Uniform resource locator (URL), search engine optimization (SEO) title tag and article title are essential for website optimization and search engine ranking. A well-structured and optimized URL can help search engines and readers understand the content of a page while also improving the page’s visibility and relevance in search results.
However, many website owners and marketers need to pay more attention to the importance of URL structure, leading to poorly optimized URLs that may hinder their SEO efforts.
In this article, we’ll explore the eight best practices for creating SEO-friendly URLs that can help improve your website’s SEO and provide a better user experience.
A URL, which stands for uniform resource locator, is a unique web address that identifies the location of a specific resource on the internet. URLs are used to access various resources, such as web pages, images, videos, audio files and documents from anywhere in the world.
For example, the URL for the homepage of Google is https://www.google.com, the URL for a specific article on Wikipedia is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL and the URL for a video on YouTube is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ.
Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS): This is the first part of a URL and indicates the protocol used to access the resource. The most common protocols used for web pages are “http://” and “https://,” where “http://” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and “https://” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.
A colon and two forward slashes follow the protocol. For example: http://www.seoblog.com (HTTP) https://www.seoblog.com (HTTPS)
This is the main part of a URL that identifies the website or server where the resource is located. It is followed by a top-level domain (TLD) such as .com, .org, .net, etc. For example, in the URL http://www.seoblog.com, “seoblog” is the domain name and “.com” is the TLD.
A subdomain is a part of the domain name that precedes the main domain name and is separated by a dot. It is used to organize and categorize content on a website. For example, in the URL https://blog.empuls.io/, “blog” is the subdomain.
The path indicates the specific location of the resource on the website. A forward slash (/) separates it from the domain name. The path can include directories and subdirectories that lead to the specific resource.
For example, in the URL https://www.example.com/blog/article1, “blog” is the directory and “article1” is the specific resource.
Parameters are additional information passed to the server along with the URL. They are separated from the URL by a question mark (?) and from each other by an ampersand (&). Parameters can be used to pass data to the server, such as search queries or user preferences.
For example, in the URL https://www.example.com/search?q=example&sort=asc, “q=example” and “sort=asc” are the parameters. The parameters are not usually visible and are used to pass information to the server, such as search queries or session IDs.
The fragment is a specific section of the resource, such as a section of a web page. For example, in the URL “https://www.example.com/article#section-3”, “#section-3” is the fragment that identifies a specific section of the article.
While not all URLs contain all these components, most will contain at least a few.
A readable and understandable URL structure can improve the user experience and SEO by making it easy for users to understand the page’s content without clicking on it. If someone can’t understand the page, they may not bother clicking on it at all.
To make URLs readable and understandable, it is important to use plain language to describe the content on the page. Avoid jargon or technical terms that may not be familiar to all readers. Instead, use descriptive words that accurately describe the content on the page.
For example, a URL like “https://www.example.com/products/12345” is much more readable and understandable than “https://www.example.com/prod.php?id=12345”. The former URL clearly indicates that the page is related to products and includes a specific product ID, while the latter URL is less clear and includes technical terms that may not be familiar to all users.
When creating a URL for a website, it is important to choose a format that is easy to read and understand. Hyphens are the recommended way to separate words in a URL, as they provide clarity and help to distinguish between different words.
Using underscores or spaces can cause confusion and may be interpreted as part of a word or phrase. For example, a URL like “https://www.example.com/my-product” is much clearer than “https://www.example.com/my_product” or “https://www.example.com/my%20product”.
Of these three URLs, the first one is the clearest and easiest to read, as it uses hyphens to separate the words “my” and “product.” The second URL, which uses underscores, may be interpreted as a single word, “my_product,” while the third URL, which uses space and encoding, is less clear and may be difficult to remember.
Shorter URLs that explicitly describe the page’s content are easier to share and remember and tend to perform better in search results.
Using three to four words to describe the content on the page in the URL is a good practice to follow. This helps users and search engines understand what the page is about and can improve the website’s search engine rankings.
For example, a URL like “https://www.example.com/blue-widgets-review” is much more descriptive than “https://www.example.com/my-honest-blue-widgets-review-in-2023.”
The first URL clearly describes the content on the page, while the second URL is less clear and contains unnecessary details. Including the year “2023” in the URL is unnecessary and may become outdated in the future.
It is better to use a shorter and more general URL that clearly describes the page’s content without including specific details that may change over time.
However, it is important to avoid keyword stuffing. This means using too many keywords in the URL; search engines might think it’s spammy and penalize your website.
Instead, the primary keyword should be included in the URL in a natural and meaningful way that accurately describes the content on the page. This should be done in a way that is concise and descriptive. For example, if the page is about “how to make chocolate cake,” the URL should ideally include the primary keyword “how-to-make-chocolate-cake” but not repeat it unnecessarily.
A good example of an SEO-friendly URL for this page would be “example.com/how-to-make-chocolate-cake” rather than “example.com/how-to-make-chocolate-cake-recipe-for-beginners.”
This is because URLs are case-sensitive, which means that using inconsistent capitalization can cause confusion and potential errors when entering or linking to the URL.
By using lowercase letters consistently in the URL, it is easier to remember and share and reduces the risk of errors or confusion. In addition, using consistent capitalization across all URLs on a site can help maintain a consistent and professional appearance and improve the overall user experience.
For example, consider the following URLs:
Of these two URLs, the second one is the preferred format, as it uses lowercase letters consistently and is less likely to cause confusion or errors.
It’s best not to use special characters such as percent signs (%), ampersands (&) and at symbols (@) in your URL. While they may seem harmless, including these characters in URLs can lead to problems.
The main issue is that URLs require proper encoding to be transmitted over the internet. Certain characters have special meanings and need to be encoded in a URL. Including raw %, & or @ symbols without encoding them can interfere with how browsers interpret and parse the URL.
For example, & is used to separate query parameters in a URL. If you use an unencoded & in the path or filename, the browser will think it’s a new query parameter and request the wrong resource. Similarly, % is used to encode other characters – if left unencoded, browsers will try to interpret it, often incorrectly.
Session IDs or other dynamic parameters in the URL can cause issues with caching and indexing and may result in duplicate content issues.
If possible, it is recommended to use static URLs that don’t include these parameters. Static URLs are easier to cache and index and are more user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
Here’s an example of a static URL without dynamic parameters:
Dynamic URL: https://www.example.com/products?id=12345&category=electronics
Static URL: https://www.example.com/electronics/products/12345
However, if dynamic parameters are necessary, it is important to use URL rewriting or other techniques to convert them into more user-friendly and search engine-friendly URLs. This can involve using server-side scripts to modify the URLs and remove the dynamic parameters or using other techniques such as URL redirection.
While it can be tempting to include a date or number in your URL to indicate freshness or relevance, it’s generally not recommended. URLs with dates or numbers can quickly become outdated or irrelevant and may not accurately reflect the page’s content over time.
Instead, focus on creating descriptive and timeless URLs that accurately reflect the content on the page without relying on specific dates or numbers.
In conclusion, an SEO-friendly URL is an essential factor that can positively impact your website’s SEO performance. By following the best practices discussed in this article, you can ensure that your website’s URLs are optimized for search engines, making it easier for them to crawl and index your content.
Remember to keep your URLs simple, descriptive and relevant to your content, and avoid using dynamic parameters and unnecessary characters.
With these URL structure best practices in mind, you can boost your website’s visibility and ranking in search engine results pages and attract more traffic.