There is often conflicting and confusing information and guides on how you should be structuring your URLS. This is largely down to there being quite a number of theories and concepts to what can be a fairly complex element. It’s also important to note that URL structure isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of your SEO strategy, it won’t net you a huge ranking boost on its own, but it is still a largely important piece of your website architecture that shouldn’t be overlooked – but at the same time don’t put all your eggs in one basket and solely focus on URL structure without taking into consideration your overall SEO campaign.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how we can structure URLs in an SEO friendly manner, which will create a good user experience whilst also promoting PageRank.
1 – Consistency and Simplicity is Key
Whilst search engines’ technology continues to grow in amazing ways, they are still machines that prefer steadiness, consistency and readability in your content. They don’t react well to change and they certainly don’t enjoy surprises!
Taking the above into account, let’s discuss the two types of URL classifications: Static and Dynamic.
Dynamic URLs refer to those that include parameters and therefore change their appearance. Static URLs, however, stay consistent unless changes are made within the HTML.
Therefore static URLs are far more preferable when it comes to SEO.
Another tactic to ensure your URLs remain simplistic is to monitor their length. A shorter URL tends to rank higher on Google as they also contribute to a good user experience and are optimised for sharing. There is a generous recommended length of 2,083 characters as a maximum, but in reality you wouldn’t want your URL length to even be close to this number.
In short (pun intended) keep your URLs simple, logical and memorable for the best results.
2 – Be organised
Whilst in some cases it is nice to stand out, in the realms of SEO this, unfortunately, isn’t the case. It is best practice to keep your URL structure organised whilst sticking to the most widely accepted format.
Avoid subdomains if possible, as these split authority and are treated as their own entity by search engines.
Instead, the use of categories, directories and subfolders is an effective and accepted way to achieve organisation in your URLs and creates a natural ‘breadcrumb’ trail within your URL, which is not only visually pleasing, but is optimised for user experience and search engines.
3 – Keyword optimisation
Of course, proper keyword research should be your starting point when looking at the structure of your URLs. Try not to go overboard, but at the same time you can quite comfortably include 1 – 2 of your keywords in your URL at the most. A keyword domain can be quite beneficial, but at the same time you can have a very successful SEO campaign without one – in fact, branding takes precedence here. Avoid exact-match domains, as a 2012 Google update devalued these.
Also, contrary to popular belief, the actual position of your keyword(s) within your URL is fairly irrelevant, so don’t stress out over this. Instead, put your efforts into the quality of your content, relevant to your URL structure.
4 – Be trustworthy
Google treats user experience as the most important factor, and trust is a huge part of this. But there are a number of factors that contribute to the trustworthiness of your website, including the length of time it has been live since its first index, your content and the security of your site.
Your URLs are related to this in a number of ways, such as using HTTPS for security and a trustworth TLD (top-level domain, such as .com or .co.uk).
Whilst TLDs don’t directly affect your ranking, it does have a way of influencing it by way of inducing traffic, which does have a significant way of impacting your rankings.
Take user experience into account at all costs. Keep your URLs accurate, relevant and logical, with a good organised structure. Avoid the use of stop words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ in your URLs, as well as special characters like exclamation marks, ampersands and question marks, and as mentioned, aim for static URLs as opposed to dynamic.
Taking all of the above into account, you will be well placed to optimise your URLs and improve your PageRank – good luck!