SEO Friendly URLs [Complete Guide for Beginners]

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Ever heard that your website URLs should be SEO friendly! Or a Bad URL structure can hurt your search engine rankings?

Well, the answer is YES! URLs are important, both for –

  1. Users, and
  2. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

For users, URLs plays a vital role in user experience. As it helps them to understand what the webpage is all about and what type of content they are going to get when they open or click on a particular URL.

On the other hand, URLs are a significant ranking factor and considered as one of the basic elements of SEO for other SERPs or search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

In fact, certain URL parameters are listed in Google’s top 200 ranking factors like –

  • URL Length,
  • URL path,
  • Keywords in the URL
  • and URL.

Now you know, Why you should take URLs seriously?

In case if you are looking forward to knowing – How to make SEO friendly URLs? or How you can optimize your website URLs for SEO?

That’s exactly what I am going to cover in this post. I will answer questions that are more often asked by the audience related to SEO friendly URLs.

Some of the questions are –

  1. Are shorter URLs better for SEO?
  2. Are dynamic URLs bad for SEO?
  3. Is Domain Name important for SEO?
  4. How do I make my WordPress URL SEO friendly?
  5. What is the best URL structure for SEO?

But, before moving on our topic SEO Friendly URL, let’s first understand what is a URL anyway?


What Is a URL and URL Structure?

What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is nothing but an address of a web page.

How to Structure a URL?

It is very important how you structure your website URLs. A URL is made up to 2 parts –

1. Domain Name or Subdomain Name

Below is an example of Domain and Subdomain –

domain-and-subdomain

You can read more about Domain Names in this post.

2. Slug

What is a Slug? A Slug can be defined as the text that identifies a unique page or post of a website.

https://themaverickspirit.com/cheap-email-marketing-services/

In the above URL, the slug is in bold.


Now that we know what is URL, let’s move on to our main topic – SEO Friendly URLs.

What are SEO Friendly URLs?

A URL is said to be SEO Friendly URL that is –

1. Easy to Read and Understand

A URL must be designed in a way that it is easy to read and understand both for users and search engines.

2. Keyword-Rich

Your URL must contain your target keywords. Because a keyword-rich URL still have a better chance to rank higher.

But that doesn’t mean to overload a URL with more keywords. It’s a bad practice for SEO.

3. Static

URLs must be static and no dynamic parameters should be included.

URLs with dynamic parameters are less SEO friendly than static URLs.

4. Future-Proof

Site structure plays an important role in SEO.

Therefore it’s important to choose the right URL that works in the future as well.

For example,

url-with-specific-year

The above URL is specific for the year 2019 and the user might not open it in 2020 or after that.

On the other hand, if I will create a URL something like below –

future-proof-urls-easy-to-update

It will still make sense in 2020 and after that. Also, it will be easier for me to update the content in the future.

5. Relevant

A URL must be relevant to the content and topics written on the webpage and must explain the content well when someone read the URL.

6. Indexed in Search Engines

Make sure your website URLs are indexed in search engines.

If not, then you should create an XML Sitemap and submit it to Google and other search engines.


Why are URLs important for SEO?

Now that we know what SEO friendly URLs are! Let’s understand why are URLs important for SEO.

Below are the reasons that will make you understand why URLs matter so much for SEO –


1. User Experience

Nothing is as important as the user and user experience. We write relevant and purposeful content to please and serve a user requirement.

Similarly, URLs must also –

  1. Indicate what the page is all about.
  2. Human readable and easy to understand.
  3. Semantically correct.

All the above factors provide visitors improved user experience.

But How Search Engines Understand if The Content is Relevant to The User or Not?

Search engines determine this by checking the average stay time of users on a specific web page.

If the stay time is high, search engines considered it as relevant content and marked its user experience as high.


2. Search Engine Rankings

Apart from webpage title, link anchor text and content, Google and other search engine use URL to understand the content of that webpage.

Search engines do give weight to the authority of the domain name, but the keywords used in the URL is also one of the ranking factors.

Meaningful and relevant URLs have a higher chance of ranking higher in Google.


3. Clean, Optimized and Semantically Accurate URLs

A clean, optimized and semantically accurate URL provides a better user experience than an ugly URL.

Let’s understand this with an example.

ugly-urls-are-less-likely-to-get-shared

In the above example, which links among the two looks clean and has the chances of getting more clicks?

