As a marketer, you spend a lot of time designing content to rise to the top of search engines. Before you publish, there’s one important detail that can impact your online visibility and, just as importantly, whether searchers click through to your site — the website address of the page.
If you don’t have a URL convention in place or let your CMS generate a URL for you, read on. I’m going to show you how to create an SEO-friendly URL, along with plenty of examples. Learn what you should — and shouldn’t — do when specifying a slug for your next page or blog post.
What Is an SEO-Friendly URL?
An SEO-friendly URL is a short and descriptive website address that conveys the content of a page to search engines and users. It typically contains keywords to demonstrate relevance and is easily read and understood by search engines and audiences.
What Are the Parts of a URL?
A uniform resource locator (URL) is the website address that tells a browser where a page is located. Here is a breakdown of a URL structure and how it can affect SEO.
A protocol is how the data for your website is transferred to a user’s web browser. There are two protocols: HTTP and HTTPS. HTTPS is the secure version and the better option for search engine optimization because site security is a ranking factor.
The protocol appears at the beginning of a URL.
The subdomain is the main part of a site where pages are stored. Many websites use “www” as a subdomain, but you may also see names such as “store” or “blog” — as in www.store.example.com.
Only use subdomains if necessary. Google treats them as separate from the main domain, which can dilute the authority you’ve built.
A root domain is the name of a website, such as victoriousseo.com.
- The domain is to the left of the dot (victoriousseo) and is purchased from a domain registrar.
- The top-level domain is the suffix, such as .com, .biz and .info. All top-level domains are capable of ranking well, but .com tends to be the most common and widely trusted by users. (Learn more about .com vs .net for SEO.)
The path follows the root domain and indicates the location of a page within a site. It may include subdirectories. Aim for as few directories as possible — pages closer to the home page are considered more important.
In the example www.victoriousseo.com/blog/seo-cheat-sheet/, the subdirectory is blog/ and the path is blog/seo-cheat-sheet
The slug is the final part of the URL. It comes after the root domain and any subdirectories. In the above example, the slug is seo-cheat-sheet.
When adding a new page or blog post, this is generally the part you need to consider since you’ll be working within an established site hierarchy.
Why Your URL Structure Matters for SEO
URLs are more than an address for finding a web page. When structured effectively, they communicate what’s on the page to search engines and users.
– Help search engines determine the relevance of a page for indexing.
– Incorporate important keywords to help with page ranking.
– Tell users what’s on a page to encourage click-through.
– Show where in a site’s hierarchy a page is located to enhance user experience.
How To Create SEO-Friendly URLs
Follow these best practices when creating SEO-friendly URLs.
Establish a Logical Hierarchy
A well-structured site has a logical hierarchy, moving from high-level to specific content. This helps search engines understand how pages relate to each other and which are most important.
SEO-friendly URLs reflect this site structure, allowing users to tell where a page is in the hierarchy at a glance. This also improves user experience.
- Example: www.example.com/womens/outerwear/raincoats/
Using the above URL, a first-time customer intuitively knows where to find other types of outerwear or women’s clothing.
Use Your Keyword
Include a target keyword or two in a URL to emphasize the content’s relevance to search engines. However, avoid stuffing keywords, which may suggest that a page is spam.
- Don’t: www.example.com/cheap-affordable-lowest-price-iphone-deals/
- Do: www.example.com/iphone-deals/
Add Hyphens to Separate Words
Help search engines understand the meaning of a URL by separating words for readability. Hyphens are commonly used because URLs can’t contain spaces. Some people use an underscore, but these are difficult to see and can disappear when browsers underline URLs to show they are links. Plus, Google doesn’t recommend them.
- Don’t: www.example.com/whatyoushouldknow/
- Don’t: www.example.com/what_you_should_know/
- Do: www.example.com/what-you-should-know/
While ID numbers may have importance to an internal tech team, these aren’t meaningful to search crawlers or customers. Use descriptive words when crafting URLs for SEO ranking.
- Don’t: www.example.com/blog/20220830/
- Do: www.example.com/blog/cat-nutrition/
Keep It Lowercase
The part of a URL after the domain name is case-sensitive, which means example.com/Shop will not direct site visitors to the same page as example.com/shop (unless you have a redirect in place).
