprehension, your subject should be understood at a glance. Stop using unnecessary words that will make your URL lengthy and complicated, even if they make it appear smart and cool.
Remember to remove “stop words” as well (such as articles and conjunctions like “the” and “and”) from your URL.
Check out this list of stop words you need to avoid using in your URL.
According to Google:
The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.
A URL with subfolders (the link will look like nameofyourwebsite.com/subfolder/url-best-practices-structure) can also make it much more difficult for search engine crawlers.
While subheading or subfolders are unavoidable, what you can do is always stick to the main categories that are essential for making your website more spontaneous in its structure. Also, be as consistent as possible in the URL structure you use across the site.
And that ends my article about URL structure best practices.
Final thoughts? Always consider web users and Google when creating or organizing URLs. Your URL must be readable and crawlable at the same time to boost SEO ranking.
I compiled a few online resources below to help you more about URL structure and Local SEO in general, so go ahead and check it out!
Proven Local SEO Tips to Catapult Your Rankings
How to Boost Your Local SEO Using Online Reviews
The Complete Guide on Structuring Your URLs Correctly
So what do you think about this article? Did it help you create a readable and crawlable URL structure?
Leave a comment below and let's discuss.
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Header image courtesy of Stockunlimited.
Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help small businesses & entrepreneurs eliminate the confusion of marketing. As a marketing partner, we help clients put in place and manage a simple marketing plan so they can grow. Marketing your business shouldn't be a challenge. All you need is a plan.