A URL is one of the key elements of any webpage from an SEO perspective. One thing that makes URL unique in terms of search engine optimisation is, you can’t change it later, while you can change any other elements of the page. For example, you can tune the title, keywords or content of a page anytime without much impact on the ranking of a page. However, if you change the URL of a page, Google and other search engines would treat it as a new page altogether and you may lose all credibility and ranking you achieved on your previous URL over a period of time. Be cautious that when Google encounter a change in URL, it will simply consider it as a brand new page since the entire ranking and indexing is done based on the URL as the primary key.
1. As a basic rule, you may use the URL same as the title of a webpage. However, I recommend you strip off stop words like “and”, “or”, “is”, “in” etc.
2. Even if you configure your website to automatically form the URL based on the title, it may be a good idea to take a look and manually edit it. I would make the URLs shorter than the title in case the title is too long. I love short URLs and I believe Google too prefer short and precise URLs. There is a chance that long URLs may get truncated when you use them in many places. Even in Google search results, Google will trim down some of the words if the URL is too long.
3. I recommend you avoid words like “top 10”, “best 5” etc in the URLs. Your top 10 list may become “top 11” in future and you don’t want to change your URL when your list grows.
4. Avoid year or date in the URLs unless it is really important to have it there. For example, I won’t use a URL like “best-digital-marketing-tips-for-year-2018”, even if the article topic is “Best digital marketing tips for the year 2018”. The reason is obvious – I may want to re-edit the same article and update it in 2019 but I don’t want to keep changing the URL every year.
5. I recommend the URL and title closely matches but there may be scenarios where you may have to make them different. That is acceptable provided it is still relevant to the subject of the page.
6. Avoid file extensions for your file name in the URL. The file extension indicates the technology used for developing the website. A few years later, you may redevelop the website and you may use a different technology. At that time, your file extension may change and that will affect the ranking of your page. If you use technology neutral URLs (without file extension), you are safe to change technology any time. See the below example:
--Not Recommended: https://www.spiderworks.ae/digital-marketing/social-media-services.php
7. Online security is becoming a huge issue. Having SSL certificate and serving your pages on HTTPS is the best thing to ensure security for your website. Also, starting from July 1, 2018, Google is expected to show a warning to the users when they are browsing a website that is not serving the pages on SSL. A danger sign on your website may be the last thing you want to see.
8. It is better to keep the URLs short and precise but doesn’t miss to include your important keywords. I recommend 4 to 8 words in the URL
9. Avoid dynamic URLs with query strings if possible. It is always better to have a URL like https://www.spiderworks.ae/services/digital-marketing than having one like https://www.spiderworks.ae/services/details?service_id=12
10. Follow a proper hierarchical structure for your URLs. For example, if you have a products page, this url format will be ideal: http://www.yourshoppingsite.com/products/cameras/canon-eos-1300d
11. Avoid mixing capital letters and small letters. There is a possibility that some people will use the lowercase version of your URL even if you use capital letters for some of the letters or words. In such cases, search engines may take both versions as separate URLs and may try to index or rank them separately. A recommended approach is to have the entire URLs in lower case letters.
12. Avoid special characters like period, comma, space, dollar sign etc. Use hyphen (-) as the separator between words. If you have underscore (_), replace them with hyphen. That will help in readability as well as better indexing by search engines. Some search engines may fail to use special characters in the urls.
13. Avoid too many sub-folders. Recommended folder depth is 2. If required, you can go up to 3 levels but not more than that.
--Not good: http://www.yourshoppingsite.com/products/cameras/digital-cameras/budget-cameras/canon-eos-1300d
14. Make sure every folder in your url represents a valid page. For example, in the case of the URL “http://www.yourshoppingsite.com/products/cameras/canon-eos-1300d”, both http://www.yourshoppingsite.com/products/ and http://www.yourshoppingsite.com/products/cameras/ should be valid pages with proper content on it.
15. Don’t include too many keywords in the URL. Include one or two of your most important keywords. Rest can be in your title, headings and content.
16. Avoid variants and repetitions of the keywords. Make it short, simple and clean. Repetition of keywords may help temporarily in better search engine ranking but in the long run, it may negatively affect the SEO.
17. If you have multiple URLs serving the same content, use canonical URLs. You can use 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to tell search engines which is your canonical URL.
18. Create an XML sitemap and include your URLs in your sitemap. Having a sitemap is considered as a good practice for SEO and including all of your web pages in the sitemap will help in faster indexing of the pages.
19. Avoid using full/absolute URLs for internal linking within your site. Always use relative URLs to link to your internal pages.
20. A basic rule is, don’t use any risky words in the URL since you can’t change the URL once it is indexed and ranked. Google may change the rules any time and at that time, you won’t be able to go and change the words in your URL since that will affect the ranking of the site. In case of title, headings and content, you can take the risk since they can be changed at any time.
Hope I have covered most of the important factors to consider while deciding the URL structure and format your website. Following these best practices for your URLs may not necessarily help in top ranking for your pages but they will definitely help to some extend.
If you require any help in validating the URL structure of your website or want help in restructuring your website, feel free to contact us. With over a decade of experience in optimising websites, we can definitely help you improve the ranking for your website.