- URL Structure
- URL Parameters
- Usage of Keywords
- Hyphens Vs. Underscores
- Page Click Depth
- URL Length
- Verbose URLs, Not Numbers
- Clustering Content
- Duplicate Content & Common Mistakes
URL structure is important for a number of reasons and has several components that need to adhere to best practices, all of which are discussed in this article.
Website URLs should be logical, consistent, in-line with the site structure & hierarchy, and relate to the page content.
Hence you should reflect the site’s architecture within the site’s URL structure. This makes the site easier to crawl and helps build relevance between similar groups of content.
Because of some search engine's abilities to crawl parameter driven URLs, it is recommended that URLs don't contain more than 2-3 search parameters. Google Webmaster Tools offers some functionality on parameter handling but this is discussed in another article within the knowledge base.
Where possible, keywords should be used within the URL. They can be used at any level after the TLD, for example:
Using keywords within the URL will assist in ranking for those keywords, even if considered an indirect ranking factor; the keyword appears in the within the SERPs and can be bolded by Google, this can enhance CTR and hence drive rankings.
This also makes for a more useful URL for users, compared to a random alphanumeric string of characters or poor file names like ‘page-1’ for example.
There really isn’t a need to have a keyword more than once in an entire URL. Over optimised URLs can look spammy and could be targeted for over-optimisation by Google. Keep URL’s relevant, natural and avoid keyword stuffing. An appropriate URL could for example look like this:
A poor URL could look like this for example:
Breaking up words in URL’s provides a readability advantage both to users and to Google who see separators as a way of differentiating between words. For example:
example.com/completeonpageseochecklist < this is hard to read, compared to:
example.com/complete-on-page-seo-checklist < this is easy to read
Ensure that hyphens have been used as word separators instead of underscores, Google ask you to do this here.
No page should be more than four clicks from the home page, although URL’s may reflect architecture that includes for example five sub-directories, the page at the bottom should be accessible within four clicks of the home page.
URL length should not exceed 100 characters where possible. Very long URL’s are harder for people to read, in some instances share on sites like Twitter (without using URL shorteners) but are not a direct ranking factor.
Also consider that if any AdWords PPC / SEM advertising is to be undertaken the maximum character limit for a URL is 35 characters. In cases where the TLD is longer than 35 characters exceptions can be made.
Avoid using numbers or irrelevant words within URL's, instead use more verbose descriptive terms and include a keyword or a relevant descriptive word. This will improve relevance and ultimately provide more value to users. URL’s with long sequences of numbers as directories or page names provide no value to your site, rankings or the user and should therefore be avoided.
Groups of content on a similar topic can be grouped together by internal linking, structured with marked-up breadcrumb navigation but keeping content grouped by URL structure is the most common way of grouping / clustering content.
Clustering content creates a wider / broader relevance to a group of keywords across multiple pages / URLS. We cover the benefits of this more detail in an article on content strategy.
There is a large range of potential issues that could cause duplicate content problems on a site, any of which stem from poorly created URLs. We list some of these below and link to articles from our canonicalization and duplicate content section.
Session ID’s appear in URL’s as alpha-numeric strings attached to a URL which is unique to the ‘session’ of a specific user. Click the link for more info on Session IDs.
A common issue on sites, especially those that remove the document type suffix (.html .aspx .php) from URL’s is that trailing slashes can be present at the end of a URL.
There is no ‘SEO’ reason to force URL’s to include or not include trailing slashes, it just makes more so just chose which you prefer. Click the link for more info on trailing slashes.
The URL to any webpage should be created in lowercase characters and should include no uppercase characters. Click the link for more info on upper vs. lower case characters.