SEO has changed dramatically over the decades. In the early days, there weren’t very many things that mattered. Google cared about keywords, backlinks, and the PageRank of the domains that sent “link juice” to the site. Now, there are many other considerations that have taken a much greater role in determining search rankings.
Back in the early days, domain names and URLs mattered a great deal. URLs with keywords in them were given an advantage. Thanks to Google’s algorithm changes, though, other things matter more. But, is URL structure for SEO still important? Can a properly optimized URL help your search rankings? Let’s find out.
Why Does Proper URL Structure For SEO Matter?
Readability to users and search engines
There is no consensus on whether or not URL structure affects rankings. However, it’s more likely that having an improper URL structure hurts rankings because it may be more difficult for search engines and users to figure out.
Relevance in search
A properly structured URL with relevant keywords is more likely to be considered more relevant by users.
Desktop users will sometimes look at the URL before they click on the search result to determine whether or not it’s relevant to them. Having a properly structured URL can make it easier for a user to read, which in turn makes it easier for them to decide whether or not it’s relevant. This could improve clickthrough rates, which are used to determine rankings. This does not apply to mobile users who, most often, cannot see the URL in the search results.
URL Structure Best Practices
Canonical URLs are used by Google to determine which URL should be used to access a particular page, if there are more than one URLs that can be used. You can specify a page as canonical by setting the rel parameter to “canonical” in the <link> tag or the HTTP header, by specifying it in a sitemap, or using a 301 redirect. Learn more about how canonical URLs work in this article by Google!
Keep URLs Short
The shorter, the better. Longer URLs might seem better because you can fit more keywords in them, but shorter URLs are easier to type and remember.
Use Accurate Keywords in URLs
Keywords in URLs are unlikely to affect ranking much. But, they can affect whether or not a user determines if a page is relevant to their needs.
Keyword research is important because it determines what kind of traffic you get and how well your page can rank. Learn about the importance of keyword research!
Things to Avoid In URLs
- Stop words: Stop words include commonly used words like “a”, “the”, “of”, “for”, and other words that do not convey meaning but are necessary in a sentence.
- Special characters: avoid using characters in your URL that aren’t alphanumerics or hyphens.
- Parameters & Dynamic URLs: Some content management systems such as WordPress or Joomla pull page data from a database and will typically, by default, use a dynamic URL structure. Change your URLs to static URLs.
- Underscores: Underscores (_) were once used commonly for URLs since they’re commonly used as placeholders for spaces in file names. Now, it’s much better to use hyphens instead.