Creating SEO-friendly links is a fundamental aspect of effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies that can significantly impact a web page’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). When enhancing your website’s online presence, one crucial element to consider is crafting a proper URL structure. It involves creating SEO-friendly URLs, which are not just comprehensible to search algorithms but also to site visitors.
An SEO-friendly URL, also known as a uniform resource locator (URL), is pivotal in guiding search engine crawlers and delivering relevant content to users searching for specific information. It serves as the digital pathway connecting search results to web pages, and its structure can significantly influence your site’s ranking and click-through rates, ultimately contributing to your overall SEO success.
Why Do You Need SEO-friendly URLs?
Creating SEO-friendly URLs can significantly impact your website’s performance in search engine results pages (SERPs) and user experience. The following are some reasons why SEO-friendly URLs matter:
Improved Search Engine Rankings
One of the primary reasons to use SEO-friendly URLs is their positive impact on search engine rankings. When search engines crawl your website, they analyze various elements, including your URL structure. An SEO-friendly URL with relevant keywords and a clear structure can signal to search engines what your page is about, potentially improving its ranking in search results.
Enhanced User Experience
SEO-friendly URLs are not only beneficial for search engines but also for human users. A well-structured, descriptive URL makes it easier for visitors to understand the content of a page before clicking on the link. This transparency can lead to higher click-through rates and a better overall user experience, reducing bounce rates.
Increased Click-Through Rates (CTR)
When users see a URL that matches their search query or provides a clear indication of the page’s content, they are more likely to click on it. It can lead to higher click-through rates, which, in turn, can positively impact your website’s organic traffic and conversion rates.
Better Sharing and Link Building
SEO-friendly URLs are more shareable and likely to be used as anchor text in backlinks. When other websites link to your content using descriptive URLs, it can improve your site’s authority and credibility in the eyes of search engines. Additionally, you can share clear, concise URLs with their social networks, further boosting your online visibility.
With the increasing use of mobile devices for web browsing, concise and easily readable URLs become even more critical. Mobile users often rely on URLs to determine the relevance of a page quickly. SEO-friendly URLs cater to these mobile users, improving the mobile-friendliness of your website.
Facilitation of Site Navigation
A logical and well-structured URL hierarchy can assist users in navigating your website more efficiently. When URLs reflect the site’s structure and content hierarchy, users can easily deduce where they are on your site and how to access other related pages.
How to Create SEO-Friendly URLs?
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating SEO-friendly URLs:
Match URLs to Page Titles
Creating consistency between what your URL reads and your page title can boost your rankings in search engines. One way to do that is to match your URL structure to your page title. You check website ranking after doing it and compare the results of pages with this practice applied and without it. The difference would be clear and visible to you.
Let’s say your page title is ‘Build a Memorable Brand Experience.’ If a user performs a Google search and clicks through to your site, the expectation is that the URL for that page matches the page title – and the page content matches both.
This practice helps search engines index your site, but it also builds trust and authority with your audience. Here’s what we mean in action.
Page title: Build a Memorable Brand Experience
Your SEO-friendly URL could be: https://www.domain.com/build-memorable-brand-experience
Break up descriptive words within your URL to improve readability for users and search engines. A recurring debate in the SEO community has been hyphens (these-are-hyphens) vs. underscores (there_are_underscores) and which format Google prefers. Interestingly enough, Google does not treat hyphens and underscores the same when indexing URLs. Hyphens are considered word separators that improve URL readability, while underscores are treated as word joiners.
Google would read https://www.domain.com/optimize-url-structure-seo as ‘optimize URL structure SEO.’
But it would read https://www.domain.com/optimize_url_structure_seo as ‘optimizeurlstructureseo.’
As you can see, Google’s translation of your URL with hyphens is easier to read than the jumbled one with underscores.
