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Web Design: 5 Best Practice Tips for Structuring Your URLs

When it comes to the grinding wheel that is SEO, most of us are content with checking our keyword count, making sure our titles and sub-titles are in order, and adding fresh, valuable content on a regular basis. While all of those things are definitely a valuable contribution to your SEO efforts, there are some fundamentals that often get left by the wayside.  One of these fundamentals is website URL structuring. While not imperative, structuring your pages in a well thought out way can help to improve the user experience on your site and make it easier for Google to index and understand it. It’s by no means a quick SEO fix that will instantly see you instantly ranking higher, but it’s a best practice that all businesses should be following in 2015.  So, what questions should we be asking ourselves when it comes to structuring the URLs in our website?

Forget Google, can it be easily read by your fellow human beings?

It may sound counter-intuitive to say ‘Forget Google’ when talking about SEO, but in most cases it’s actually the best thing you can do. The first port of call when optimising your site should be making sure that the user experience is as good as it can be. If your URL reads:

http://www.mysite.com/disp/post?ID=77XcgH=advice+URL+structuring

It’s probably not going to garner much interest. True, you can hide most URLs behind anchor text and many social media platforms will automatically turn them into a ‘rich snippet’, but there are times when your URL will be bare for all to see, most notably when they’re browsing your website or if you want to pop it on a business card.

http://www.mysite.com/blog/advice-on-website-url-structuring

The above is a URL that’s worth sharing. Clear, concise and you know precisely where you are in the site and what’s being served up.

Does it contain any of my keywords?

url structuringWhen devising an SEO strategy keywords are everything, and inserting them into your URLs is definitely still a good idea so long as you don’t overdo it or compromise on the user experience.

First, a keyword will make your URL easily identifiable to Google as well as users, keeping it consistent with the content on the page. Second, URLs actually show up in Google SERPs (search engine results pages) and those with keyword URLs are more likely to get clicked.

Third, a lot of people still copy and paste URLs in across social media and they stick around alongside the rich snippet (even though they can usually be deleted). This is technically a nice backlink to your page, and because there’s no anchor text around it, a good URL with keywords can act as valuable anchor text instead.

How long is my URL?

This won’t set the world on fire, but by and large having a shorter URL is way better than having a longer one. If your URL is on the long side – around 80 characters – but it’s rich with valuable words and content, don’t worry too much about it. But if your URL is pushing 110/120 characters there’s probably an opportunity there to whittle it down slightly and gain some definite value.  Consider the title of the page or article, what it’s meant to achieve, and see if you can rewrite it to be a little bit more concise and relevant.  Short URLs look tidier, they’re easier to share and embed, and will be easier for people to talk about and refer to.

How many ‘folders’ are there in the URL?

Website URLs work just the same as folder navigation on your PC. If you’ve got a large website with lots of content, sections and sub-sections then you need pay special attention to how your content (therefore pages) are organised. For example:

www.eatwell.com/goodfood/fiveaday/superfood/fruit/banana

could be reorganised and quite easily shortened to:

www.eatwell.com/superfoods/banana

This is less to do with length and more to do with just making sure that your URL is clear and easy to understand. A good URL doesn’t contain too many sub-folders and doesn’t try to do too much. If you end up with a whopping URL with too many directories you might want to take a look at your site map and how your content is organised!

How are the words separated?

Trust me, hyphens are your friends. When it comes to separating words in your URLs make sure you use hyphens to make them more readable and easier for Google to index. If you accidentally use spaces, those spaces will likely render as ‘%20’ and other characters simply add to the mess. Using hyphens will keep everything clean and ensure easy readability.

As is often the case with SEO there’s no silver bullet for getting your site on top, but if we each take note of these best practices and apply them we’ll all see better results across the board, and maybe even make the internet a nicer, more organised place. More website URL structuring tips to follow next month…

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  • James Rice

    All of this advice is spot on. The only thing I would mention in addition is to not use dynamic parameters if you can avoid it. A static URL is usually best!