URL Structure: Tips for Combining SEO and URL Best Practices

URL structure is one of the most important and basic elements of SEO and, even in this day and age, far too many sites ignore URL best practices. If you have ever encountered an overly long URL that is mostly a series of numbers that mean absolutely nothing to you (or anyone else besides the site’s original webmaster for that matter), then you know exactly what I mean. Below are the basic guidelines for creating search engine friendly URLs that both users and web crawlers will find appealing.

1. Keep It Simple   Your URL structure should be straightforward and easy to comprehend. It should describe what is on the page in a way that makes sense to both people and bots alike. Use words instead of numbers whenever possible. For example, include a brand or product name instead of an inventory or catalog number. This is not only more palatable for users, but also makes it easier for the team that builds and maintains your site. You should be able to accurately predict what will be on a page by its URL alone. If you cannot, it is back to the drawing board for you.

2. Keep It Short   Use as few words and parameters as possible.
Google explains that overly complex URLs with multiple parameters are problematic for bots because they create, “unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site.” For those of us who are less technically inclined, think about URL length in terms of how easy it is to remember, share, and spell. The less characters involved, the better. Furthermore, if it is too long, users will simply generate a shorter URL through sites like tinyURL or bit.ly, which will be a random collection of numbers and letters that do not reinforce your brand.
3. Use Static URLs   The dynamic URLs generated by web servers and Content Management Systems change and are not customized.
You can spot dynamic URLs because they include question marks (?), equal signs (+) and ampersands (&). Since they are not specific to your content, they are difficult to remember. They also tend to have lower click thru rates because they do not describe the content on the landing page. While dynamic URLs are crawlable, different URLs can point to the same content and make things confusing for users. It is far simpler to stick with static URLs, which allow you to optimize your link structure.

 4. Use Keywords  
Most people should realize this already, but if you are trying to rank for a keyword, it should be included not only on the page but also in its URL structure. The best keywords are relevant and specific. Do not keyword stuff and do not incorporate misleading keywords that may garner initial traffic, but do not actually pertain to the content on the page. It will annoy users and eventually damage your page rank.

5. Use Lowercase  
While you can use both upper and lowercase letters in any web address, the URL is case sensitive and capitalization of certain letters will muck things up considerably. Most users think in terms of lowercase when it comes to web site addresses and emails, so it is the safest bet in terms of what they will remember and actually type. Also, consider asking your webmaster to implement a 301 rule that redirects an incorrectly capitalized URL to the proper one.

6. Use Hyphens for Punctuation  
If you are using phrases with multiple words, Google recommends separating them with hyphens (-). For example, “chocolate-cake” instead of “chocolatecake.” While it is not wrong to leave the two words smooshed together without any punctuation, it is easier for crawlers and users to process. Likewise, you could also use underscores (_) or pluses (+), but there is no discernible benefit, and it makes far more sense to do what the world’s primary search engine suggests.

7. Be Consistent  
Once you settle on a URL structure, do not divert from it. If something prompts you make a change, such as a tip in this article, you should globally convert all of your existing URLs to the new structure. Ultimately, a URL is a file structure and uniformity is key. Having an inconsistency will simply create confusion and headaches for users and web developers alike.   As you can see, optimizing your link structure is largely a matter of common sense. If you are descriptive, succinct, and follow the recommended formatting guidelines, you will have links that would make any SEO professional proud.
Article by By John V