A webpage’s URL is an important factor to consider when performing SEO on your website. A meaningful URL is considered a strong signal of what the page content contains. It’s right up there with title tags and the meta description. Not only does it provide a signal to search engines, it also indicates to visitors what the page is about before they even get there.
For example, looking at http://www.gardenshedco.co.nz/macrocarpa-raised-garden-beds/ it seems pretty obvious that this page will be about Duramax PVC garden sheds. Whereas if this same page had been named www.gardenshedco.co.nz/pages/304.html you would have little idea what to expect when you clicked on it.
So given the importance of webpage URLs I’d like to share some URL naming tips with you that I believe will benefit your SEO efforts.
KISS your URL
The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) philosophy works well with most things in life and SEO is no different. As mentioned above, a meaningful URL is good, but one that is obvious is great. Using words that are directly associated with the purpose of the webpage are always the best choice. Don’t make it complicated. Think of the information hierarchy of the site and consider using this in the URL structure.
If you sold books, a possible hierarchy could be www.domain.co.nz/non-fiction/book-title/ and www.domain.co.nz/fiction/book-title/
The URL’s are clear in their meaning, easy to understand and short. When reading the URL a visitor can easily determine what the page will be about and will be more inclined to click through. You’re also less likely to get traffic that isn’t targeted, as a person searching for non-fiction titles is unlikely to click on the wrong link. This will result in your site users being more satisfied as there will be few (if any) surprises in store for them.
Static URLs are better than dynamic URLs for SEO
There are two types of URLs: dynamic and static. A dynamic URL is a page address that results from the search of a database-driven website or the URL of a website that runs a script. Static URLs are typically ranked better in search engine results pages, and they are indexed more quickly than dynamic URLs. Static URLs are also easier for the end-user to view and understand what the page is about.
A static URL looks like this: www.domain.co.nz/news/challenges-of-dynamic-urls/
A dynamic URL is like this: www.domain.co.nz/news/thread.php?threadid=12345&sort=date
It’s more difficult for search engines to interpret a dynamically generated address. Worst case scenario is that the URL of a page is changed often and your website’s ranking suffers as a result.
Avoid numbers, dates and unnecessary information
In most cases numbers and dates don’t add any value to the URL from a search engine or visitors perspective. An exception to the rule would be if the number is an identifier of a model that a product is commonly known by. Including ‘320i’ in the URL of a page that is about BMW 320i cars would be important. And I really don’t know why you want to include dates. If anything it may make your content look out-dated.
Use hyphens to separate words used in the URL
It’s best practice to use a hyphen (-) rather than an underscore (_) or other special characters. It’s not that you will be necessarily disadvantaged if you use something else, it’s just commonly accepted practice to use a hypen. Remember the KISS principle and don’t be different just for the sake of it.
Keep your URL to a maximum of 5 words.
There are a couple of reasons for this. It keeps the URL shorter and more memorable (great for humans) and the less keywords you have in the URL the more importance will be placed on them (great for SEO). Less words = a higher relevance for each word = more value given to each keyword. Shorter URL’s are easier to comprehend.
It also helps your SEO efforts to try and place your most important keywords early in the URL, but on the proviso that it still reads well and doesn’t upset the meaning of the words.
Use these URL naming tips and search engines will love you
In summary, the best URL is one that describes the intent of the page, is easy to remember, clear and short. When optimising a webpage include the keyword in the URL as well as the usual meta-data areas. Your aim is to create a balance between page names, permalinks and the website’s structure. Get it right and your visitors will thank you and search engines will love you.
By Aaron Enright