How to Make URLs SEO-Friendly
SEO-friendliness is a basic condition for a successful online project. This is the way to kill two birds with one stone. Make the site more convenient for reading and understanding with robots. It will take more advantageous positions in the SERP. The better a resource is ranked, the stronger the response of real users. You get more views, comments, backlinks, sales. It is important that the visitors have a positive impression of the resource. The content is relevant to the search and informative. The navigation on the site is intuitive. SEO friendly URLs can do all of these things.
What Is an SEO Friendly URL
In 2020, the URL remains an important ranking factor. The search engine evaluates page addresses by a number of signals: length, presence of keywords, hierarchical proximity to the main page, and categories in the search string. Google’s SEO Starter Guide provides basic guidelines for creating URLs. We will consider the issue of optimizing web addresses in more detail. The rest of this article will provide you with a step-by-step guide to creating SEO URLs that will appeal to humans and machines alike.
An SEO friendly URL should be readable, short, and informative. When crawlers crawl a page on a website, they want as much information as possible about its content. This allows the search engine to find the right matches and respond to user searches in a relevant way.
When analyzing search results, people pay attention to many factors. Results with informative URLs are more credible. You can predict how much the content meets expectations and whether it is worth following the link in advance.
Let’s say you want to freshen up your apartment with a new carpet. The first thing you do is enter the relevant search into Google. Which page do you think is more likely to be featured in search results?
From the first URL, it is completely incomprehensible what to expect from the page. Its address is generated automatically without a hint of content. The likelihood that the site will rank high in the SERP is extremely small. The second option has a better chance. This is due to keywords. However, a random set of characters spoils the impression. The address is long and not readable. The third option is optimal. The URL is as clear as possible. It contains keywords and guides us through the site architecture to the content we were looking for.
There are many reasons for using human-centric URLs. They are better remembered. Users can immediately identify what content is being offered to them: expert advice, step-by-step guide, or just a product card. It is more convenient to share semantic addresses with other users. The interlocutor without unnecessary explanations understands where the link leads. Plus, you get extra space for your keywords.
Why It Is Important to Adhere to a Consistent URL Structure
Usually, sites have a simple hierarchical structure of several dozen pages at the time of launch. At first, users have no problem navigating, even if resource owners don’t pay much attention to the quality of the URLs. However, as the project develops, more products and catalog pages are added. Hundreds of new posts appear on the blog. Chaos begins on the site.
Imagine returning home and faced with a choice: to neatly put your clothes in the closet or toss them in the far corner of the room. The same principle works for web addresses on your site. Without the general logic, finding the right page will be difficult. Dealing with the clutter will take a lot of time and effort. Rewriting the page addresses is not enough. You need to re-do the internal linking and make sure that backlinks from other resources continue to work.
The best option is to think about the site architecture and URL structure SEO in advance. This will allow search robots to crawl the resource quickly, so visitors can easily navigate between its pages. At the start of the project, ask yourself the question, how do you see the business after 2 or 5 years? It is impossible to predict exactly which products will appear in the catalog and which ones you decide to refuse. You can outline a development strategy. Think over the logic for introducing new sections of the catalog and blog, plan the launch of new services or expand the business to other states. All innovations should organically fit into the existing hierarchical system of the site. It will be easier to generate high-quality URLs. Read the related article – Successful Site Architecture for SEO.
Which URLs Are Better: Static or Dynamic?
The SEO URL structure should be as simple and logical as possible. At first glance at the page address, the user should understand which section of the site they are in and what info they can get. Static URLs definitely benefit. They make the site architecture more stable, look concise, easy to read, and give an idea of the information that awaits users on the page.
Dynamic URLs are not the best UX solution. They are an automatically generated set of parameters separated by “?” and “=”. They are often perceived by users as a random set of characters. You should be careful with session identifiers (Cookies completely replace them), filters, calendars. These address parameters can change for each session, creating duplicate pages. There is a risk that Googlebot will crawl the same page several times. You will waste your crawling budget. In one of the materials, we talked about how dynamic URL parameters are generated, in which cases they can be useful, and how to set them up correctly – Google Search URL Parameters [Ultimate Guide]. By making dynamic addresses short, they can be read almost as easily as static ones. Still, in most cases, it is better to opt for the latter.
How to Create a URL That People and Robots Will Love
Web addresses are built according to a single pattern. Each of the structural elements of the URL performs its own function when sending a request to the server. However, if handled correctly, they can also provide additional SEO benefits. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a URL in order.
Use HTTPS Protocol
Google places a lot of emphasis on security. The HTTPS protocol and SSL certificates are specifically designed to protect personal data when exchanging information between a user device and a website. If users have to log in or enter bank card details, taking care of the safety of information comes to the fore.
