How to Build URLs Optimized for Search

 

In the past couple of weeks, we have focused on some of the basic elements of search engine optimization. Now it’s time to move to some of the more advanced aspects of SEO. Your URL structure is one of the many things that can impact your SEO. In this post, we’re going to focus on how to properly build optimized URLs.

You can use the following as something of a checklist when building URLs with SEO in mind:

  • Single Domain-Subdomain Structure
    Using just one domain and subdomain ensures that all signals received by search engines point to the same place rather than getting watered down because they have to be shared across multiple domains or subdomains. Folders are a great way to accommodate variations as needed.
  • Simplify Folder Structure
    Using folders is great but don’t go overboard. A folder structure that is too complex gives off the appearance of a site that is hard to navigate.
  • Canonicalize
    If you have two pages that are more or less the same, decide if that is truly needed. If not, pick the best one to display and use a 301 redirect for the other one. If you do need both (for example, if you want a printer-friendly page), use the rel=canonical tag. Redirections can work but always be careful to not include too many hops. If page 1 redirects to page 2 which redirects to page 3, make page 1 redirect to page 3 to eliminate the unnecessary hop.
  • Use Keyword
    Use of a keyword in a URL clarifies what the page is about and avoids disappointment when people get there if following a link sans anchor text. It is also helpful because a SERP can display that relevant keyword.
  • Align with H1 and Page Title
    The more closely that your URL matches the H1 and page title, the better. This does not have to be an exact match but close enough so that on a SERP page, the page title and URL make sense together.
  • Short is Good
    Make your URLs descriptive but as short as possible. Avoid use of stop words like and, or, etc. and focus on the words that really matter most.
  • Watch Use of Special Characters
    Some special characters can cause problems in a URL and should be avoided. A hashtag, for example, should only be used when sending people to a very specific spot on the page or when you are tracking parameters.
  • Separate Words with –
    A dash is the preferred way to separate words in a URL structure.

If you’ve had your site for some time, it may be worth going back and taking a good look at the URL structure to determine if it is time for an overhaul. The process may not sound fun but it can benefit you in your SEO efforts.

Given that so many things impact SEO, it only makes sense to tackle as many as you realistically can. Cleaning up your URL structure—or implementing a good one for new pages going forward—is a relatively simple and achievable means of making your pages more optimized for search.