Structuring URL's for SEO Success
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) one of the core items when developing your overall site plan is to design the site architecture. Having your sub-pages more than three layers deep is not good from a search engine perspective as no normal human can remember items that deep. We always shoot for a maximum of two layers deep when possible; three at most. URL structure doesn't stop there. There are many areas that should be looked at when developing your site architecture.
Human Readability of URL Matters
Our users use search engines to find us and you would think a URL structure doesn't matter. It does though as a user can clearly see where they are at by looking at your URL. Below are two examples of good and not-so-good URL's.
Making your URL better
Looking at the above where we have good and not-so-good you can see that the first one clearly defines SEO Services in Valparaiso Indiana. The second doesn't as it is cryptic and non-informative. Taking that not perfect URL you will see many numbers, special characters, tags, and ID's being used.
- The numbers do nothing for the user to navigate the site. The /16/8/10/ could be virtually anything and only means something to the website and not to the user.
- The services.php with an id of 1292 also services no purpose to the user.
When you look at the good example you clearly see that the site is referring to Valparaiso Indiana and also covers SEO Services. This has a visual meaning and clue to the user. If the page is well written the description, keywords, title, and content within the page will also have these phrases in it.
Note: When we state that these phrases are in the page you should not:
- SPAM your users with the phrase
- Have the phrases match the background (black hat SEO is bad!)
- The information should read naturally and make sense to the user
Multiple URL's that serve the same content
When you have two pages that serve the same you need to make one the “right” one through the use of canonicalization. When you canonicalize a URL you are stating which one is the official page that the search engines should index. Let's say you have two sites links of:http://www.myDomain.com/Valparaiso-indiana-seo-services/
For the above on the second page you would have a in the page header to let the search engines know that although both pages have 100% the same information that the one should be the one you index.
Keyword stuffing is bad for your website
Stuffing may be one of the items we think about when it comes to Thanksgiving but definitely should never be used for your website.
You will see from the above two examples they do the same thing except that one has SEO and Chesterton Indiana slammed with keyword stuffing. This is a practice you truly need to avoid when developing your URL scheme.
Matching URL, Heading and Title
There are many components to a webpage. You have the URL that we have been talking about. You also have the title that is displayed in the browser window. This should tie closely with the URL. You all have the H1 page element which should also tie. These three elements do not have to match 100% but should be similar and not factitious in what you are displaying.
Stop words are not needed for success
Stop words are words like and, or, but, of, in, the, a, etc. These words should not be included as they just add noise that are unnecessary to achieve SEO success.
Less is More
When creating your structure less is always more when it comes to your URL. Both of the samples below show the exact same information and are about the same length. The difference is one is one layer deep where the other is four layers deep.
Use Good Separators
There are many ways to separate words. The preferred way is dashes or underscores when creating your URL's. Another option is using ProperCase where the first letter of each word is uppercase and the result lowercase with no spaces.
Acceptable but not the besthttp://www.myDomain.com/SeoPortageIndiana/
Avoid spaces altogether
Spaces don't work well at all. If a space is used in a URL the URL will have a %20 wherever a space is.http://www.myDomain.com/SEO%20Chicago%20Illinois/
When deciding what characters to use for your site you should make certain that all the characters you use are safe. This link https://perishablepress.com/stop-using-unsafe-characters-in-urls/ has a list of unsafe words that you should not use.
Many times a page is moved, then moved again, and yet again. When a page is no longer at point A you should point to the final place it belongs. If you redirect from A to B, then B redirects to C, then C redirects to D what you should do is take the time to redirect A, B, and C straight to D. This will not only improve the information for the search engines but also screen refreshes and a poor user experience (UX) for your users.
Consolidate your www and non-www website version
One of the toughest decisions is to have your website be www.BusinessYETI.com or just BusinessYETI.com. Both are 100% valid. The key is to standardize and stick to just one. If you standardize on www.BusinessYETI.com and someone goes to BusinessYETI.com you should do a proper 301 redirect to the preferred URL. The user won't really notice this but the search engines will and make the appropriate adjustment in their system.
Use a single domain
When you are wanting to get your website indexed for great content you want to lead people to a single website. First, a single website is a lot easier to keep updated. Second, with a single website you will have a lot of great content that you can link to each other. Third, you are giving your users a single point to go to. Examples:
GoodYour domain is www.domainName.com. Plain and simple for a user to go to.
Your domain is www.domainName.com. But to get to your content they need to go to:
- blog.domainName.com to read your blog
- portal.domainName.com to get to your customer portal
- support.domainName.com to get to your customer support portal
Be wary of capitalization
Depending on how your system is setup the a file of http://domainName.com/seo-gary-indiana/ could produce one result where http://domainName.com/SEO-Gary-Indiana/ could produce a different result. Although to a human these two URL's look 100% the same the second has UPPERCASE letters which could be interpreted differently by the server. Stay consistent as well as test the URL that it is valid for your content management system (CMS).
Your URL may seem to be a small item to think about but is actually one of the most important aspects in build or re-building your website. Take the time and effort to get it right. Yes, it will change over time just as your business evolves and improves over time. Having a standard though will go a long way and make the long term efforts of your website stand strong and proud within the search engines.
If you would like help with a new or website redesign with proper up-front planning and a solid architecture JM2 Webdesigners is ready to assist your business grow. You can reach us at 219-229-1633, email at sales@FawkesDM.com, or through our online contact form here.