Google strongly recommends using the HTTPS protocol on all resources, without exception. Compliance with safety standards is an important ranking factor. When users try to visit an unsecured site, they receive a notification that their data may be at risk. Even if the person is interested in the content, the alarm most likely motivates them to look for information in another, safer source. Read the related article – HTTPS vs. HTTP.
Choose Reputable TLDs
TLD does not affect ranking but determines the attitude of users towards your resource. If you have the option of choosing a top-level domain, it’s best to go with the “.com” option. The domain zones “.net” and “.org” have also proven themselves well. They are considered more authoritative and more credible than “.biz”, “.pro” or “.tel”. It is better to refuse dubious free TLDs like “.ml”, “.ga”, “.cf”, “.gq” – they are often used to create doorways, link spam, and other manipulations. The authority of these zones is low. For more information, see the article – What To Do If Your Domain Name Is Taken? .Com Alternative.
Subfolders to Subdomains
Make it a rule to always use subdirectories. Search bots can misinterpret a subdomain and perceive it as a separate site. The main resource will lose some of its credibility.
http://www.example.com/blog will be better than http://blog.example.com
Subdomains are designed to separate your blog, forum, online store, or other functionality from your main site. It makes sense to refer to them only in a number of situations:
- It is difficult to create subfolders if you are embedding third-party technology on the site. For example, you might have a main WordPress site, a Shopify store, and a BreatheHR HR dashboard that needs to be linked under a single branded domain. The optimal solution to implement each functional block under its own subdomain:
- For international projects, it sometimes makes sense to use a subdomain to switch between site versions in different languages. The same principle can be used for an extensive business with branches in different states to provide local users with the information that interests them.
- When you use a CMS that allows other users to create mini-sites based on your site.
- When you launch a lightweight mobile version. This life hack is used even by giants such as https://m.facebook.com/ and https://m.imdb.com/.
- A subdomain can be a great solution if your main site is available in the app format. It works the other way around. When you create a site to support brand apps, like https://web.whatsapp.com/.
Read the related article – Subdomains vs. Subfolders.
Reduce Nesting Levels to a Minimum
Try to keep your URL structure as simple as possible. Analyze the intermediate folders that separate the promoted page from the main page. They are easy to recognize visually. Each nesting level is separated from the next by a “/” sign. The fewer slashes in the URL, the easier it is to read and remember.
The shorter the path, the higher the authority of the page. It is desirable that the address contains no more than 1-2 nodes. Their main task is to clarify the hierarchical logic of page layout. If the subfolders have no meaning, get rid of them.
https: //www.example/design-decorate/room-ideas/tips/g884/living-room-rugs/ contains three similar and one useless “g884” directory. If you make it look like https://www.example/design-tips/living-room-rugs/, the page will win in terms of SEO.
A common problem with e-commerce sites is the presence of many pages with similar products. If the products differ in color or size, it doesn’t make sense to create a separate URL for each SKU. It is a waste of budget. It is much more practical to use a general category:
Read the related article Rel=Canonical Tag.
What a Good SEO Slug Looks Like
Optimizing your URL structure is a forward-looking job. Once done, you can benefit from SEO for years. This number will not work with slugs. Every time you publish blog posts, news, or product cards, you need to rethink the most compelling page address. This is the most challenging but fun part of creating an SEO friendly URL.
The easiest and most effective way to come up with a URL slug is to use the title of the page. This will allow you to tell potential visitors what is on the page and use keywords in a natural way. To get the most SEO benefit from the URL, you’ll need to tweak the original text.
Keep It Short
The shorter the URL, the better it will rank. Accordingly, the organic CTR is higher. This pattern is confirmed by Backlinko’s research. Site addresses on Google search results contain from 40 to 100 characters. The average length for the top 10 results is 66 characters. The SERP leader’s URL is on average 9.2 characters shorter than the #10 site. Try to phrase the URL’s slug in 3-5 words. The page address should be simple and clear at a glance.
Try to use fewer numbers. They can only be useful for SEO when publishing listings, ratings, or walkthroughs. If you are describing historical events in a blog with reference to a specific year, you can also leave it.
The picture above is an example of the do’s and dont’s using numbers in a URL. A good move is to offer users 15 interiors where the carpet serves as a visual accent. However, the publication date is redundant information. As a result, the address became longer, and the promoted page lost its authority. Moreover, as time passes, the content seems outdated and attracts less attention. In most cases, users are not interested in when you posted a post. If you are writing about specific trends, you can limit yourself to indicating the year. If you want to update your blog post to increase traffic after a few years, the numbers in the URL make it harder. Read how to do it right in the article –Republishing Content.
