SEO Friendly URLs: The Ultimate Guide

seo url structure guide

Written by Ros

March 29, 2020

What is the url?

Url stands for Uniform Resource Locator. The url is the web address of a specific web page. A URL is a human-readable text that was designed to replace the numbers (IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with servers. They also identify the file structure on the given website. A URL consists of a protocol, domain name, and path.

This is how a url looks like

URL affects Page SEO

Not only URL can affect your website’s SEO, but it is one of the first factors that you can optimize your website when you are using more advance technics. When you finish with the basic SEO optimization, the first thing you have to work on is the urls. The best practice is to optimize your urls right the moment you create them. I strongly recommend avoiding messing around with live urls. Beware the url changes! You have to be very careful about when it comes to live urls. If there is a page with a lot of traffic that brings real results to you, I advise you not to touch it.

We do not change anything that works!

every experienced marketer

10+1 Rules for SEO Friendly URL Structure

Let’s dive into the details. Here’s the definitive guide for the perfect url structure.

#1 Do not use any uppercase characters in URLs

URLs in some cases, they are case-sensitive. Not always, but there are cases that they create problems with duplicate content. You don’t want to lose any potential traffic for such a silly reason. Using lowercase characters is simpler, and will never create you a problem. There is no reason to use uppercase characters.

#2 Separate words using hyphens/dashes (-)

Use the hyphen/dash (-) as a separator between the words in your urls. It is friendlier to the users because it is the most common practice. Also, trying to invent different kinds of separators can cause you problems. A very common mistake is the use of the underscore (_) as a separator which makes the search engines read the whole phrase as a single word (like in hashtags)! There is no need for experiments. Use the separator that is most used. It is not the separators in your urls that will make you unique.

#3 Match url to page titles as possible

Your url should be similar to your page title, in order to give to the user to understand what your page is about. That does not mean that they should be identical. For example if your piece has a title “My Favorite Authentic Heavy Metal Bands of early 80’s” your url can be:

yourdomain.com/heavy-metal-bands-early-80
yourdomain.com/favorite-heavy-metal-bands-early-80
yourdomain.com/authentic-heavy-metal-bands-early-80

and variations of them. All of them are totally acceptable because they give very clear info about what the post is about.

The matching accomplishes a mostly human-centric goal, i.e. to imbue an excellent sense of what the web user will find on the page through the URL and then deliver on that expectation with the headline/title.

#4 Limit the length of the url

The shorter the url, the better for the users to understand.

MOZ suggests 50-60 characters on average, but explains that you don’t need to take this to the extreme. If your URL is already less than 50-60 characters, don’t worry about it at all. If you have URLs pushing 100+ characters, there’s probably an opportunity to rewrite them and gain value.

Yoast clarifies that the length of the url is not actually an SEO factor. Here’s the Yoast’s article for friendly urls that makes it clear. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are most probably more focused, and that is what is valuable.

A focused url is more informative and more friendly to the user.

#5 Do not use dynamically generated content to your url

As far as it is possible, avoid having query parameters in the URL of your website’s page. This kind of junk is ugly.

If you have a product store or an eCommerce store or a store which offers a digital sale of goods or services, it is possible that multiple pages of your website may have query parameters. If it makes sense to keep the query parameters, you can choose to keep them. For example

www.example.com/men/t-shits?productid=638346&color=red

In the above example, the text after “?” is nothing but a query parameter. The product id part is completely unnecessary since it does not provide the user with any useful information. The parameter color it could be useful if the product has color variations. In that case it would provide the user with the color of the selected variable and makes it possible to share the user of this specific variation with a friend for a second opinion. Otherwise, in case the product does not have any color variations, it does not seem important to add a parameter for it.

If you can avoid using URL parameters, do so.

Most CMS platforms have become savvy to this over the years, but a few laggards remain. Check out tools like mod_rewrite and ISAPI rewrite or MS’ URL Rewrite Module (for IIS) to help with this process.

Some dynamic parameters are used for tracking clicks (like those inserted by popular social sharing apps such as Buffer). In general, these don’t cause a huge problem, but they may make for somewhat unsightly and awkwardly long URLs. Use your own judgment around whether the tracking parameter benefits outweigh the negatives.

#6 Do not use stopwords

Stopwords are the words that break up your keywords.

If your title/headline includes stop words (and, or, but, of, the, a, etc.), it’s not critical to put them in the URL. You don’t have to leave them out, either, but it can sometimes help to make a URL shorter and more readable in some sharing contexts. Use your best judgment on whether to include or not based on the readability vs. length.

If I want to create a url for a page named “SEO friendly technics for url structures”, “for” is a stopword.

So I would rather use “url-structure-seo-friendly-technics”.

#7 Add your main keywords in the url

The main factor to optimize your urls for the search engines is to include your keywords. Urls indicate what the subject of each page is. You should ensure that the users will If you want to add a page with specific content, you have to make sure that search engines understand the subject of your content.

#8 Limit the number of folders in your url path

Every single time you have a slash “/” in your url, you are going down a level in your website hierarchy. So you may have “yourdomain.com/seo/url/url-structure/ url-structure-seo-friendly-technics”. These are all levels going down your website. The more of these you have, the less important your url becomes. So you have to use the fewer levels possible to make sure that search engines consider your url important. By the way, remember what we told about the url length. Having a lot of levels in your url, it makes it also long. So this is another reason you should try to limit the number of levels.

Take a URL like this:

randswhisky.com/scotch/lagavulin/15yr/distillers-edition/pedro-ximenez-cask/750ml

And consider, instead, structuring it like this:

randswhisky.com/scotch/lagavulin-distillers-edition-750ml

It’s not that the slashes (aka folders) will necessarily harm the performance, but it can create a perception of site depth for both engines and users.

There’s no hard and fast requirement. It is more about how you judge what the hierarchy should have according to the importance of your content. Remember, the more important the content is, the fewer folders you should use.

#9 Use Latin characters only

That applies to languages that they don’t use the Latin alphabet. Let’s take Greek for example.

There are 2 options.
The first is to create urls using the greek alphabet. It’s totally fine with Google as it answered in this video.
The second is to use the respective Latin characters that reflect the sound of the Greek words.

Both are fine for search engines, but not for the users.
In the first case if you try to share your link in social media, a link with a long string with characters with no sense at all will appear, that looks like this

example.com/%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%87%CE%AC-%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%85%CF%82/

The reason that it appears like this is due to the incompatibility of the Latin characters with the Greek characters in the ASCII code.

As you understand, this is night good-looking or informative. So there is no doubt that it is better to use latin characters.

#10 Be careful with keyword stuffing

Keywords are definitely the most important thing you have to think about when you optimize your urls for SEO. That does not mean that you have to use them as many times as possible. If you use your keyword multiple times, search engines will not consider your page as more relevant to your keyword topic. On the contrary, your webpage maybe consider spammy! You do not want that to happen.

#bonus Make sure that the url makes sense to the user

A good url is the one that makes sense to the user. It should be simple to understand and inform the user of what your page is about.

This could be your guide when you unsure about an SEO decision.

When you are not sure which of your options is the most SEO friendly, always ask your self which one is the most understandable and friendly to the user.

Do you have more questions?

Write to me a comment below and I will do answer all of your questions.
I’ll be happy to help.

Do you need some professional optimization for the permalinks of your website?

If you feel unsure whether your urls could be optimized even more for SEO or not, contact us, to ask for a quote for our SEO services.

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