At the core of every piece of content, not matter what it is about or how it is formatted internally, is the URL. A type of Uniform Resource Identifier, and otherwise known simply as a web address, the URL is seen everywhere and can have a major impact on the performance of any given piece of content.
While a website’s domain URL will always remain the same, for every new article, recipe, blog post, or photo album you publish onto your site there will be a unique URL. With this in mind, it is easy to see how URLs have such a huge impact on SEO performance, though most individuals are entirely unaware how to optimize their content’s online address.
Enlisting the aid of SEO professionals will help demystify the mighty URL, but to give you a basic understanding on proper URL & SEO practices, we’ve listed some simple (yet effective) strategies below.
Make URLs Short & Concise
There’s no algorithmic reason or tech-explanation as to why you should keep URLs somewhere between three to five words long, it is all based on user experience. Think about it: if you are looking at two links that appear in the same search, you are probably going to choose the concise and easy-to-understand URL that includes words relevant to your search rather than a super long URL that does not have an end in sight. Make life easy on whoever may be searching for your content and keep your URLs short, sweet, and clear.
Keywords Are Still Important
Back in the olden days of SEO, keywords were heralded as the magical essence of success. Nowadays, with changes in how search engines operate and find content, there is more of a focus on user engagement (how many times a link is shared, time spent on content, etc.), but that is not to say keywords have lost all relevance.
Much like URL-length, the usefulness of keywords plays into user experience. When someone is looking at your content’s URL on social media, email, or search results, having specific keywords will demonstrate what will be found when they click the link. So by including the most important ideas and topics covered within your content into the URL, the keywords will let the user know what the article is about and the information they can gain.
Just be certain not to be repetitive or spam keywords. There’s no added benefit to using a keyword more than once in a single URL, and the practice could make your content seem less credible to users. Follow the same practice of keeping URLs short and concise when using keywords and you should find success.
Remove Unnecessary Words & Punctuation
Connecting and stop words (e.g. and, but, the) aren’t needed when crafting a URL, especially if you are using the right keywords. Generally, a user will be able to understand what your content will be about without additional words, though there are some exceptions. If you’re writing an article on Mother’s Day gifts, it may be best to form your URL as “www.example.com/gifts-for-mom” since the “for” adds clarity to what is inside the content.
There are also some “unsafe” characters that can cause technical issues when put into a URL. For a rundown on such characters, head here.
How To Separate Words
When writing a URL, your best bet is to separate each word/keyword with a hyphen. If you are using WordPress, this is often done for you automatically, but double checking never hurts. The reason behind this is that search engines recognize hyphens as spaces rather than an additional character. Underscores and traditional spaces could be used, but the most-often used is hyphens, so ensure your URL looks like other credible links users have encountered.
Always Use Static URLs
For those unaware, there is a distinction between “static” and “dynamic” URLs. Basically, the former is a standard URL that is created by ordinary means, and the latter is a URL with extra parameters and usually contain characters like “? = &.”
Parameters are usually added to a URL for data tracking purposes, and can be used as such, just don’t hard-code dynamic URLs. The result is a harder-to-read URL that may detract users from clicking on the content.
Steer Clear Of Subdomains & Subfolders
Often times you’ll see a website with a certain URL (e.g. www.examplesite.com) and an extension of the site, like a blog, that contains a somewhat different URL (e.g. blog.examplesite.com). The two are examples of a domain and subdomain, but for the best SEO results, you’ll want to avoid using the latter in URLs. Search engines tend to recognize subdomains as an entirely different site from your main domain, which can detract from your link authority. Your best bet is to have all of your content link to your main domain to increase your SEO performance.
Another note to consider is the use of subfolders, which are often used as different categores on a website (e.g. www.examplesite.com/articles). While subfolders are useful in separating different styles of content, it does make your URL inherently larger, which is not exactly ideal. If you have subfolders, try to minimize their number and keep the URL-add on as short as possible.
Featured image courtesy of: thedescrier