URL Structure As An SEO Technique

January 21st, 2013

Whether you intend to buy visitors, bring them naturally to your website through SEO, or both, it is important to build and construct your website in such a way that it is friendly to both human users and search engines. One facet of search engine optimization (SEO) and site construction is setting up a proper URL structure for your website. Search engines and humans alike use a site’s URLs as a first indicator of the content to be found on a particular web page.

One of the fundamental elements of proper site optimization includes defining and implementing a correct URL structure throughout your website. If a web page URL makes no sense and provides little value to a human user, then it will provide little value in defining the page to a search engine as well. Here is a list of rules for creating an optimized, search engine friendly URL structure.

  1. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
    K.I.S.S. is an old business adage created to help remind people that the simple approach is often the most effective. Structure your website’s URLs so that they are to the point and succinctly describe the contents of the page they define. Your website’s URLs should use words as much as possible as opposed to numbers and symbols. Remember, if a human can read and understand the URL, then so can a search engine.
  2. Shorter is Better
    Be direct and to the point with your URL structures. Try to describe exactly what a user will find on a page in its URL in as few words as possible. The shorter the URL the easier it is to remember, as well. An example of a quality URL is: mywebsite.com/about-mywebsite. An example of an overly long URL is: mywebsite.com/about-the-worlds-greatest-and-most-non-user-and-search-engine-friendly-website-mywebsite.
  3. Static URLs Provide Better Control Over URL Structure
    Today, several websites and web pages are dynamically generated by CMSs (Content Management Systems) or by website builder tools. Oftentimes, dynamically generated URLs contain special characters and server scripting that has nothing to do with the content found on the web page. Not only do these server generated URLs provide no information to search engines and users, but they are also hard to remember and sometimes nearly impossible to type in an address bar. If your website uses dynamically generated pages, then the service provider should also have a way to mask the server generated URLs with a more user and search engine friendly static URL.
  4. URLs Should Contain Keywords
    One of the first elements a search engine uses to identify and classify a website or web page is its URL. If you want to rank for a specific keyword or keyword phrase, then if at all possible, that keyword should be found in the URL. Make sure the keyword used in the URL is relevant to the page. Search engines are also very savvy, when it comes to keyword stuffing URLs. If a website’s URLs misuse keywords in their structure, it will not be long before search engines recognize it and begin to penalize the site’s search engine results.
  5. To Be Safe Use Lowercase
    While browsers will convert both upper and lowercase in a web address, URLs are actually case sensitive. Browsers will accept uppercase in the web address, but will, in most cases, convert the uppercase letters to lowercase anyway. If your website’s server is case sensitive, and you are using uppercase letters in your URLs, it can create issues for front end users, as there is a possibility they may not be directed correctly to the page. If you insist on using capital letters, it is important that you setup 301 redirects from the uppercase URLs to the lowercase to prevent any confusion and search engine crawl errors.
  6. Underscores Out – Hyphens In
    If you need to separate words in a URL, then it is recommended that you use hyphens instead of underscores and spaces. You can also not include any spaces at all in your URLs, but hyphens make the URLs easier to read for both humans and search engines. While it is acceptable to use underscores, hyphens have become the preferred method.
  7. Consistency Is Critical
    After you have decided on and defined the URL structure for your site, stick to it throughout all the pages of your site. Consistency allows for easier following and easier updating in the long run.

Proper URL structure is intended to please both the human visitors to your website as well as the search engines. If you use your website’s URLs properly, you can better your SEO efforts and help your website’s pages rank better in search engine results.

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