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The Do’s and Don’ts of an SEO-Friendly URL Structure

By SEO Staff Writer

Clicking Search Results for a URL

Whether you’re creating a new site or you have an existing website, having an SEO-friendly URL structure helps search engines make sense of each page.

When search engines crawl a website, they look at your URL structure to see if it’s confusing or not. If search engines find it difficult to understand your website’s URL structure, then it’s possible that certain pages might not get indexed.

Ideally, you want to create an SEO-friendly URL structure before developing a website, but it can also be done afterwards. The reason you want to create it beforehand is because the changes might be hard to implement after a site goes live. Considering your URL structure in the pre-development stage will save you the time and hassle.

From an SEO perspective, there are several do’s and don’ts you need to be aware of for when creating an SEO-friendly URL structure. In certain situations, some of these rules might not apply, but overall you should consider all of these aspects of a URL.

 

The Don’ts

1) Creating Complicated URLs

Often, you’ll see URLs that don’t make any sense whatsoever. By looking at the URL, you wouldn’t be able to describe what the page is talking about. This makes it harder for search engines to realize what your page is about. IMDb is a good example of how not to structure your URLs:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1220719/

A URL that could substituted, would be:

http://www.imdb.com/title/ip-man/

This URL is much more clear and even if you haven’t heard of the movie Ip Man, you can make the assumption that it’s either the title of a movie or TV show just by looking at the URL.

 

2) Ignoring the Canonical Tag

E-commerce companies see this issue a lot. They will accidentally create numerous URLs for the same content without realizing it. This is often a result of sorting options that are used. When this situation occurs, you should set the canonical URL to specify which URL is preferred.

 

3) Having Multiple Homepage URLs

Many web developers don’t realize that it’s best to consolidate homepage URLs and lead users to a single URL. You can do this using a 301 redirect to redirect users to your preferred homepage URL. The most common ways a website will have multiple URLs for a homepage are:

www.example.com/

example.com/

www.example.com/index.html

example.com/home.asp

 

4) Using Stop Words

While it shouldn’t be a priority to exclude all stop words from URLs, including them in a URL isn’t always necessary. Even if your primary keyword that you want to target includes stop words, it’s not necessary to include it in the URL because search engines don’t consider these words.

This doesn’t mean that shouldn’t ever use stop words in a URL, just that you shouldn’t be using stop words in every URL. There are situations where keeping stop words in a URL is useful for readability and in those situations you shouldn’t remove them from the URL.

 

5) Having a Million Redirects

You should only be using 301 redirects when you’ve changed the name of a URL, you’ve moved content to a new page, or other similar scenarios. You shouldn’t overuse 301 redirects and you shouldn’t use them to redirect URLs that no longer exist to your homepage.

Having too many 301 redirects to content that isn’t relevant can have a negative impact on your site. If you start to build up redirects over time, make sure that you don't have a string of redirects. Don’t redirect users to a redirect that leads them to another redirect. If you have developed that many redirects, simply redirect users from the first URL to the latest URL.

 

6) Overdoing on Keywords

Stuffing keywords into URLs to try to rank for a specific keyword won’t do your website any good. In fact, it will probably do more harm than good because you’ll receive less click to that page.

Using too many keywords, the same keyword multiple times, or irrelevant keywords make your URL less user-friendly, and search engines don’t reward you for this. It makes your URL look unnatural, and if it’s preventing people from clicking on your site, it will negatively impact your rankings.   

 

The Do’s

1) Accurately Represents the Page

When you’re creating URLs, you want users to be able to understand what your page is talking about. Having URLs that are user-friendly will benefit you because people can actually remember them, they’ll get a higher CTR from organic search, and they’re more relevant to the content.

 

2) Using Keywords

Using your primary keyword in the URL of a page is one of the factors that affects your on-page SEO. Moz suggests this format as an optimal format for your URLs:

http://www.example.com/category-keyword/subcategory-keyword/primary-keyword.html

 

3) Keeping URLs Short

It’s better to have shorter URLs than longer URLs. Shorter URLs are easier to remember, easier to use for other marketing efforts like social media, and don’t run the chance of being cut off in organic search results. It’s also a best practice to avoid using unnecessary folders. The more organized your site structure is, the easier it will be to use less folders.

 

4) Using HTTPS Instead of HTTP

Google has stated that it uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. Why is that? Sites that are using HTTPS compared to HTTP are much more secure, which is valued by search engines. Search engines don’t want to be directing people to less safe websites. They want your site to be trustworthy, and the HTTPS encryption helps validate that from their end.

 

5) Creating a robots.txt File

Also referred to as The Robots Exclusion Protocol, the robots.txt file provides information about a site to robots. When search engine robots crawl your site, they’ll look to see if you have a robots.txt file. If you want robots to be able to access all pages of your site, you’d create the .txt file to look like:

example of a robots.txt file

The file is typically used for pages with sensitive information, but it’s also used to exclude pages with irrelevant content like the “terms and conditions” page. These pages will only reduce the semantic whole of your website because they don’t include any of your target keywords.

 

Need Help Structuring URLs?

We'll help get your SEO back on track and provide a free consultation for any business that needs some assistance structuring their URLs for SEO. If you're facing any of these issues, you don't want them to impact how your site's SEO performance. Get advice that will steer you in the right direction, and help you build an SEO-friendly URL structure.

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Tags: SEO