One of the main parts of every website on the Internet is the website’s URL or Uniform Resource Locator. That’s a rather complex name for something we all simply call the web address, actually. So what is it about URLs that makes them a very important part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how can you optimize your URL structure to make the most out of the website you have – in 2016. Because all the advanced SEO techniques in the world won’t help if you haven’t set up your URL structure properly.
First, a crash course in URLs. As we’ve said, the URL is a resource locator, or to put it in a more scientific phrase, a reference to a web resource that specifies its location on a network and a mechanism for retrieving it. It often looks like this:
- The protocol, HTTP or HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol, the most used protocol on the web
- Domain name, or your address on the Web
- Directories, or the categories and subfolders in your page
- Specific name of the page you’re seeing
URLs show the path which your computer will take to get to a certain site on the web. Web browsers usually show the URL in the address bar, so you know where you are at any time. There’s, of course, a lot of science going on around how the browser knows which URL is which and similar, but we’re interested in the way your URL affects your SEO, right?
URLs and SEO’s
What does SEO have to do with your URL structure, you ask. Well, you see, even though a lot of users usually don’t pay much attention to how their website URLs look, it’s really not that much of a hassle to actually do better URLs, and it can only help you in the long run.
SEO experts are always looking for new ways to improve the SEO score of websites, and that’s precisely why keeping URLs relevant, compelling and accurate is the real idea behind ranking well on search engines.
The one rule that generally applies to most of the things you do on and around the Internet is the KISS rule known as the principle of keeping things “simple and sweet”. This might be familiar to anyone who has ever done any agency work, but the principle is far more valuable than that, and is found everywhere.
Short Is Good
When it comes to URLs, even Google advises its users to try and keep the length of URLs as simple and short as possible. The quote on their official site says that:
Overly complex URLs, especially those containing multiple parameters, can cause problems for crawlers by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site. As a result, Googlebot may consume much more bandwidth than necessary, or may be unable to completely index all the content on your site.
Aside from that, there’s some more interesting data provided by Google itself that you’d need to look into:
- Average URL length for Gmail is 59 characters
- Average URL length for Webmaster Tools is 90 characters
- Average URL length for the Google blog is 76 characters
So, unless you want Googlebot to be unhappy, better get to work providing it with the tools it needs to index your site properly. The main idea here is to organize your content so that the URLs are as logical as they can be, and in the manner that is most intelligible to humans. This means that most URLs that are too long will be simply ignored, no matter how good are the sites that they are leading to.
Remember this: Long URLs make people think that they’re not safe
Research has shown that the best length for URLs is somewhere around 35-45 characters, and everything above that dwells into a territory that isn’t safe for your URLs. Of course, nothing bad will happen to them if they’re 1000 characters long, but your SEO will not be as good as it can be. So even though it’s possible, it’s not advisable, as you can be losing your traffic because of the sheer size of the links you’re providing.
Make URLs Smart
When it comes to the actual letters inside your URLs, keep one thing in mind and you’ll be okay:
URLs filled with weird symbols and random characters aren’t sexy.
Speaking of sexy, did you know that less than a half of one percent of the top 100 SEO optimized sites have extraneous characters like %, &, and similar? That’s not good, and it tells you a lot about the importance of optimization.
That’s why you need to make your URLs readable by average human beings, such as yourself. Having a lot of symbols, numbers, and random letters are sure to put a big question mark above anyone’s head, as the URLs that look like that really look like they’re spam.
When you’re writing anything on your website, just make sure to take a look at the way the URL looks like once it’s “alive”, as your key should be to make your URLs look as good as you want them to perform.
Separate Those Words
Have you ever come across an URL where you just can’t separate the words, like www.example.me/bluebicyclehelmet? This is surprisingly often, and it feels as though the writers and developers of that particular site didn’t know that you can actually divide the words inside URLs to make them more readable to the average person.
Google advises that you use hyphens instead of underscores in your URLs, as they make the URL look more stylish and elegant, as well making it easier on the eyes. By heeding this advice, our example site becomes www.example.me/blue-bicycle-helmet, and the spaces between the words are clearly visible, as well as the words themselves.
Of course, Google isn’t advising you to use hyphens just because it looks cool – because every time you use an underscore instead of a hyphen, the search engine combines the word. That’s why your www.example.me/blue_bicycle_helmet isn’t helping you any more than the example with no extra spacing characters above.
It looks better, it’s easier to read, and most importantly – it helps your SEO score, so everyone is pleased.
Matching The URL To The Title
To think about all of the ways everything you do on your blog or website can affect your SEO score, is to probably get an instant headache if you’re not well-versed in the magic of SEO optimization. Still, there’s one piece of advice we can guarantee will work on any blog you try to optimize more, and that is making the title of your article and its URL similar as much as you can.
The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: when users come to your blog, from an URL, they expect that they’ll see something very similar to the text that appears in their address bar. So, for example, if your URL is example.com/cute-panda-babies, you better give those panda babies in the title, or else there’ll be a lot of people who feel betrayed because the thing that is in the address bar isn’t the same as the one that they’re reading about.
We hope these tips will help you help you go that extra mile when it comes to your SEO score, and that your sites will look better, and perform better too.