What is a URL?
The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is human-readable text that references a specific resource on the internet. It is also known as a web address. URLs were designed to replace the numbers (IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with servers. DNS servers are used to translate IP addresses into URLs so that users can communicate using readable text rather than a long, hard to remember series of numbers.
One of the most important and basic search engine optimization techniques is implementing SEO-friendly URL structures. The URL structure of your site is extremely important because it helps the search engines understand the contextual relevance of a given webpage. It also adds a useful relevancy metric to the page.
Essentially, a concise and keyword-rich URL structure can actually have a wonderfully positive impact on your site rankings in the long run.
A URL that is short and keyword-rich can improve the webpage’s search ranking for its target keyword
The general theme and category structure of a site should be reflected in its URL. This is because a search engine-friendly URL structure can help search engines understand how useful or relevant a given webpage is to a given search query.
Elements of a URL
Consider the components that make up a URL: a well-structured URL actually consists of several important pieces of information.
- Http://: (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): This is the most popular application protocol used on the world wide web. Other familiar types of application protocols include FTP and telnet.
- www.moonpig.com/: Domain name of the website.
- GreetingCards/: This is the main directory for all of the greeting cards carried by the store.
- Birthdays: Subdirectory of GreetingCards directory, which is effectively a subcategory of the GreetingCards category.
- superdad.htm: File name of the requested resource.
Advantages of Short URLs
This page with greeting cards for superdads is only 2 levels deep. It contains useful, relevant and specific keywords in the URL that concisely and accurately reflects the content of the site. Just by looking at the URL, you are able to discern that this is a greeting card site. This is so even though the actual domain name itself doesn’t contain any keywords that indicate what type of site it is.
When you share the URL on social media, users can clearly see where you will be sending them. They can make the determination whether to clickthrough to check out what you are offering on your website. Studies indicate that the URL plays a key role in determining which webpage users click on in the search results.
The reason why this URL is effective is because it is short and easily readable by human beings and search crawlers alike, although search engines generally don’t have problems processing long URLs. You can clearly follow the product hierarchy and tell what the page is about just by looking at the URL.
Usability and Accessibility
Usability and accessibility are very important for SEO today, and users and search engines will be able to accurately guess what the content is about because of the use of relevant keywords for the subdirectories (e.g. birthday). If the content of your title tag is short enough, you can increase the relevance of a webpage to a particular search query by also matching the URL to the content that is in your Page title.
This is valuable data for the search engines. This is because it provides another signal they can use to establish the relevancy of the webpage to specific search queries. This makes it an ideal candidate for search queries for users who are looking to buy a birthday card for their dad. Furthermore, since you are likely to share URLs on social media, having a short and readable URL is very important if you want people to click through to your site.
Compare the URL used in the above example (Http://www.moonpig.com/GreetingCards/Birthday/superdads.html) to the following URL structure on the same site:
Unlike in the previous example, it is practically impossible to guess what the webpage is about from this URL. The search engines will have no clue about what is contained on the webpage. The will make indexation difficult because the data provided by the URL is of little or no value. The easier you make things for the search engines, the better the results you will clearly see.
It is important to note that over-optimization could trigger an algorithmic filter. For example, adding too many keywords to your URL is a fast track to a Panda penalty. For example, say you are a local business that offers plumbing and boiler maintenance services in London. Trying to get all of your keywords including your city to various elements of the page could trigger the Panda algorithm.
Hyphens and Spaces
When using phrases with multiple words, the search engines recommend using hyphens rather than spaces or underscores to separate them. This will help readability. The search engines tend to interpret hyphens as word spaces. However, underscores are treated as alphanumeric characters. For example, the URL http://www.example.com/red-ferrari.html would be much more useful to the search engines than http://www.example.com/redferrari.html. This is because the hyphens are interpreted as spaces, and act as a separator. This is also helpful for links because studies show that the chances of people linking with the relevant anchor text are higher if the keywords are included in the URL. Furthermore, a URL that is too long or that is incomprehensible is more prone to typos. This can even cause broken links to your web pages from other sites.
Note that the use of too many hyphens in a URL can come off as spammy and manipulative. For this reason, do not use any more hyphens than is required to make the URL readable. Furthermore, URLs should never be longer than 2,048 characters or Internet Explorer would have problems loading the page.
This demonstrates why it is quite important to keep your URL structure simple. Your URL structure should be easy to for users and search engines to comprehend. It should effectively describe what is on the page in a way that makes sense to both people and search engine robots alike.