Let’s go over some of the SEO best practices for the URL. Perhaps we should start by answering the question: What is a URL?
URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. Every webpage, document, video, or other type of resource found online has a URL. Most people refer to URLs as web addresses.
Fascinating tidbit: URLs are broken down into multiple components:
- Protocol – such as HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) or HTTPS (secure HTTP)
- Domain Name – such as “thewebforbusiness”
- Top Level Domain (TLD) – The “last part” of a domain name, like .com, .net, .org etc. There are generic TLDs as well as TLDs for countries (think of .ca for Canada).
- Path – Found after the TLD, this references the exact location on the website where a resource is located.
How Can My URL Affect My Search Rankings?
Search engines (and humans) read and analyze your URLs. Having a URL that is reflective of the page’s topic is considered SEO friendly. In other words, include your keywords in your URL to improve the page’s chance of ranking well. Structuring your URL to use hyphens (dashes) to keep keywords separate is also useful.
Here are a few examples of these suggestions in action:
You might think this is pretty basic. Honestly, it is. Despite that, it’s not hard to find examples of URLs gone awry.
WordPress Defaults, Keyword Separators
For example, the default URL style in WordPress uses numbers, like this:
It’s not difficult to find pages that don’t have separators between keywords, like this:
In principle, if it’s difficult for a person to read the path and figure out what the keywords are, it’s hard for a search engine to figure out as well. It wouldn’t have been hard to add hyphens to the above page name.
Hyphens vs. Underscores vs. Spaces
They look similar but search engines treat hyphens (-) differently than underscores (_).
Hyphens (dashes) are treated as word separators while underscores are treated as word joiners.
What about spaces? They’re replaced with the characters “%20” in your URLs. Best practices are to avoid using spaces in your URLs.
E-commerce websites are also often full of dynamic URLs. These occur because a user submits a search query on a site and the results page is created on the fly. They look something like this:
Google and other search engines CAN crawl and analyze dynamic URLs. Just because they can doesn’t mean dynamic URLs aren’t detrimental to your site’s SEO. A dynamic URL often has lower keyword relevance which can affect Google’s (and a human visitor’s) perception about the page’s content.
URL Structure Can Impact Clickthroughs
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) display the URL of the results they provide. Much of the advice above doesn’t actually affect your page’s ranking to a great extent. However, since the URL is displayed in the search results, a well-structured URL can lead to more clickthroughs.
Which of these would you rather click on?
The second and last URLs aren’t that different but the first and third URLs aren’t very descriptive. Seeing them, a potential visitor might have second thoughts about visiting your site. Any factor that decreases the likelihood a user will click a link should be avoided. Keeping your URLs descriptive, easy to read, and relatively short can encourage people to click the link to your site in the SERPs.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion about page URLs. Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s next SEO Basics tip!