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10 Best Practices for Structuring URLs to Improve SEO Rankings

If you want to rank higher in the search results, you need to understand the underlining factors. In most cases, this is the content of your site, incoming links to your site and the overall structure of links throughout your site.

The structure of domain names and URLs is one of the fundamental building blocks of SEO. Given that you have 100% control over your URLs you should make sure yours are working to maximum benefit for your rankings.

Let’s take a look at how you should do it.

#1 Make Your URL Easy to Read

The easier your URL is to read, the easier it will be to index and search. This advice makes common sense, and accessibility has always been a large part of SEO.

The requirement of the search engines is not that the URL is perfectly clean, but rather that it is easily comprehended and understood by those people searching for it.

In addition a simple, easily understood URL is more likely to be clicked on in Google’s organic results improving your CTR. When using WordPress, this can easily be done through the use of permalinks.

#2 Use a Single Domain & Folders Whenever Possible

The evidence suggests that moving content from a sub-domain to subfolder on your main domain will improve search results. Search engines don’t seem to consistently pass ranking to sub-domains.

This does not mean that if a sub-domain is the only way you can set up a blog the idea should be abandoned. Setting up a high quality blog will create tremendous value and should be done regardless of the outcome.

However, the blog is likely to perform better in the rankings and assist the rest of the site’s content performance if it’s all together on one domain.

If you’re unsure on the difference between a domain, sub-domain and folder see this excellent article.

#3 Place Your Keywords in the URLs

Using keywords that you are targeting in your URLs is still an excellent idea. Keywords help search engines understand what your page is about and also help people who are searching using social media platforms or emails. Research has shown that an easy to understand ULR is very helpful to searchers.

Don’t repeat your keywords or make your URLs unnatural however. If there is an opportunity to use you keyword do but not at the expense of misleading searchers.

Using Keywords in URLs

URLs are often copied and pasted. When there is no anchor text in the link, the URL then serves as the anchor text. This means that using your keywords in your URL will also mean that they become part of the anchor text of some of the links which while point at your site.

Anchor text is another very important way that search engines determine what you site is about.
Using URLs in SERPs

Use keyword explorer to do your research on the most effective keywords for your URLs. There is a myriad of free research tools you can use to find out the most searched keywords to include in your URLs.

#4 Shorter is Better than Longer

Keeping your URL as short as possible is recommended. However, you do not have to take this to an extreme. If you can cut it down, then do so, but don’t sacrifice understanding for length.

A good length for an URL is between 40 to 60 characters. Interestingly enough, the issue with a long URL is not due to the search engines being confused; they process long URLs quickly.

Instead, the problem comes with the user experience where research suggests that searchers prefer URLs that are short, easy-to-read, as well as, easy to copy and paste.

Checking URL length can be laborious often it’s quicker to export your URLs into Excel and use Excel to check them.

#5 Stop Words for URLs Are Not Important

Using stop words such as; but, of, the, or, and, a, etc., in the URL is not necessary. Leaving them out may make the URL shorter and easier to read by searchers and so many people do.

Use your best judgment and try to find a balance between URLs that are easy to read and as short as possible.

#6 Match URLs to Titles when You Can

Your titles and URLs do not have to match perfectly but they should send the same signal to search engines about what your article is about.

For example, search engines are now smart enough to figure out that if you have ‘automobile’ in a URL and ‘SUV’ in a URL that your articles is about cars. They know that automobile and SUV are very similar words.

#7 Avoid Unusual Characters or Punctuation from Your URLs

Using characters, symbols, or unknown text will cause havoc on your site. It can break browsers and confuse search bots. Remove or control the utilization of these specific characters.

#8 Use as Few folders as You Can

Generally our home page will have the largest number of links on your website and so it is viewed as the most authoritative on your site as a consequence.

This means that articles that are close to your home page will be viewed as authoritative and those that are far away will be viewed as less authoritative in general.

Slashes, or folders, show search engines how far from the root domain your article is. This means you should try to avoid putting too many slashes or folders into your URLs.

This is also good advice to help keep your URLs relatively short and easy to read. When in doubt simplify.

#9 How to Use Hashes in URLs

Hashes should be used in URLs to direct users to a particular page or comment. Use hashes for tracking purposes and to provide parameters. Using hashes for tasks unrelated to these two functions is a poor idea. See this article for more details on using hashes in URLs.

Wrapping Up

Choosing the right URL can improve levels of traffic to your site and help it rank better in search engines. Follow these simple steps and create URLs that will optimize your site and make it easy for search engines to understand. Implement as many of the ideas as you can and use them as guidelines for all URLs that you create in the future. Go back to all your old URLs and review them against these standards.

About the Author Zac Johnson

My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.

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