Table Of Contents
- 1 Use A Keyword In Your URL Slug
- 2 Avoid Keyword Stuffing
- 3 Shorter URLs Are Better
- 4 Use A Logical Parent/Child URL Structure To Improve Browsability
- 5 Avoid Dynamic Strings In URL Structure
- 6 Make Sure Your URL Is Only Available On One Version Of The Site
- 7 Avoid Stop Words In URLs
- 8 Use Canonicalization
- 9 Optimize Your URL And Stay Relevant In Today’s Competitive Marketplace
By now everyone knows that to be relevant online you have to appear high in Google’s search engine rankings. People do not have the attention spans to scroll past the first one or two pages of Google, and with ample options for any type of service imaginable, it is not necessary for them to navigate past the first few options.
Having a great website with optimised, SEO friendly content is an excellent way to rise in organic search engine results, but that is only one part of the picture. Many businesses will focus on making sure their content and copywriting are entirely on point while forgetting about one straightforward way to make their website more powerful; optimising the URL structure.
Optimizing your URL does two things. First, it makes your URL more attractive to Google and therefore it will be easier to rate higher in their search engine. Secondly, it makes your URL easier to remember, which helps you with potential customers because instead of typing in a two hundred character long URL with numbers and unnecessary punctuation, they can type in an easy URL that effectively reflects your company.
We have compiled a list of six straightforward ways that you can optimise your URL structure. None of these requires any coding experience or even a deep understanding of search engine optimisation. They are simple fixes that will do a world of good for your business.
Use A Keyword In Your URL Slug
You have been infusing your blog posts with keywords and maybe even using a plugin like Yoast to make sure your search engine optimisation game is on point, but you might not have given any thought to using a keyword in your URL slug. Ignoring the slug is an easily overlooked way to immediately ramp up the visibility of your website because Google can see right away what your site is about and reward you accordingly.
Also, potential customers will know what your small business focuses on. There is no guesswork or ambiguity involved. In the instant gratification world of the internet, where your customers’ attention span has been whittled down to almost nothing, give them a clear understanding of what you are all about right from the beginning. You will see your website traffic swell and your conversion rate soar.
It’s a two-second fix that could make a significant difference in your business.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
The flip side of the coin is stuffing your URL with so many keywords that it is evident to Google that you are trying to cheat the system.
Google looks very unfavourably on people who try to game the system by engaging in what is generally known as grey-hat search engine optimisation. Businesses who do not want to put in the legwork keyword stuff their content all of the time, and some of the same to their URLs. How can you spot a keyword stuffer? Check out the two examples below.
See the difference? It’s evident that the keywords; “SEO packages”, stick out like a sore thumb in the URL. Other examples of keyword stuffing could include repeating keywords. It is important to note that this is different than the logical parent/child structure of a URL inside your website. It makes sense that those URLs start broad and wind up vague. A keyword stuffed URL will not flow logically. It will just look like a mess.
Shorter URLs Are Better
Have you ever asked someone for the name of their website and then lost interest about halfway through them telling you because you knew you would never remember it? Long URLs are not doing you or your business any favours. They are cumbersome, too long to remember and will hurt you when it comes to word of mouth because even if people want to refer you to someone else, they will not be able to because they won’t remember the proper name of your URL.
Keep it short and sweet and do not try to get cute with dashes or numbers thrown in there for fun. Although it might look cool and unique to you, your potential customers will be immediately turned off because it is a total pain to try to remember to type all of those symbols and numbers. We are living in an age where nobody has a long attention span, and you have to make sure that you are taking advantage of every opportunity to stay visible with your customers. Short URLs are your best friend.
In addition to getting your more customers, a shorter URL is also preferred by Google. If Google’s bots like your URL you can be sure you’ll enjoy a little extra boost in the search engine results. If you can pare down your URL to make it even shorter and more punchy, do it.
Use A Logical Parent/Child URL Structure To Improve Browsability
In the web world, “parent” and “child” refer different parts of your website. Parent pages are those that have several pages linked off them. For example, if your business specialises in fine china, your parent page would have an overview of all of your products. A child page attached to that parent page would contain a more specific brand of China. For example:
Parent and child pages are how your website is organised and when you apply a logical order to your parent and child pages, people can navigate easily through the products or content that they want to see. As with everything else, with so many options available today it is critical that you keep the end user experience in mind when building and maintaining your website. Frustrated customers will flee to your competitors.
When you are drilling in deep to child pages, and getting more specific, it is essential to make sure that anyone can look at the URL and tell how the last child page fits in with the rest of the pages. Such careful navigational design helps your customer and Google be able to understand what’s going on.
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that you need to spell out all of your parent/child connections, especially since shorter URLs are better, but this is one example where it is important to connect all of the dots both for your customers and Google.
Good Parent/Child URL
Bad Parent/Child URL
In the first Parent/Child URL, we are immediately let in on the businesses’ thought process. The My Furniture company has a collection of den furniture that contains chairs. Of these chairs, some of them are recliners. In the second example, it is a little unclear whether or not My Furniture sells recliners, or what kind of recliners they are. Always be as transparent with your customers and Google. You will reap a nice bump in the search engine rankings.