It’s obvious that the 1st link is more clear and easy to understand the page content.


How to Write an SEO Friendly URL? [Best Tips & Practices]

1. Try to Include Target Keywords

What is a Target Keyword? A Target Keyword is the keyword at which you want to rank for on Google and other search engines.

Including your target keyword in URL is considered to be one of the best practices to make your URL SEO friendly.

This keyword tells Google that this page is going to contain content relevant to this target keyword.

include-target-keywords-in-url

For example, here’s my post that lists Cheap Email Marketing Services

include-target-keywords-in-url-example

My target keyword for this page is, “Cheap Email Marketing Services”. And I’ve included my target keyword in its URL.

https://themaverickspirit.com/cheap-email-marketing-services/


2. Use Hyphens In-Between Words

Use hyphens instead of underscores or spaces as “word separators” in your URL.

Let’s understand, why?

Check these 2 URLs and tell me which one is easy to read.

use-hyphens-as-separators-to-make-urls-more-readable

Just like humans, the search engine also finds it difficult to understand the 1st URL.

On the other hand, hyphens in the 2nd URL make search engine understand that “cheap”, “email”, “marketing”, and services are separate words


3. Keep Your URLs Short

Short URLs stand a better chance to rank on search engines compared to long URLs.

Let’s understand this with an example.

Check out these 2 URLs and tell me which one do you think is more readable and meaningful.

keep-urls-short-to-make-them-meaningful-and-more-readable

Obviously, the 2nd URL has a greater impact than the 1st URL. And that’s because it is short and meaningful.

According to Google’s Matt Cutts, three, four or five-word URL is perfectly normal.

If a URL exceeds that length, it will start to look worse. Hence Google algorithms give weight to only those words and a little less credit to the words after that.

“Our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.”

Matt Cutts, Google

Another issue with long URLs is that Google trims long URLs in the search results.


4. Always Write URLs in Lowercase

Most of the modern browsers and servers are case insensitive, but still, there are servers exist that are case sensitive.

So, as a best practice, make sure to write URLs in lowercase.  


5. Make Sure Your Site Runs on HTTPS

Google clearly stated last year that it’s going to mark a website NOT SECURE that is still running on HTTP.

HTTPS is now one of the ranking signals for Google. And it stated this in its official release.

google-https-ranking-signal-notification

6. Use Subfolders Instead of Subdomains

Try not to use subdomains in URLs. Google consider subdomains as a separate website and index it separately from your main domain.

On the other hand, Google considers subfolders a part of the main website.

That said – Subfolders are clearly more friendly than subdomains.

use-subfolders-instead-of-subdomains-in-urls

7. Make Correct Use of Canonical Tags

What is a Canonical Tag? A canonical tag tells the search engine which version of a URL should get indexed and appear in search results.

In other words, when you have multiple versions of a URL, canonical tag helps search engine to understand that these URLs are actually the same and have the same content and it should index only of them.

This not only avoids indexing of the duplicate content but also came in handy while creating AMP version of a URL.

How to Add Canonical Tag?

You can add a canonical tag by adding the following HTML tag in the head section of your HTML page.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://themaverickspirit.com/transferwise-review”/>

How Google Treats Multiple URLs With Same Content?

google-about-duplicate-url-content

But Why Would Anyone Create Multiple Versions of the Same Page?

There are certain cases when you want to have multiple versions of the same page.

After the release of Google’s Mobile-First Indexing, more people are optimizing their websites for mobile speed and performance.

AMP is one of the ways that make your website loads faster on mobile devices but it opens up in a separate URL.

accelarated-mobile-page-amp-url

And in this AMP version of a URL, there will be a canonical tag to tell Google that this page should not be indexed as it’s just a copy of another URL.


8. Create an XML Sitemap For Indexing

What is an XML Sitemap? XML Sitemap is the list of all the URLs of a website that you want Google and other search engines to index.

XML Sitemap not only helps search engines to find your website URLs easily and index them but also in creating a reference for canonical tags.


9. Create a Proper Navigation

Navigation helps both users and search engines to –

  1. Understand Site hierarchy, and
  2. Find content quickly.

10. Plan Your Navigation Based on Website’s Homepage (Root)

The entry point of any website is the home page also known as root.

Ideally, a website’s navigation must be based on the homepage. Of course, there are exceptions.

