How to Structure URLs for SEO
A URL is more than just your domain name. A well-structured URL can help a user navigate your site and tell the purpose of a page. Why is this important? Targeted traffic. A strong URL can help direct specific readers to specific pages.
Although numbered one to five, these tips probably rank equally by Google, Bing and other search engines. However, when the tip states DO NOT that means there is a definitive reason why you shouldn’t do that: either it will cause lower rankings or will lead to searchers going to a site other than the preferred site. In either case that will lead to lower readership and fewer shares. When readers share content with others it creates a backlink or inbound link to the site, which search engines see as a recommendation and provides a higher rank.
Tip #1 – Make it Readable!
Readability is not only important to readers but search engines as well. If it can be understood by a human, then it stands to reason that it will be acceptable to search engines. Most importantly, readability matters to searchers. Consider the difference in these two URLs on a search engine result page (SERP).
http://anyurl.com/handcrafted-purses VS. http://anyurl.com//1OJUDNZ
Certainly someone searching for a handcrafted purse knows exactly what the first webpage has to offer, and although the second example will take searchers to the same page, it’s not obvious that is what will happen. In both cases the website owner has accomplished all the actions necessary to get their site in the top five of local SERPs; yet, when those five are displayed the consumer has to make a choice. Which is the most logical?
Tip #2 – Use a Single Domain
Using subdomains and subfolders comes with serious risk to SEO ranks. With search engine algorithms, what worked well yesterday may not work as well tomorrow. Search engine bots or crawlers seem to have difficulty with persistent or logical approaches to passing subdomain and subfolder content rankings to its parent domain. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. So why accept the risk unless the parameters of the site don’t allow another choice? In which case there is very little choice because changing the platform of the content management system is not worth the effort for the possible gain. Some would argue that using a subdomain makes sense when a product or service has a well-known and separate clientele than that of the main domain. However, wouldn’t creating a new website make more sense in this case? Say you sell running shoes and suddenly get a great deal on cleats. Although both can be worn on your feet, they have very little else in common. So, creating a new website makes good sense and can provide a relevant backlink for your main focus, running shoes. Points of view for both sides of this argument can be found on inbound.org
Tip #3 – Use Keywords and Phrases
In a way this links to tip #1, readability, because the same examples apply. Keywords and phrases within the structure of the URL tell the searcher that what they are searching is most likely contained on that webpage. Additionally, when someone shares your content by using just the link the chosen URL will serve as the anchor text. This happens more and more frequently on social media; particularly Twitter where there are a limited number of characters available and many simply say, “Hey check out this great recipe!” and add the link. So, a URL such as http://anyurl.com/my-favorite-apple-pie will give the reader an idea of the recipe, it’s very conspicuous. And, when the reader adds a comment on the webpage, such as: “Great recipe, I loved it!” that creates a backlink, which adds to the SEO. An added bonus is that the keyword in the URL will boost search engine rankings.
Tip #4 – Do not use conjunctions and articles
“There’s no if, ands, or buts about it!” These lengthen the URL unnecessarily, even when using the title of an article or blog. That goes back to tip #1 as well, if it makes it more readable to put it in, then by all means do whatever makes it more readable.
Tip #5 – Shorter is better!
Everyone knows the cliché adage, “keep it short and simple” or KISS. OK, so we changed it up a little, but the message is the same only not as insulting as the other. People are more frequently copying and pasting URLs into their content to share with others and the longer URLs make that more difficult. However, if the URL is short already additional efforts to make it shorter are not necessary.