Avoid Dynamic Strings In URL Structure
Dynamic strings refer to those particular characters that pop up from time to time in some URLs. If you have ever been puzzled by a URL that was a whole alphabet soup of disjointed letters and characters, you understand why it is so important to avoid these kinds of URLs. Not only do they look unprofessional, but they also do not tell your customers anything whatsoever about your website. Similarly, Google does not understand how to read your URL and will ignore or punish it.
It takes just a few seconds to pop into the backend of your website and get rid of your dynamic strings URLs. Focus instead on writing URLs that are short and sweet and contain appropriate keywords. Of all of the ways to optimise your URL, this is probably one of the easiest and more effective ways of preserving your reputation and driving more sales.
Make Sure Your URL Is Only Available On One Version Of The Site
One widely prevalent mistake is having a bunch of different URLs with the same content. Occasionally businesses will buy up a bunch of URLs because they think that it will get them a more significant market share. Sometimes, a company will redo their website and forget to repoint older versions. Whatever the reason, if you have an HTTP, https, .com and .net that all have the same thing, you are not doing yourself any favours.
The customer experience will be negatively impacted. How many variations on your name do you think they are going to type into the search bar before they give up? Also, it looks unprofessional to have a lot of duplicate websites hanging around out there.
Google could notice and think you are trying to beat their algorithm, even if it is not intentional. If this happens, they will ding you which hurts your search engine rankings. If you have tons of duplicate websites out there (or even just a few), there is a natural answer to your prayers. Just have all of these websites pointed to the URL that you are using. That way, you will not lose any of your content, and you will not appear as a bunch of different websites.
If you are having any trouble deciding which URL to use, always err on the site of .com as opposed to .net. Only use .edu if you are an educational institution.
Avoid Stop Words In URLs
This tip goes hand in hand with making your URL short and sweet. You want your URL to be as impactful as possible, both for customers and so Google likes you. An excellent way to do this is to check your URLs and get rid of any stop words.
If you have control over the back end of your website and you are working with a WordPress platform, you can install a search engine optimisation plugin like Yoast or All in one SEO, which will ferret out stop words and also help you craft proper URLs. If you do not have access to the back end, or if you are not secure in your ability to mess around with your URLs, go through them and check one by one for stop words. Then either get rid of them yourself or have your webmaster do it for you.
Stop words are filler words. They are necessary for everyday speech and also in writing effective and grammatically correct copy, but they do not have any place in URLs. Stop words are the glue of sentences, like “and” or “the”. Although necessary for polite speech, they just take up valuable space in your URL.
Google’s bots do not speak or write proper English, so these stop words are just confusing to them. It bears repeating; you want to make it as easy for your potential customers and Google to know immediately about your website. Cut to the chase and cut out the stop words. It will make your URL much easier to read.
Although you might not think you are duplicating pages of your website, you could be unintentionally creating a bunch of duplicate content that is confusing Google. Your customers will not be impacted by this directly, but you will see a hit if Google’s bots decide not to promote your page because they do not know what is going on with it.
You might be wondering, “how do I deal with duplicate content if I do not even know that I am creating it?” There is a straightforward solution. You tell Google, through the code, that your URL is the master page copy using canonicalization.
Canonicalization means inserting a little piece of code into your website. Once this is done, you no longer have to worry about Google getting confused by the duplicate content you did not intentionally create. You are all set!
The code you need to insert looks like this:
< link rel =”canonical” href (your website) / >
The “canonical” in quotations is direct communication to Google indicating that this page is the master copy. Now Google no longer has to wonder which page, if any, it should be promoting.
If the thought of putting the code on your website makes you nervous, do not worry. There are plenty of online tutorials that will walk you through how to canonicalise your site successfully. If you are still worried about messing it up, you can ask your webmaster to pop in the bit of code or hire a college student to go through your pages for you.
Canonicalization is one of those ways to optimise your URL structure that you will not be able to see with your own eyes but rest assured that Google will recognise it and reward you accordingly.
Optimize Your URL And Stay Relevant In Today’s Competitive Marketplace
When it comes to effective search engine optimisation, you need to look beyond making sure your web content and blog posts are optimised. Your URL structure makes a huge difference to both Google and your customers. Make sure it is the best it can be by following these tips. Keep in mind the benefits that you will get by having an optimised URL.
- Google will look upon your URL more favourably and bump you up in the search engine rankings, moving you to a higher page, which is vital for being found in today’s competitive marketplace.
- Customers will remember your URL and be able to refer you easily to others.
- You will look substantially more professional when you employ logical parent/child relationships and get rid of any dynamic elements from your URL.
- Many of your competitors are overlooking optimising their URLs, so by getting on board now, you have a serious competitive advantage
- You will avoid keyword stuffing, which is a huge no-no to Google and could get you lowered in the search engine rankings
All of the tips that we outlined here can be easily accomplished and will give you tremendous results. Some suggestions like removing dynamic elements from your URL will take only a few seconds. Others, like fixing your parent/child URLs might take a little bit longer, but they are worth it in the long run.
You can check our SEO checklist or mobile seo guide to further improve your SEO game.If you want to be on top of your search engine optimisation game moving forward, consider installing a search engine optimisation plugin like Yoast or All in One SEO. Most search engine optimisation plugins are user-friendly and give you easy to understand instructions on how you can best optimise all aspects of your website, including your URL. If you are not currently using one, consider installing a plugin (many are free) and taking the weekend to make sure that your website is entirely up to speed and optimised effectively.