To make a URL SEO-friendly, use only lowercase letters. This is easier to read and eliminates the risk of a user getting an error page because of a mix-up in capitalization.
Keep It Short
Aim for a maximum of three to five descriptive and concise words in a URL slug.
- Are more likely to appear in full on search engine results pages. Longer URLs may be truncated.
- Rank better on Google. Research shows that the URLs of top-ranking pages in Google tend to have fewer characters.
- Are memorable and easy to copy and share.
It’s good practice to use the title of a blog post or page to guide your URL structure, but try to convey the meaning with fewer words if the title is long.
- Don’t: www.example.com/best-meditation-apps-to-help-you-relax-when-youre-stressed/
- Do: www.example.com/best-meditation-apps/
Make It Readable
URLs should be clear, concise, and digestible. They should be short but contain enough information to indicate where a link leads.
This is important because URLs aren’t always embedded behind descriptive anchor text. Readers should be able to quickly skim naked links — where the URL is the anchor text — to understand the content and feel confident that the page is trustworthy and meets their needs.
Did you know that victoriousseo.com/services and victoriousseo.com/services/ are actually two different URLs? The trailing slash at the end of each slug matters. You can use the trailing slash or opt out — there’s no particular benefit either way. The important thing is to make sure all your pages are consistent.
What Not to Do When it Comes to URLs
There are a few more things to consider when crafting effective SEO URLs. Double-check that you’re avoiding the following:
Include Random Strings of Letters or Numbers
Letters and numbers in a URL are meaningless to users and may also prevent them from clicking through because they’re not sure where a link takes them. Paths that aren’t clearly identifiable can also raise concerns that a page is spam.
Some sites generate dynamic URLs from internal searches, which can involve a complex string of words and symbols such as question marks and equal signs. These URL parameters are problematic from an SEO perspective as they can create duplicate pages that affect page ranking.
If your site includes a search function, make sure to include the path for those URL parameters in your robots.txt file to stop Googlebot and other search engine bots from accessing them.
Change a URL Without Implementing a Redirect
When you change an existing URL, the page moves to the new website address. Avoid losing traffic by using a redirect. Otherwise, people trying to access the old URL through a bookmark, internal link, or backlink will receive an error message. A 301 redirect ensures visitors clicking the old URL are taken to the new one.
Create Unnecessary Directories
Directories are used to create a hierarchy on your site, but when you have too many, the URLs start getting long. Try to use one or two directories at the most when organizing content. For example, a painting company may not need to get this specific with its directories:
From Google’s perspective, the closer a page is to a home page or seed page, the more weight it carries for SEO.
Add the Date
As a general rule, don’t include the date a post is published in the URL. Not only does it make for a longer URL, but it can also make content appear stale.
- Don’t: www.example.com/2017/08/31/holiday-decorating-ideas/
- Do: www.example.com/holiday-decorating-ideas/
Use an evergreen URL that doesn’t include the year for content that changes annually. This ensures that backlinks to your piece remain active as content is updated.
- Don’t: www.example.com/2018-scholarship-deadlines/
- Do: www.example.com/scholarship-deadlines/
For example, rather than creating a Black Friday deals page every year, reuse a single page to maximize your link building and Black Friday SEO efforts.
When it comes to URL SEO, make things as clear as possible for search crawlers. Avoid characters such as commas, semicolons, and exclamation marks. Descriptive words are easier to comprehend and eliminate the risk of confusion or technical glitches because of their similarity to characters in a programming language.
Include Stop Words
Unnecessary stop words such as “the,” “in,” and “a” take up valuable real estate in a URL. In most cases, you can remove them to keep the slug short and easy to read without changing the meaning.
- Don’t: www.example.com/landscapers-in-seattle/
- Do: www.example.com/landscapers-seattle/
Learn More About On-Page SEO
An SEO-friendly URL gives your site one more competitive edge when you’re aiming to capture traffic and rank well in search results, but it’s only one element of an effective SEO strategy. Make sure your SEO efforts take into account key search engine ranking factors such as internal linking, meta titles, referring domains, and more. Download our SEO checklist to guide you through the process.
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