Find the Right Keywords
Keywords play as big a role in URLs for text, titles, and meta tags. They help search engines decide on which searches will receive the highest priority. The keywords in the slug let users know that they’ll find exactly what they’re looking for on the page. This means you get more clicks. The ideal option is to write the keyword phrase organically so users can insert the URL into their posts as an anchor when posting on social networks, or sending messages.
The order of the keywords in the URL structure matters. Keywords written in the domain name have more weight for crawlers than searches in subdirectories. They turn out to be more priority than those prescribed in the slug.
Services SEMrush, MOZ will help you find the keywords that best suit your industry. It is advisable to bet on requests with a high frequency, but with little competition. Read the related article – How to Do Keyword Research.
Don’t overuse keywords. 1-3 will be enough. Less is more in SEO. Don’t use variations of the same keyword in the URL multiple times. First, we strive to make the slug as short as possible, not the other way around. Second, you run the risk of pissing off Panda, Google’s algorithm that punishes sites for spamming. Read more – Google Algorithms That Affect SEO. Thirdly, an address looks unnatural and scares off potential visitors.
Use Correct Punctuation
To make it easier for users and robots to read the page address, all words in the URL slug should be separated from each other. Google recommends using hyphens to separate words. It is better to refuse the underscore. The “_” sign is well perceived visually, but crawlers identify such a URL as one incomprehensible word. The difference is noticeable by eye:
Write Characters in One Case
Use only lowercase letters. It will help to avoid confusion and all addresses on the site will look equally harmonious. Also, for robots, “A” and “a” are completely different symbols. For users, there isn’t much difference between example.com/Blog and example.com/blog. But for Google, these are two separate pages with duplicate content.
Vanity URLs are an exception to the rule. Capital letters improve brand readability and memorability. You can use capital letters at your discretion: write them at the beginning of the domain name, at the beginning of each word within the domain, or even use CAPS. These URLs are used as marketing support tools and are configured using 301 redirects. Related article – 301 vs 302 redirects. In what cases it is appropriate, and how to create a custom address for your site? We discussed in detail in the article How to Use Vanity URLs: Complete Guide.
Avoid Stop Words
Our goal is to keep the slug short. To do this, you need to get rid of unnecessary words. As in interface design, the principles of gestalt psychology work here. You’ve probably seen funny examples when vowels are removed from words or letters are reversed, but the phrase is read as easily as in the original. We can throw away individual characters and even words, while the meaning is not lost. Just compare the two options:
The stop words that it is desirable to remove from the slug are, first of all, articles and prepositions: “a”, “the”, “of”, “with”, “by”, “to”, “so”, “after”. Next, let’s get rid of the pronouns: “I”, “you”, “your”, “him”, “her”, “ours”. You can safely delete the verbs: “is”, “are”, “have”, “can”, “take”, “say”, etc. Search robots consider these words irrelevant and ignore them when crawling. For users, they have no semantic value and make the URL heavier, longer, and harder to read.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. If you remove prepositions from some sentences, their meaning changes completely. Anchor – /growing-up-with-digital_technology is not the same as /growing-digital-technology. Be careful with automatic URL generators. They can play a cruel joke. For example, one of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin settings removes stop words from the slug by itself. This can play a cruel joke in the optimization process. In order not to lose the meaning of the phrase during the optimization process, be sure to proofread the URL before publishing.
Prepositions and verbs are not necessarily stop words. Sometimes they can help Google’s search algorithm better grasp the context. This often applies to company names, films, books, and various well-established concepts. For example, the search “queen” will give users information about the life of the British royal family, and the phrase “the queen” will return results related to the iconic rock band.
Use Safe Characters
Not only the readability of the address depends on the selected characters but also its operation in general. At your complete disposal are letters in different registers (a-z, A-Z), as well as numbers from 0 to 9. They are well perceived by users even with a cursory reading. Of the separating signs, it is better to limit yourself to a hyphen. This is the only symbol to which humans and robots are equally loyal. Characters like “.” , “_” Or “~” impairs readability. Otherwise, it is safe to use them.
In most cases, there is no point in overloading the URL with extra characters. If for some reason you need to include symbols in the slug, they should be decoded.
No spaces, “”, <>,%, and #. They can cause a number of errors and make the URL unreadable for certain browsers or devices.
How to Make Your Website Address More Recognizable
The last point we would like to dwell on concerns design. On the desktop, Google maintains a concise interface. When searching from mobile, the picture is slightly different. Along with the URL for each SERP position, you can see a characteristic icon – a favicon.
Usually, the first letters of the company name, logo, or any image associated with the resource are used as favicons. The same icon adorns the browser tab in front of the site name and is displayed in the history, quick access panel, bookmarks. Graphics do not affect ranking. Their task is to make the site more recognizable and make it easier for users to visually scan the SERPs.