SEO-friendly URLs have been a topic of debate for many, many years in the SEO and digital marketing industry. There are many factors that come into play here. From the number of folders to the inclusion of the primary keyword, professional SEOs have analyzed numerous combinations to create the perfect URL structure.
In this guide, we are going to discuss and take a good look at how a perfect SEO-friendly and user-friendly URL should be structured.
So, let’s get started with our guide here and see how to structure a good URL for your blog posts.
Tip #1: Keyword Inclusion
Keyword inclusion is a good thing. If you are trying to optimize a blog post for a certain keyword, you should include that main keyword in its URL.
The question is that can it come at the cost of over-optimization? And the simplest answer is that it shouldn’t.
Having your main keyword in the URL of the blog post has numerous benefits, but it shouldn’t look like it is unnaturally stuffed there. Therefore, it is important that you structure your blog post and its URL structure in a way that including the keyword doesn’t seem unnatural or forced.
Moreover, here are a few benefits of including your main keyword in a blog post.
One of the biggest advantages of having your main keyword in a post’s URL is that it turns up in the status bar when someone hovers over the link. Here is an example.
Another big advantage is that search-engine users pay a lot of attention to important keywords in the search engine results page. Having the right keywords in the URL structure can increase your search click-through rate (CTR).
Tip #2: Making it More Readable
A good URL is the one that is easily readable by users. Search engines aren’t the only things that need good, clean URLs. You also need to optimize them for human readers as they are the ones who eventually click on your blog post and read it.
Furthermore, as search engines are constantly evolving and getting smarter, they are using strong data and behavioral signals by their users to identify if a ranked page is worthy of its search engine position. In the end, it is the engagement that counts. And a more readable URL structure can significantly increases the engagement rate it gets from search-engine users.
Here is an image created by Moz that explains this concept.
The idea is that the URL should be easily readable and identifiable.
If a user already knows what they will get after clicking on a certain like, they are more likely to do it. Such user-friendly and readable URLs also bring more targeted traffic.
On the other hand, the 3rd example in the above image doesn’t give the users any idea what they are going to find on the other side. It may very well be a malware. So, naturally, internet users will be hesitant in clicking such a link.
Tip #3: Making It Short, Sweet, and Simple
Short URL vs. Long URL.
It has always been a matter of debate. Let’s clear this issue once and for all.
Search engines do not particularly have any problem with processing longer URLs. So, in other words, the length of a post’s URL doesn’t directly affect its search engine rankings. However, the problem is about user-experience and usability.
Shorter URLs are usually preferred by users as they are easier to parse, copy, paste, or remember. Moreover, because of the limitations social media websites like Twitter has, shorter URLs are a lot easier to share across the social media networks.
Generally speaking, if the URL of your blog post is under 50 characters, you do not have to worry about it. However, if it is exceeding, say, 100 characters, then you might want to rewrite it and make it more user-friendly.
Note: The URLs of articles ranked on Google’s #1 page contain an average of 37 characters.
Apart from that, there is also an issue of including categories and subcategories in the URL structure. Most of you might know this as including “folders” in the URL of a post.
It looks something like that.
As you can see in the above example, a URL structure becomes too long if you include too many categories.
Now, the question is does it help in the search engines? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really help improving a blog post’s search engine ranking. However, at the same time, such lengthy URLs don’t appear to be very user-friendly.
Popular blogs like BoostBlogTraffic specifically uses shorter URLs with no extra directories.
Here is an example.
So, if you have to choose one option over the other, I’d recommend going with a simple, clean, and short URL structure that is without too many directories and folders.
Tip #4: Match URLs to Titles
The process of search engine optimization isn’t always the most straight-forward. There are various factors that finally determine the search engine ranking of a blog post. By matching the URL of a post with its main title, you can take care of one such factor.
Let me explain.
It is considered a very good practice to match the URL with the title of the post — at least to some extent. This is because when someone opens the link to your blog post after seeing its URL and the keywords in it, he/she expects to read about a certain topic. If the title or content of the page is somewhat different than the keywords present in the URL, it may lead to a “bounce”.
In other words, when search engine users open your blog post, they expect something. It is your job to meet those expectations and deliver the right content.
The URL of a post builds expectations; the title of the post delivers on it. Therefore, both of them should have more or less the same keywords in them.
Tip #5: Don’t Worry About the Stop Words
What if the title or headline of your blog post has stop words in it?
In the previous point, I made it very clear that ideally you should match the title and URL as closely as possible. So what happens to all those stop words?
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that.
Stop words like, and, or, but, the, a, etc. are not necessary to be included in the URL. There are no disadvantages of adding these words in the URL, but they can often make a URL unreasonably longer. As you can remember, one of our goals is to always make the URL short, simple, and readable. Avoiding such stop words can help you achieve that goal of simplicity.
Tip #6 Case Sensitivity
Not a lot of bloggers and website owners pay attention to it, but case sensitivity can be a big issue.
If you are using the Microsoft/IIS servers, you don’t have to worry about it at all. However, in case you are hosting with Linux/UNIX, there can be a little bit of problem. This is because hosting with Linux/UNIX means they can interpret separate cases.
As you can see, there are no magic rules here. Most of the tips are focused on creating the most user-friendly and readable URL for your web pages. Apart from that, including the primary keyword and then matching it with the title and content of the post are other important factors that you must focus on.
However, in a bid to include keywords, it is important not to over-optimize it as it can lead to a Google penalty.
Search engines have gone through a massive overhaul in the past few years, and now they are smarter than ever. Over-optimization of keywords don’t particularly work anymore — whether it is in the content of the post or if it is in its URL.
Following is a good example of how NOT to do it.
As you can see in the image, the keyword “canoe puppies” come multiple times in the URL, title, and the meta-description. It not only becomes a little irritating for the users, search engines also do not prefer such practices anymore.
Focus on creating high-quality content, so Google and other search engines promote it in their SERPs. Then, create an SEO-friendly URL structure by using the tips mentioned above to complement it. That should be the core of your SEO strategy.
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