Create proper categories and subcategories to categorize your website related posts and pages.


11. Use Breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is almost a secondary navigation that helps –

  1. Users to find their way back to previous URLs, and
  2. Search engines to understand your site structure well.

12. Simple and Descriptive URLs Convey Content Information

URLs must be simple and descriptive so that a user can understand what this page is about just by looking at the URL.

Long and cryptic URLs are less recognizable and confusing for users.


13. Create Directory Names Relevant To The Content

Choosing directory names relevant to the content will –

  1. Help users to understand the context and category of the content.
  2. Help search engines to understand the site structure.

What You Should Avoid While Creating SEO Friendly URLs?

1. Avoid Dates in URLs (Unless You Have a News Website)

If you have a news or magazine website, you can avoid this part.

But if you don’t, then you should avoid the use of dates in URLs. Here’s why –

(a)  Dates Make URL Unnecessary Longer

avoid-using-dates-in-url

(b) Nobody Wants Read a Content With An Older Date (Even If It Is Updated)

If you came across a URL something like above, will you be able to trust its content even if it updated?

No! And the reason is that visible date which resists you from reading the content further and you might end up closing the tab.

Hence, it’s considered to be the best practice to remove the dates from URL, if you’re going to update the content in the future, which you will probably do.


2. Avoid Dynamic URLs

Dynamic URLs are not SEO friendly and likely to cause problems for SEO. Below are the reasons –

(a) Long URLs

Dynamic URLs are long because of parameters which ultimately ruins the user experience.

avoid-dynamic-parameters-in-urls

(b) Content Duplicacy

Dynamic URLs can results in duplicate content if Google indexes the same URL with different parameters.

For example –

dynamic-content-results-in-content-duplicacy

Above 2 URLs are of the same page, but google will index them as separately because of different parameters.

(c) Dynamic URLs are Ugly, can hurt CTR

Dynamic URLs are ugly. It might hurt your CTR.

keep-urls-clean-to-increase-click-through-rate

(d) Google Cuts Off Dynamic URLs in Search Results

Dynamic URLs are long and get cut off by Google in search results.

google-cuts-off-long-urls-in-search-results

3. Avoid Using Ugly URLs or Neat & Clean URLs Increase Click-through Rate [Ugly URLs Decrease it]

Avoiding Ugly URLs is one of the best practices one should follow for SEO. Let’s understand, why?

(a) Ugly URLs Decreases Click-Through Rate

Organic Click-through-rate is one of the search engine ranking factors. Higher the CTR, the higher the chances of ranking high in Google and other Search Engines.

But what does it have to do with URLs?

Well, no one wants to click ugly URLs as they say nothing about the page.

Let’s understand this with an example. Check out these 2 URLs. Which one do you think will get more clicks?

keep-urls-clean-to-increase-click-through-rate

Obviously, 1st URL will have a higher click-through-rate because it exactly tells a user what this page is all about.

(b) Ugly URLs are less likely to get shared on social media and other online communities.

ugly-urls-are-less-likely-to-get-shared

4. Avoid Deep Nesting of Subdirectories

Deep nesting of subdirectories not only makes the URL long but ugly as well.

avoid-deep-nesting-of-subdirectories-in-url

5. Avoid Generic Names For Posts & Pages

It’s hard to understand the content of a page with generic URL names.

For example, if I will create pages with names Page1, Page 2, and Page 3, they are likely to get clicked or ranked.

On the other hand, if I will create pages with names – Home, about, and contact us, they are more meaningful and readable.


6. Avoid Using Excessive and Repetitive Keywords

An URL with excessive keyword and repetitive words is always irritating.

How do you react to a URL like this –

avoid-using-excessive-words

So much SEO, and its irritating, isn’t it?


How Google & Other Search Engines Treat URLs?

Google has also mentioned in its starter guide about how search engines use URLs.

how-google-treat-urls

Final Verdict

There is no single way to create the best SEO-friendly URL.

There are multiple factors that must be addressed like short URLs, HTTPS, keyword-rich, etc, while URL structuring.

According to me, a URL must be focused to define the topic well enough, so that can guess the content of the page just by looking at the URL.

Try to break your URL structuring and optimizing process into steps. Just don’t overcomplicate things.

Keep your URLs short, clean, simple and readable.

Also, if you have any other URL optimization strategies, do share with me in the comments.

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