It’s common practice to develop an SEO friendly URL structure for all new website and some redesign projects. If you want more web traffic.

The SEO friendly URL structure is required if you want a smooth user journey and your link architecture that Google recognizes and ranks.

Over 70% of clicks go to organic searches that rank on the first page of Google. So ranking on the first page of Google can be the deciding factor in making your business thrive online. You probably already know that, right?

Uniform resource locator (URL) represents a human-readable text that identifies the location of a resource, often a web page, on the internet. The URL also assigns the manner of page retrieval, in other words, the protocol for it.

Three elements constitute a URL. The domain that is an identifier which represents the IP address of a website – DNS, domain name system, sets the rules for mapping a domain to an IP address. 

Then, there is the protocol that designates the manner in which the server and the browser communicate to retrieve a page, and assigns the rules for error handling, syntax reading, security, etc. And finally, top-level domains that represent website categorization; for instance, .edu for education, .gov for government websites and .com for general purpose.

Over 70% of clicks go to organic searches that rank on the first page of Google. Click To Tweet

Besides aiding your SEO, URLs have other advantages like trust, social proof, increased social shares, authority and they impact the traffic and user engagement rates. 

Lower quality URL results in lowered credibility and trust, and fewer shares and traffic on a website. It is the first thing your users see, and it represents a foundation for good SEO

In this article, you will learn some of the best practices for an SEO-friendly URL structure. 

Keywords and exact match domains

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The strength of using keywords in URLs as a ranking determinant declined in recent times. In the 2000s, exact match domains (also known as EDMs) were a fast and easy way of getting to the top of search engine results.

However, the same as with other spammy SEO tactics, Google quickly caught up and started penalizing websites that relied on keyword stuffing to boost their search rankings. After the algorithm change, EMD started having a negative impact on the page’s rank in search.

Nowadays, Google interprets a page’s content more efficiently now and uses URL less and less to decide what the page is about.

However, there are still some successful EMD websites. Take Hotels.com, for example. It ranks first for the keyword “hotels” and has a domain authority of 89. So, why does Google still like this website?

Well, even though it’s an exact match domain, the name is still a great signal of user intent for those searching for hotels. Besides that, it’s a 24 years old domain with more than 15 million links from 40,00 different websites.

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Keywords are still relevant, though, as they add a description to a page’s URLs. Like in other parts of SEO, the manner in which you utilize keywords in URLs influences how efficient they are in making a page rank better.

Put yourself in the user’s shoes – does it help people understand the meaning of a page? If keywords accurately describe a page’s meaning and purpose, they’re good to go.

Every page of a website needs to have a dominant target keyword in order to increase its ranking. The dominant keywords name, besides describing what the web page is about, should also be based on a common term that people use when looking at a page.

The dominant keyword will form a part of the page’s URL – for instance, www.yourwebsite.net/subcategory/dominant-keyword. 

Domain extensions for great SEO Friendly URL Structure

Domain extensions have no effect on the search result rankings, with the only exception of country-code top-level domains like co.uk or com.au, and they only affect results on a geographic search level.

For instance, a website that has a com.au, or even better a .sydney domain extension, the website will rank higher when users search for it from Sydney, hence the variations in domain name registration prices.

Although domain extensions bear no ranking significance, the user experience effects cannot be neglected.

People know about .com, .net, and .org domains and believe in the professionalism of corporations with such extensions, while extensions like .loan or .click appear spammy and users associate them with low-ranking websites, so they will be more suspicious and will hardly engage with them, which could ultimately affect your SEO in a negative way.

Use secure protocols

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On August 1, 2018, Google updated their base algorithm which affected the search ranking of every site out there. This update added several more factors that it utilizes to interpret the quality of a web page and its ranking in the search results. They are trustworthiness, authoritativeness, and expertise.

Out of 20 top results in searches, 37% of them are HTTPS secured, while HTTPS pages make up almost 50% of the top ten. Click To Tweet

Out of these factors, trust represents the crucial factor in the terms of content optimization for searches. Migrating your website to a secure HTTPS will allow you to add that trustworthiness parameter into your URL. HTTPS will ensure that all communication between your website and its users is protected against the malicious online activity. 

Searchmetrics study of ranking factors in 2017 discovered that out of 20 top results in searches, 37% of them are HTTPS secured, while HTTPS pages make up almost 50% of the top ten. Recent studies have even higher numbers, as HTTPS pages make up over 70% of the top 10 results.

It’s safe to assume that these numbers will only continue to rise. Google Chrome already marks any page that doesn’t use HTTPS as “unprotected”, which means that even if you manage to get past the algorithm and rank well, you will probably lose many visitors as they will view your website as a potential security risk.

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Use hyphens to separate words

While a simple and short URL structure is most understandable for humans, there are times when a URL contains multiple words, and you have several options for how to separate them. Look at these examples:

  • www.corporate.com/howtoaskforraise
  • www.corporate.com/how_to_ask_for_raise
  • www.corporate.com/how-to-ask-for-raise

Out of these three, which do people understand the most? Which is the easiest to read and has a clear style? While most of us would choose the second example, search engines don’t recognize underscore as a separator and will bunch all the words together, thus ruining any previous SEO efforts. 

The same applies to the first example, besides it is hard to read. However, when web crawlers see a hyphen, they will index each word separately, while hyphens also make a URL easier to read than underscores or + sign.

Keep it short and simple

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Long and messy URLs will not only be confusing for users, but they will also confuse search engines. 

Although longer URLs can be complicated and confusing, search engines can still process them without much trouble. However, the problem lies with usability and user experience.

Make sure that your URLs only the words that are descriptive and clearly indicate what the topic of the page is. According to a study, there’s actually a strong correlation between short URLs and high Google rankings. Besides that, pages with short URLs get shared more often on social media, which can drive even more traffic to your website.

Also, make sure that your titles match your URLs whenever possible. And if you’re sticking with a 50-60 character length for your titles, you won’t have problems with your URL length either.

A good way to shorten your URLs is to remove stop words. You don’t always have to remove them, but try to use your best judgment to make your URLs as short as possible without compromising readability.

Unnecessary folders are also something you should avoid using. While there are no strict rules about folders, they will make your website easier to navigate, and improved user experience is something search engines will also value.

Neatly organized folders can help both your visitors find the content they want and search engines understand what content you think is most important.

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The URL structure will remain one of the crucial factors for any effective SEO. Google’s job is to deliver relevant results to searchers and to do this, it must know what each page in its index is about. When trying to determine this, URLs will be the first Google indexes. 

An intuitive URL structure makes it easier for website users to navigate a page, as the dominant keyword allows them to see which category preceded the final part of a URL, while savvy users know to delete the last few categories to return to the home page. 

Ultimately, what is good for the user is good for SEO and internal link structure too.

Web crawlers have an easier time making the relevant connections between various pages on a website and efficiently sifting through information about different sections of a website and seeing how they relate to one another. 

Wrap up on SEO-Friendly URL Structure

Your URL structure and link architecture are as an important quality content like blog posts, meta descriptions, title tags, dynamic URL’s along with your keyword research. Develop high-quality unique content with all of your types of content for your SEO friendly website.

Follow these steps and watch your web traffic grow.

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Elaine Bennett, Digital Marketing Specialist, is a marketing specialist and a blogger, currently based in Sydney. Topics that she covers include marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, and SMBs. She’s especially interested in social media and technology. Loves coffee, music and video games.

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