To general users, a URL is only a sign that points to a website's location on the internet. To a web owner who understands that first impressions matter in digital marketing and who understands search engine optimization, URL structure says a lot about your website and your brand. Your URL contains a lot of information that can singlehandedly improve your search ranking. It tells search engines what you do, its context and how good you are at it.
Also, URLs are the glue holding different parts of your website together and if you don't plan ahead of time, you will find it difficult to make changes in the future. This is why you need to take into account the many elements that make up your URL and optimize its structure. The result will be SEO rewards that will give you the brand awareness and visibility you are looking for.
Minimize your dynamic strings
You want to use static URL strings instead of the dynamic ones even though search engines don't really have problems with dynamic strings. However, dynamic strings look untidy whilst the static ones are more user friendly and allow you to optimize them with relevant keywords (both of which are great for SEO).
Minimizing your dynamic strings isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some content management systems make the operation much more difficult. There are ways around it but they all depend on your platforms, so you should consider this when you are checking out web hosting and SEO services to use. One of the commonest solutions is to rewrite rules, although this works best when your server runs Apache.
Use hyphens instead of underscores
Using underscores to separate words in your URL does matter and a common mistake is to use underscores. Googlebot is designed to read hyphens and not underscores. This mistake will cost you some SEO points. In fact, if you can afford to, don't use hyphens or underscores at all. But if you can’t avoid using either one or the other, avoid the underscores.
Include your target keywords
As a general rule, your primary keyword should have a place in your URL next to your root domain. This includes each time you launch a new page. For instance, www.discountdomains.co.nz/email-hosting, already tells a visitor that you deal on cheap domains and email hosting, even before they access your welcome page. This practice will also help you get discovered by a lot of the right people. This good for your home page and SEO, especially if all your category pages contain your keywords.
Any page you create should have some purpose. Therefore, your keyword research strategy, followed by related terms, should be employed in structuring your URL for SEO reasons.
Avoid excessive words
Some people repeat a lot of keywords on their URL hoping to increase their chances of ranking higher. However, what that does is to make your site seem spammy. Instead, use only words that are absolutely necessary. Conjunctions and prepositions aren't necessary because both search engine crawlers and internet users will still understand what your site is about without them.
This also applies to the use of the upper case. Capital letters can confuse both readers and search engines and make your URL harder to understand. Use lower case letters instead.
Canonicalize your URLs
The canonical tags help search engines know which of your duplicate pages, you prefer to be crawled. It is important to do this as pages tend to duplicate especially when they are dynamic pages with filters. However, this is the only recommended use for this code. If you ever need to redirect any site page, use redirect instead.
You might then be asking what SEO value this has for your site. It is possible to have three URLs that are basically the same page. Which means that the SEO the page gets will be split into three. But using the canonical tags will ensure that the SEO value is funneled to a single one (being the one you'll find in search results).
Think of its future purposes
There are lots of URL related decisions you have to make for your site which you won’t decide on immediately. You will also want to set up site wide URLs especially when your site is for ecommerce. Failing to optimize your URL structure from the outset will have SEO implications. Therefore, you need to ensure that you work on the layout in anticipation of future needs, and one of your focus areas should be to significantly minimize the number of redirects you have on your domain.
Add Mobile URLs to a Sitemap
If you are doing this correctly, you won't need to do this, as your site will already be responsive. But being extra careful doesn't hurt. What this does is to let search engines know which pages on your site are mobile friendly. You can easily learn how to create a mobile sitemap when you have separate mobile URLs.
Brands pay thousands of pounds to improve on their SEO. In fact, blogger outreach can cost you close to £7,000. Therefore, when it comes to search engine optimization, you need all the help you can get and your URL structure is the place to start. Fortunately, all the tips discussed here are pretty easy to implement, and some of them actually just take a few seconds.