First impressions make the strongest impact. Be it a web design being seen by visitors of a website or URLs checked for by Google, one has to try and make the strongest impact in the first go itself. It creates a very positive impression and makes visitors curious to keep things going. It is very important for websites to have a SEO-friendly URL structure for sound results with Google and an effective site hierarchy to guide visitors to their desired destination. Not creating SEO-friendly URLs on websites might result in endless redirect loops, something neither Google nor your website visitors will appreciate.
It is easier said than done. Creating SEO-friendly URLs involves an intricate blend of accessibility and usability besides some old school SEO. Given below are some rules, which combine to create the ideal guide for an SEO-friendly URL structure for a website.
- Use Keywords judiciously: All pages launched on one’s domain must be done so with a purpose. The reason can be any, be it transactional or informative or administrative. The page must be discovered by the right people, something that any website owner would want. Strong keyword research and inclusion of relevant terms, descriptive ones to be precise, should be part of the URL. More importantly, it should be closer to the root domain. (Give Examples)
- Build for Posterity: All website owners need a URL structure, a site wide URL hierarchy to be precise, that fits the bill for years to come. The ideal way to build an SEO-friendly URL is in this form: https://example.com/beer/strong/bacardi. The example illustrates how the URL flows logically from domain to category to sub-category to product. This is the biggest challenge faced by most website owners. They struggle to define a site wide URL hierarchy that would fit their purpose for years to come. Sloppy work results in a patchwork quilt of sub-domains that make the path hard to arrive at similar products. This confuses Google as well.
- URLs must never have over-the-top words and characters: Website owners must consider this a thumb rule. They must never use over-the-top words and irrelevant characters in their URLs. The URL must be so simple that the visitor looking at it for the first time is able to understand what the page is about. So, using every single preposition or conjunction is not necessary. A simple URL containing meaningful words is something Google will also understand. Another thing to be kept in mind is avoiding keyword repetition within URLs. Using the same keyword multiple times in the URL can spam it very badly. Also, website owners must keep a few additional points in mind.
- Focusing on Case Sensitivity: It is very important for website owners to focus on case sensitivity. Canonical tags must be used for marking lower case URLs, if not permanent redirects.
- Hashes: These help redirect users to a specific version of the page, but in general one should avoid using them in the URL.
- Work Delimiters: Hyphens are the best word delimiters, used best to separate words within URL strings. Underscores also help join two words together, so should be used accordingly.
- Length of URL: Google starts truncating URLs in search results pages after 512 pixels. Hence, URLs must be kept as short as possible.
- Dynamic URL strings must be shortened: It can depend on the content management system in use at your end. There are e-commerce platforms out there that automatically begin to spit out characters strings. This results in URLs such as https://domain.com/cat?cid=xyzabc. The intent should be to create static URLs with a logical folder structure and descriptive keywords. Though search engines do not hesitate to crawl or index either variant, it is advisable to use static URLs instead of dynamic URLs for purely SEO purpose. One can also add different parameters to the URL for analytics tracking though these can make URLs with duplicate content grow over the top. This possibility can be averted by asking Google to disregard certain URL parameters in the Search Console in Configuration > URL parameters.
- All versions of the website must be consolidated: Domains have two versions indexed on search engines, the www version and the non-www version. This can be made more complex by having a secure (https) version and a non-secure (HTTP) version. Google generally prefers the former. Most of the SEO service providers use 301 redirect to point one version of their website to another. Search engines interpret this as a particular URL moving permanently to another destination. Hence, it is most widely suggested that all versions of SEO is consolidated using the 301 redirect in the Google Search Console or through a Canonical tag.
- Incorporating Topical Authority helps: Google has laid out Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines. These are clear references to both main as well as supplementary content. The main content becomes the lead page in each section. The supplementary content accounts for additional information that helps users navigate the topic and make informed decisions. Here is an example. https://domain.com/whiskey/whiskey-tasting-guide is about a guide that helps taste whiskey in the best way. There can be sub-pages to this. These can be https://domain.com/whiskey/whiskey-tasting-guide/how-to-taste-whiskey and https://domain.com/whiskey/whiskey-tasting-guide/how-is-whiskey-made and https://domain.com/whiskey/whiskey-tasting-guide/barley-whiskey. By creating URLs like these, you will increase your topical authority and also increase site visibility.
- XML Sitemaps: These can actually be a savior. They make sure search engines are always aware as to what goes on with your website. Website owners must never confuse XML sitemaps with HTML sitemaps. XML sitemaps are a list of your website URLs being submitted to search engines. They serve a couple of purposes. They help search engines find your website’s webpages with relative ease. By having XML sitemaps, website owners help search engines use them as reference each time they have to choose canonical URLs on the website. This is necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on the website. The million dollar question here is, what kind of web pages should be included in the website’s XML sitemap? It is advised that website owners only use those web pages that are most likely to show up in searches, for purely SEO reasons. There should be a more comprehensive account of the website’s URLs within the HTML sitemap.
To conclude, following these steps in an orderly manner can be the ideal guide to create SEO-friendly URLs capable of helping your website achieve miraculous results on popular search engines.