Did you know that using an SEO-Friendly URL structure can impact search rankings tremendously?
Doing SEO is paramount to being found on Google and other search engines, and driving relevant visitors to your website. However, one of the most ignored aspects of on-site SEO techniques is the site URL structure. Using an SEO-Friendly URL Structure is an effective way to improve search rankings and drive more website visitors. An intuitive, keyword-rich URL structure makes it easy for search engines to understand what your web page is about, how your website is structured so it can index your website for the right keywords. With that in mind, let’s look at how to do SEO for URLs on a website.
What is an SEO-Friendly URL Structure?
An SEO-Friendly URL structure is one that is easy to understand and meaningful. Basically, an SEO optimized URL is unique, with appropriate canonical URLs and redirects in place, in case of duplicate content. Also, it contains the right keywords that describe page content, instead of numbers and punctuation marks.
How to Create an SEO-Friendly URL Structure?
Here are 5 steps to do SEO for URLs on your website.
1. Unify www and non-www versions of URLs
Typically, search engines maintain 2 versions of your website index – www and non-www versions. As a result, some of your backlinks may be pointing to the www version, while others may be going to the non-www version. This splits the SEO juice for each URL and lowers their chances of ranking well on search engines.
So you need to consolidate the www and non-www versions of your websites to ensure that each page is indexed using only one URL. There are a couple of ways to do it. You can:
- Add a 301 redirect (called permanent redirection) from one version to the other
- Log into Google Search Console and set the preferred version (www/non-www) of your domain, by going to Google Webmaster Tools > Configuration (gear icon on top right corner) > Site Settings > Preferred Domain
You can also check out our list of Best Link Building Tools for SEO, to build and monitor inbound backlinks to your website.
2. Consolidate dynamic URLs
If you’re using an ecommerce platform or a content management system, there’s a good chance it generates dynamic URLs that look like:
Such “ugly” URLs that contain meaningless stubs (e.g p=2323) make it difficult for search engines to figure out the page topic. Consequently, it affects your page ranking. That’s why, it’s preferable to use “pretty” static URLs with meaningful keywords that are user friendly. E.g http://example.com/nike-shoes-for-men
Also, it’s important to remember that Google recommends using hyphens in a multi-word URL, instead of using underscores, since a phrase with underscores is considered as a single word by Google. E.g, nike_shoes_for_kids is same as nikeshoesforkids to Google.
Sometimes, you’ll also find website URLs that contain various parameters such as UTM, SID, etc. for tracking marketing campaigns. To ensure that these new URLs are not seen as duplicate content by Google, you can ask Google to disregard specific URL parameters in Google Webmaster Tools > Site dashboard > Crawl > URL Parameters.
You can also read How to Do Keyword Research, or check out our list of Best Keyword Research Tools and Long-Tail Keyword Research Tools to find the right keywords for your business. You can check out our list of Best Free Keyword Density Tools to calculate keyword density for your web pages.
3. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap is simply a list of all the URLs on your website. It helps search engines to find and crawl all the pages on your website. Also, if there are multiple URLs to access the same page, as happens in various content management systems, then search engines can use the XML sitemap to determine the original URL for your page.
While creating XML sitemaps, include only those pages that you want to be indexed and shown in search results. Don’t include admin pages and internal resources in your XML sitemap. If you’re not familiar with XML, you can use one of the many free XML sitemap generators available online, to create an XML Sitemap for your website. If you use WordPress, you can install the Yoast SEO Plugin to generate & update your XML sitemaps. Once you’ve created an XML sitemap, you can provide its URL to Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools). Thereafter, Google will regularly pick the latest XML sitemaps from that location to track the latest web pages on your website.
Bonus Read : Learn everything you need to know about Nofollow links in SEO
4. Use Robots.txt to block irrelevant pages
Robots.txt is a file that instructs search engines which pages to ignore while crawling. If you have built your website using a blogging software such as WordPress, or an ecommerce platform such as Magento, or Content management systems such as Joomla, then this file will be automatically created for your website by your platform.
Sometimes, you may have a set of internal docs and pages that you don’t want to be indexed, or you may have moved a set of URLs to a new subdirectory. In such cases, you can include those URLs, subdirectories, or even file types in your robots.txt file to prevent them from being crawled and indexed. Again, if you’re not familiar with what to add/edit in your robots.txt, you can always use one of the many free robots.txt generators available online, to create a file for you.
5. Use Canonical Tag to consolidate different URLs for same page
Sometimes, your website may have multiple URLs to access the same page. This is very common in Ecommerce Platforms and Content Management Systems which generate dynamic URLs for web pages. For example, each of the following URL may load the same page about nike shoes, one from home page, another from the shoes category page, and the one from nike brand page.
from home page: https://example.com?product_name=nike_shoes
from shoes category page: http://example.com?product_id=1234
from nike brand page: http://example.com/nike_shoes
As a result, search engines may see each copy as a separate page, and this will weaken its ranking signals by splitting them across multiple URLs. Also, you may get penalized for duplicate content.
To avoid all these problems, it’s always advisable to add a canonical tag to each page that refers to the original URL (called canonical URL) of your web page. Here’s an example of a canonical tag. See how the rel=”canonical” and the link points to the href attribute points to the canonical URL
Now, even if search engines crawl your duplicate URLs, only their canonical URL will be displayed in search results. URL Canonicalization is a great way to tell search engines which URL is the original URL for your content.
An SEO-Friendly URL Structure certainly helps improve search engine rankings by making it easy for search engines to better understand your site architecture & content, and consolidate SEO juice around the canonical pages. It also provides an intuitive user experience for website visitors, who can quickly figure out the web page contents just by looking at the URL. Hopefully, these SEO tips will help you do URL optimization in SEO and come up with a SEO Friendly URL Structure for your website.
Do you have any tips to do SEO for URLs?