Similar to stop words, elements of punctuation can be considered unnecessary characters, but they deserve their own dedicated section for explanation. In today’s landscape of content marketing practices, many companies are heavily investing in the creation of helpful resources designed to answer common questions. Consequently, your page title might take the form of a question, or it may incorporate elements like commas, parentheses, quotation marks, and so on.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to use punctuation in SEO elements such as title tags and meta descriptions, it’s advisable not to include them in your URLs. The inclusion of punctuation marks in URLs can lead to confusion for search engines and serve as distractions for users, ultimately having a negative impact on your search engine rankings.
For a comprehensive reference on safe and unsafe characters in web development and design, you can turn to the Perishable Press blog. They have compiled a useful list for your guidance.
Cut Out Dynamic Parameters
A dynamic URL is a “URL that results from the search of a database-driven website or the URL of a website that runs a script.” They often contain characters like ?, &, %, +, =, $, cgi-bin, .cgi and are common on e-commerce sites.
Whenever possible, avoid URLs with dynamic parameters, as search engines prefer static, SEO-friendly URLs with a logical structure and descriptive keywords. If your content management system automatically creates URLs with dynamic parameters, a workaround to create URLs for SEO is to use a custom link-shortening tool like Rebrandly to have more control over the parameters and unique keywords included in your URL.
For example, with a custom link shortening tool, you can transform https://www.domain/xyzproduct/i?HAPL=u#abc43567qw into nike.sneakers/running
Remove Unnecessary Words
When crafting SEO-friendly URLs, it’s essential to trim the fat and eliminate unnecessary words. A concise URL not only looks cleaner but also aids in search engine optimization. The primary goal is to communicate the essence of the web page without unnecessary clutter.
For instance, instead of having a URL like “www.example.com/best-tips-on-how-to-create-seo-friendly-urls,” consider simplifying it to “www.example.com/seo-friendly-urls.”
This streamlined URL not only focuses on the core topic but also makes it easier for users to remember and share. Furthermore, removing filler words like “and,” “the,” or “in” can help search engines understand the page’s primary content, which is a crucial ranking factor.
In an SEO-friendly URL structure, it’s advisable to minimize the use of subfolders whenever possible. While subfolders can help organize content on your website, excessively nested subfolders can lead to longer and more complex URLs. It can make it harder for both search engines and users to navigate and understand the hierarchy of your website. Instead, aim to keep your URLs as shallow as possible.
For example, instead of “www.example.com/category/subcategory/page-url,” consider simplifying it to “www.example.com/page-url” or “www.example.com/category/page-url.” This streamlining not only improves the URL’s readability but also ensures that the page content is closer to the root domain, which can positively impact SEO rankings.
Keeping URL redirects to a minimum will put you in a favorable light with search engines. For users, redirects slow down their experience with your site and negatively impact usability. That information is shared with search engines and included in the algorithm used to rank your site.
For search engines, the redirects might not be followed correctly (or at all). That means those ranking signals might not be counted.
Avoid the risk and limit redirects when possible, and, if completely necessary, use a 301 redirect for a permanent redirect, which passes between 90-99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page.
Use Lowercase Letters and Standard Characters
SEO-friendly URLs support Google’s guidelines for readability. That’s why creating URLs that use lowercase letters and standard characters is a best practice for improving search engine rankings.
Capitalized letters mixed with lowercase letters can make a URL messy. This structure also confuses search engines and users, so avoid them at all costs.
Common non-standard characters in URLs are ones we see in dynamic URLs like %, &, #, or @. Some content management systems will also add non-standard characters to document files like PDFs, so be sure to check the structure before sharing your links.
Avoid URLs like this:
Instead, rewrite the above URL like this:
Use a Descriptive Domain
When it comes to crafting SEO-friendly URLs, your choice of domain plays a crucial role. A descriptive domain means selecting a web address that reflects the content or theme of your website. It not only enhances user experience but also sends a strong signal to search engines about the relevance of your site.
