First Steps to SEO Success – URL Structures
So far, we have talked about the following as it relates to a Successfully SEO Plan:
This step is a little bit easier and quicker once you get going. It’s also much easier if you take this into consideration prior to putting your website together. Having to change the URL structure after the website has been created is a much larger task. You may also have to consider 301 redirects when changing the URL structure of an existing website.
One of the often-overlooked items for on-page SEO is the structure of your URLs. Keywords can be identified in the URL of a page. Whether you are developing a website in WordPress, another CMS or you are creating pages with your own code, the URL structure is easy to set up.
In WordPress, under Settings>Permalinks you should set up the URLs of your pages and posts as Post Name. This will make it easier for you to set up the URL structure.
Now that you have this set up it’s time to create a page. By default, WordPress will create a URL based on your page title. If you read the previous step (page titles) then you are already creating SEO friendly page titles. There may be an occasion where you want to modify the URL further. In WordPress this is easy. Right below the title of your page or post the URL is displayed. Click the edit button to the right of the URL and edit it as necessary.
One item to consider is stop words. Some SEO Experts believe that certain words, called stop words, can have an impact on how Google ranks your site. This may have been the case at one time, but it is no longer true. Stop words are common words such as:
There is no longer a reason to be concerned about stop words. You should try to keep URLs to 5 words or less but there isn’t a hard limit set by Google. Research shows that shorter URLs do get more clicks, but I don’t believe searchers pay too much attention to URLs when clicking on search results.
Creating URLs Manually
If you are creating web pages manually using HTML, PHP, ASP or another language then you probably already have the knowledge needed to create URLs. The same best practices should still be followed when creating the URL structure of your pages and overall site.
URL Best Practices for SEO
- URLs should be ‘almost’ legible to humans-For example, if my URL is 5-things-your-seo-forgot-to-do-how-its-hurting-your-business this will make sense to a human. If I just add random numbers and letters after my TLD (top level domain) it is not readable. In fact, I do use random numbers and letters when I am testing something and don’t want anyone to find it.
- Include keywords in your URLs. Yes, it counts. Include one keyword or long-tail keyword in your URL structure. Using the example above you can easily determine that the keyword I wanted to focus on is SEO but there are other items that could return in search results. For the example URL above, I basically used the title of the page. Think of it as another opportunity to use your focus keyword in your content.
- Shorter URLs Where Possible-This is not for Google. This is for your audience. Your audience is who you really want to create content for, isn’t it?
- Don’t Use Dynamic URLs Where Possible-Using URLs that end in something like php?language=en&inhalt=id=99 should be avoided. They’re ugly and can sometimes discourage people from clicking on them.
- Use Hyphens-in the example I used in point one I included dashes to separate words. This makes it easier to read. Underscores are also acceptable but it’s best to use hyphens. Spaces will work but this then adds a %20 to the structure of the URL. This makes the URL a little harder to read.
- Avoid repetitive keywords in the URL structure. This includes folders. For example, if my URL is com/local-seo/local-seo-steps this looks spammy. It almost looks like keyword stuffing. If you know anything about SEO then you know that keyword stuffing can negatively impact your SEO now.
If you are editing the URL structure of an existing website that has already built up authority and backlinks, then you have some things to consider. Your best bet would be to create 301 redirects from the old URL to the new URL. As an example:
Examplewebsite.com/page.php is changed to Examplewebsite.com/more-informative-url.php then you will want to add a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells Google and other search engines that you have permanently moved the content of the page to a new location (URL). I wrote a quick post about how to create a 301-redirect a while back but it’s pretty easy to do if you have access to your htaccess file. Just insert the following:
RedirectPermanent /oldpage.html http://www.yourdomain.com/newpage.html
WordPress also comes with plugins to manage redirects. This might be easier for less technical website owners and/or multiple redirects to set up.