Every web page has a URL, and it’s important to think about the structure and content of these – particularly of subsidiary pages – as part of a search engine optimisation programme.
This is particularly the case in larger sites, and especially for e-commerce sites which serve pages from an internal database and therefore have dynamic URLs.
SEO principles for URLs
Ideally, URLs should be:
- Descriptive: use accurate keywords in the URL to make the page content obvious. This is particularly important for the domain name, which ideally should include relevant keywords, but it also applies to all subsidiary pages.
- Short: URLs should not be too long and complex: according to Google, their algorithms are weighted against very long URLs. It’s also a good idea to keep subsidiary folders – separated with slashes – to a minimum, because these reduce overall clarity, and diminish the relevance of the main domain name.
- Clear and accurate: make sure URLs don’t contain spelling mistakes, and accurately describe, as far as possible, a page’s content. Similarly, it’s best to separate words rather than running them together, and to do this using hyphens in domain names rather than underscores or + signs. Unique: avoid having two URLs describing the same content, which can sometimes happen when a site is redesigned or updated, as most search engines will only return one of the pages in search results – and it may not be the most up-to-date.
- Consistent: once a URL structure has been defined, it’s important to use it throughout the site. It will make it much easier for visitors and search engines to see how navigation is arranged, so that information can be more easily found.
Dynamic URLs and SEO
If a site is maintained using a content management system, it is important when choosing the system to look at how it defines URLs of newly created pages. Check that it either creates URLs that are optimised for search engines, or that URLs can be edited to meet the site’s search engine optimisation programme.
Subdomains and SEO
Search engines sometimes treat subdomains as an entirely separate site to the main domain name.
So, for example, if you host a blog on a subdomain to your main site and it attracts links from other sites, that will only boost organic search results for the subdomain – not the main site.