First impressions are important!
And same applies to website URLs, as they are the first thing viewed by Google and your audience.
SEO friendly URL structure is also the first step in the process of search engine optimization. It helps not only in the indexation process of the website but also increases the usability & trustability of the users on the website. But unfortunately, most of the website owners don’t pay attention to URL structure that will cause lowers ranking in SERPs, lower CTR etc.
The first thing that comes to your mind will be what is a SEO friendly URL structure?
Let’s know this in detail
An SEO friendly URL structure is the URL structure that is:
- Short & simple
- Easy to remember & share
- Can describe the web page content
- Easy to read by both human & search engine
- Make sense to both human & search engine
- Secured & trustable
Now the next question will be how to create a SEO friendly URL structure. Below are few guidelines that will sure shot help you in the creation of SEO friendly URL Structure.
Because of cybercrime and identity theft issues, every internet savvy who is searching information or looking for services online wants to that the web page they visit is secure. Web addresses that begin with HTTPS are more secure than HTTP. Thus increasing a user’s trust on the sites.
HTTPS not only gains a user’s trust or make your website secure, it also helps in boosting the website ranking. Google has also confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal. Read here about its Google Confirmation
USE TOP LEVEL DOMAINS:
The top level domain is one of the factors that contribute to the SEO friendliness of a Web Page. It means we should prefer to use .com rather than .biz, .pro, .tel. I want to make clear that top level domains do not directly impact SERP ranking but increase the trust of internet users on the website. User trusts increase the CTR that have a positive impact on website’s overall SEO. If you have a local business it’s better to have a country code level top domain. For example, for a business in India, the domain name can be www.example.in
KEEP IT SHORT & SIMPLE:
Short URL vs. Long URL
It is a debatable issue since long. Let me clear this issue once and for all.
The first thing that search engines don’t have any problem with is processing much longer URLs. So it’s simple the URL length of a web page doesn’t directly affect its rankings in SERPs. However, the problem is about user-experience and usability.
Shorter URLs are more preferred by users than long URLs because they are easier to parse, copy, paste, or remember. In most cases, if the URL of a web post is under 50 characters, there is no need to worry about it. However, if it’s exceeding, says, 100 characters, then you might like to rewrite it and make it more user-friendly.
Note: The URLs of the blog posts ranked on the first page of Google contains an average of 37 characters.
INCLUDE RELEVANT KEYWORDS:
If you are trying to optimize your web page for certain keywords, it’s better idea to include keywords in its URL. But avoid keyword stuffing. So, it’s important that we structure URL in a way that includes the keywords which don’t seem forced and unnatural.
Using keywords in the main URL has numerous advantages. Some of which are:
The main advantage of including keywords in URL is that it indicates to users & search engine what the page is about.
When URL shared in different platforms without anchor text, the URL itself serves as the anchor text.
According to my observation & experience, users pay more attention to main keywords in SERPs. Having keywords in the URL can increase the CTR.
MAKE EASILY READABLE:
URL is equally important for both, search engines &the users, so it’s important for it to make sense. A well-structured SEO friendly URL provides the search engine & the users with an easy to understand indication about what the web page will be all about.
SEPARATE WORDS THROUGH HYPHENS AND UNDERSCORE:
Available options for separating words in a URL are to use hyphens, underscores, or nothing at all. It is highly recommended to go with the hyphens. It increases the overall readability of the URL by making it easier for readers & search engines. Underscores have actually increased in acceptance within URLs because the search engines have successfully overcome their previous challenges with them. Now, hyphens and underscores are treated similarly. Spaces aren’t advised because they translated in %20 which detracts from the readability of your page. So always try to avoid spaces.
AVOID STOP WORDS:
Try to avoid stop words like a, an, and, or, the, but etc. when you structuring the URL. There are no downsides of adding these in URLs; however, they could make the URL unnecessarily longer. As one of our goals of structuring URL is to make it short, simple & readable, avoiding such type of stop words can help you to achieve your goal of URL simplicity.
USE LOWERCASE LETTERS IN URL:
Not every website owner or blogger pay attention to URLs case sensitivity, but it can cause a big issue. If you are using Microsoft/IIS servers hosting, you need not worry about it. But, in case you are using Linux/Unix servers hosting, there can be a problem because they can interpret separate cases. Eg. www.abc.com/page1.html is different from www.abc.com/Page1.html.
So using uppercase letters in URL can lead to redirects or 404 errors on these servers.
For better URL optimization it’s best to stick with lowercase letters.
AVOID DYNAMIC / RELATIVE URL:
You can identify dynamic URLs by looking for special characters like:? = &. These URLs have several disadvantages such as:
The same content can have different URLs.
Lower CTR in SERPs, in emails, forums, and blogs where they were shared.
These are not usable in branding or print campaign.
Challenging to manually remember
Lower keywords relevance and keyword prominence
So I suggest you if possible, go with static URLs.
MAXIMUM TWO FOLDERS IS GENERALLY BETTER:
Here folder means no of slashes you see between texts in a URL. There isn’t any hard & fast rule of how many maximum folders we can use with URL. Using folders do not directly affect the SEO performance. However, using more folders increases the site depth for both search engines & users which will result in poor user experience & search engines indexing issues. Hence, it’s better to use maximum two folders in URL.
Note: Using more folders also makes URL string edition considerably more complex.
SUB FOLDER VS SUB DOMAIN:
Many have this doubt, which is better to use sub domain of sub folder? Here is the difference between a sub domain & sub folder.
I suggest you go with sub folder because sub domain is treated as a different domain by the search engines. So if you use sub domain you have to do twice the SEO work. However, if you have several, not related products, I advise you to go with a sub domain. Google also uses the same approach for different products such as for images, images.google.com, for news news.google.com. Also, using the sub domain for local websites is a better option. Such as delhi.abc.com, lucknow.abc.com etc.
Using SEO friendly URL structure is one of the most important search engine optimization techniques, which one shouldn’t neglect. Several variables are addressed when structuring SEO friendly URLs. From choosing top level domains, buying SSL certificate to keywords, human readability, stop words, separator, folders, character cases, proper formatting and many other points we have to consider. These all make the URL optimization complicated, but when you break down these things step by step it becomes more manageable.