Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results. Generally speaking, the earlier or higher ranked the website is on a search engine like Google, the more visitors it will receive from those using the search engine. Therefore when talking about SEO-friendly URLs, there is a lot to keep in mind. Should the category be included? Should the URL be as short as possible or is there room for extras? Is it better to have a URL stuffed with keywords or not?
In this post, we’ll go over SEO-friendly URLs and try to elaborate a bit on why we think that is the best option. First, we'll start by saying that an SEO-friendly URL differs depending on the type of website. We’ll discuss a few of them to show the differences. Just remember that it is important to keep the visitor in mind when setting up your URL structure.
Ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs
No matter what kind of website you have, there are a couple of ground rules that apply to all websites.
- The main thing to note is that your URLs should be focused. Strip your URLs of stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
- The length of your URL isn’t really a factor in this. We do recommend to keep your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are most probably more focused. Keep in mind that if you use breadcrumbs on your site, these could appear instead of the full URL
- Length isn’t that much of an issue - Google will show what they think is important for that visitor. Keep in mind that meta titles and descriptions are cut off at 512 pixels, as is your URL.
- Don’t use underscores, as they connect the words and turn them into one long one. Dashes would be better.
These are the ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs. The best SEO-friendly URL differs depending on your website - for example:
- Company websites
- Online shops
- Blogs or news sites
all have different 'rules' for how to increase their SEO.
If your website holds information about your company and/or services with little else - no matter how many pages you have - the shortest URL possible is highly recommended.
If your website is an online shop, there are two ways to go about it:
Some content management systems (like Magento) create both. In that case, use
rel=”canonical” to point the search engine to the one you want to appear.
The question remains on what URL structure to use. In this case, SEO-friendly URLs should also be helpful URLs for your visitor. If your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, then by all means, include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will remind the visitor where they are on your website:
See? Decide if your categories add value to the product and URL and then choose which version suits you better.
Blogs or news sites
If your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URL.
If your web site has a strong coherence, the post title alone should be enough to create an SEO-friendly URL. The site's consistency will indicate the main topic of your website to search engines, so there's no need to add it in the URL.
If your website focuses on the news and you cover several different topics, adding the topic (for instance the category name), will make it even more clear what the page is about. News sites tend to follow similar rules to online shops for their SEO format.
If your website features daily news and the news is related to a date, be sure to include that date in the URL as well. For example, If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the date in the URL will already show if the page is about this year’s iPhone. Our recommendation is to only use the date in the URL if the date really matters.
There is no one way to create the best SEO-friendly URL. A lot depends on the type of website you have. There are always multiple options, especially with a blog or news site. The main thing is to keep your URLs focused. Besides that, make sure to include all the information that’s important to understand what the page - and the website - is about.