Even in the face of fierce competition, optimizing your website for search engines will guarantee consistent, long-term traffic to the site. Yes, you may not have control over many SEO factors, such as who your competitors are and what they are doing. But you can still benefit from on-page optimization, which is very much in your control.
One on-page best practice that’s actually stood the test of time is URL optimization. Although it may look insignificant to many site owners and content creators, it can deliver a huge benefit to your site SEO-wise.
So, let’s talk about how you can help your pages and posts rank better on search engines by optimizing your URLs.
URL Optimization; Does It Really Matter?
Yes, a well-structured SEO-friendly URL is important for both search engine and user experience. Such URLs look concise and clean. They are easier to share and provide enough information for search engines about the page.
While search engines factor many variables into their decision-making process, URLs are an important part of it all. Therefore, optimizing your URLs will go a long way to help your pages rank higher while giving your site an overall boost.
Best Practices for Creating SEO Friendly URLs
#1: Keep it as simple as possible
If you can’t read every word in your URL, why do you think search engines would? Search engines understand that users read the URLs before clicking, and that will be a problem if your URL is not readable.
As they read the content on your page, search engines also read the words in the URLs. This helps them understand your content, so they can connect you to the right target audience.
For example, which of the URLs below do you think will give you the best result when looking to buy a brown leather jacket?
Of course, you will go for the first URL; so also will search engines.
#2: Include keywords in the URLs
You should always include your target keyword or phrase in the URL and not only in the body of the page. It is also important that the keyword be positioned at the beginning of the URL. This is because search engine spiders give less significance to words towards the end of a URL.
However, be careful not to use too many keywords in the URL. It is called keyword stuffing – and that will lead us to the next point about creating SEO-friendly URLs.
#3: Don’t keyword stuff the URL
It can be tempting to want to include multiple keywords in the URL. This is especially true when the page is useful for a number of different keywords. But that is not a good practice, and search engines usually penalize users for doing it.
Keyword stuffing will harm your SEO, so don’t do it. Instead of trying to squeeze multiple keywords into the URL slug, choose just one of the keywords and let the content of the page drive the rest of the conversion.=
#4: Separate words with hyphen, not underscore
When optimizing your URLs, the way you separate words is very important. Instead of using underscore to separate the words in your URL, consider using a hyphen. This is because Google robots are designed in such a way that they read hyphens as spaces between words but read words connected by an underscore as one word.
So if you would like to increase your chance of getting ranked, you need to pay special attention to this rule. See what we mean in the example below:
- Correct: http://yourdomain.com/brown-leather-jacket
- Incorrect: http://yourdomain.com/brown_leather_jacket
#5: Don’t use capital letters and special characters in your URLs
Capital letters in URLs will only confuse both search engines and readers. They can make it exponentially difficult to understand your URL. At the same time, avoid using special characters and symbols in your URLs.
Special characters and symbols can break your links, so it’s better to avoid them completely. Even if you use “&” in your page title, you don’t have to use that in your URL, too.
#6: Avoid using dynamic URLs
A dynamic URL is automatically generated when your page is loaded, and usually contains unnecessary parameters that can cause crawling issues. Such parameters could include “=,” “&,” and “?”.
Instead, use a static URL that stays consistent every time your page is accessed.
#7: Limit the number of folders in your URL structure
Be careful not to load your URLs with unnecessary folders. Instead, use only the amount of folders that are needed in your URL structure. Remember, URL structure can signal the importance of a page on your site.
#8: Block bad URLs with Robots.txt
Duplicate content on your site can get you penalized. So, avoid this by blocking search engines from indexing multiple URLs to the same content. Sometimes, duplicate URLs of a particular content may be generated on your site, especially if you have features creating filters on your site. But you can block extra dynamic URLs that could be generated by these features with Robots.txt.
#9: Add mobile URLs to a sitemap
Some people may argue that if your site is responsive, you don’t need to indicate mobile-friendly pages on the site. Well, it is better to be on the safer side. So, tell major search engines like Google which pages on your site are mobile-friendly in a sitemap.
Remember, mobile-friendly pages have a better chance of ranking higher in mobile search results. And more than 60% of searches conducted today are done from mobile devices. Hope you get the gist!
#10: 301 Redirect broken links
If you must change a URL for any reason, remember to let search engines know about this change, too. Changing a URL means you are removing a page that has already been indexed and other sites have linked to. That can cause you to lose your high-ranking position on search engines because they won’t be able to find the page again.
But you can prevent that from happening by implementing a 301 redirect on the old URL to notify Google bots that the page has moved to a new destination.
#11: Use canonical URLs
Duplicate content can be accidentally created on your site, and it can get you penalized by search engines. Prevent this from happening by using canonical URLs to specify which of the URLs you want the search robot to index.
3 different ways to do it:
Use dynamic content
When multiple URLs have been created for the same content on your site, you can tell search engines which of the URLs should be chosen as preferred. Just locate all the other URLs and add a rel=”canonical” element in the head of the pages except the one you want to use as preferred.
Example: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://yourdomain.com/brown-leather-jacket”/>
Use preferred domain redirect
Surprisingly, search engines will see yourdomain.com and www.yourdomain.com as two different websites. So, avoid the issue of duplicate content by setting your preferred domain redirect as either www.yourdomain.com or yourdomain.com. This will redirect your non-preferred domain to your preferred domain.
Canonicalize your IP
This is another way to resolve the issue of duplicate content and avoid getting penalized. Simply redirect your IP address to your preferred domain. That way, search engines won’t be seeing your IP address and your website as two different websites with the same exact content.
Help your site rank higher in search engines by optimizing your URLs for SEO. While there may be many factors involved in deciding if a page ranks or not, a well-optimized URL plays a crucial role..