URL SEO Optimization

The actual URL for your pages are a significant topicality ranking factor. In fact, I’ve run tests that show the URL is even more important than the title tag, though only marginally.

The URL of your page should include the core keywords that your page is about and that you want to rank for. As always, don’t get spammy and try to stuff in tons of keywords and variants. If your page is about where to find local lawyers the URL should be /find-local-lawyers and not /find-local-attorneys-lawyers

SEO URL best practices:

  • Use your primary keywords in the URL
  • Don’t stuff it full of keywords
  • Use hyphens ( – ) for word separators, not underscores ( _ )
  • You want your URL to be human readable, so someone seeing just the URL knows what the page is about
  • Shorter is better, and extremely long URLs can actually make people less likely to link to you, hurting your ability to grow authority!
  • Avoid code and special or encoded characters as much as possible. Sites will often need some kind of unique identifier number (like a SKU), but keep it to a minimum. Don’t do this: /?pgid=438237&CT%devELS3w038%~&seo=local-lawyers. Users are less likely to click on junky-looking URLs when they’re shared in URL form (like in social media and forums).
  • Don’t use parameters (?), hashes (#), or hashbangs (#!) in your base URL (they’re fine for things like tracking refids/utms and changes to sort order, but your canonical URL should not have them if possible). Technically Google can handle these just fine, they just don’t look great to users.
  • It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t care how crazy or ugly or long your URL is. It’s just users that do, and anything that reduces your ability to get links (or clicks on links) is bad for your SEO. Having your keywords in your URL is important — as is having them next to each other. This: /x359-dog-g33828-walking is not nearly as good as /dog-walking-x359-g33828.
  • All lowercase is ideal, only because once you mix in capitalization you increase the odds that someone will screw up the URL. The last thing you want is someone trying to link to you and failing.

That’s all there is to it! Keep it short, simple, readable, and include your primary keywords.

Category Structure in URLs

Some sites use a category structure for their URLs. For example a site giving information on dog training might have www.domain.com/guides/teach-your-dog-to-make-breakfast.html, with all their guides under the /guides/ path. Perhaps they then have a /dog-training-courses/ path for all their paid services.

This method is in fact very good for SEO, provided the URLs don’t get too long — you don’t want to embed path after path after path. The SEO logic behind this is that you are including the keywords of the category as well as the keywords of the individual page, and you probably want to rank for combinations of both.

This can be a good idea, but again, not at the expense of crazy long or complicated URLs: remember they need to be human readable. My rule of thumb is to never use more than two paths in a row unless there’s a compelling reason. So /dogs/guides/blah.html is okay, but dogs/guides/behavior-training/puppies/blah.html is not. And anything that is really long is almost always bad: fewer people will link to longer URLs, which is ultimately far more important than the gain of a few more keywords.

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