For instance, if you run a bakery business in New York, having a domain like “NYCBakeryDelights.com” instantly tells users and search engines what your website is about. It aids in improving your website’s ranking because search engines give preference to domains that are clear and concise.
Furthermore, a descriptive domain helps to establish your brand identity and fosters trust among users, which can lead to higher click-through rates and improved conversion rates. However, it’s essential to avoid overloading your domain with keywords, as this can be perceived as keyword stuffing, which is a detrimental SEO practice. Striking the right balance between descriptiveness and simplicity is key.
Keep a Short URL
Short and concise URLs are not only user-friendly but also SEO-friendly. Search engines, like Google, tend to favor URLs that are easy to read and remember. A shorter URL structure makes it simpler for users to share and remember your page’s web address.
Additionally, short URLs are more likely to display completely in search results, which can lead to higher click-through rates. From an SEO perspective, shorter URLs are also preferred because they reduce the chances of keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing occurs when you excessively use keywords in your URL in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. It is seen as a spammy tactic and can harm your website’s ranking. Therefore, when creating SEO-friendly URLs, aim for brevity and clarity while including your target keyword naturally within the URL. By doing so, you not only improve your user experience but also enhance your website’s ranking factor.
Use Short Domains With Keywords
In addition to optimizing the length and structure of your individual URLs, it’s valuable to consider your domain name as a whole. Incorporating relevant keywords into your domain name can provide a significant SEO boost.
For instance, if you’re running a gardening blog, a domain like “GardenGuru.com” not only sounds appealing but also includes a keyword (“garden”) that relates directly to your content. Including keywords in your domain can improve your website’s visibility in search results, as search engines often use domain names as one of the many factors to determine the relevance of a web page to a given search query.
However, it’s essential to use this tactic wisely and avoid excessive keyword usage in your domain, as it may appear spammy. A balance between a keyword-rich domain and a brandable, memorable name is key. Ultimately, a short domain that features relevant keywords can become a powerful tool in your SEO strategy, helping you attract more organic traffic and improve your site’s ranking.
Use Custom URLs for SEO
It’s not always possible to follow all of these best practices with normal links. Sometimes, URL structure can be out of your control, whether it’s because you had no say in picking the domain name in the first place or you don’t have control over your website’s subfolders. Luckily, branded links match all of the criteria for an SEO-friendly URL structure.
Even if you have a lengthy link loaded down with UTM parameters, by creating a custom short link, it’s possible to get the benefit of having these parameters to track your visitors, as well as an easy-to-read, SEO-optimized link that will please Google and users who see it.
Branded short links include a custom domain and a custom slash tag. So, instead of having an unintelligible string of characters like short.ly/X7dl8F, you can create meaningful links like Giannis.Pizza/Menu. The slash tag is where you include your keyword, and if you want to optimize your page for secondary keywords, you can create extra branded links with your secondary keywords in the slash tag to share across your marketing networks, too.
Branded links are memorable, and because they give readers an indication of the content you’re sharing, search engines like them, and so do internet browsers – branded links can increase CTRs by up to 39%.
Implementing the best URL structure for SEO can make an impact on your site’s visibility in search engines and can help you climb up the ranks of SERPs ahead of your competitors. Following the best practices outlined here can also positively impact conversion rates by appealing to users with URLs that are simple, easy to read, memorable, and trustworthy.
Here are some frequently asked questions about SEO-friendly links:
How do I create an SEO-friendly URL?
To create an SEO-friendly URL, separate words with hyphens and avoid using URL parameters whenever possible. Opt for descriptive, concise, and relevant keywords in the URL that reflect the content of the page. Ensure the URL is easily readable by both humans and search engines, as clear and keyword-rich URLs can improve your site’s visibility and ranking in search results.
Which URL is SEO-friendly?
An SEO-friendly URL is one that incorporates hyphens to separate words, is succinct and descriptive, includes relevant keywords that reflect the content, and avoids unnecessary parameters or symbols. For instance, “https://www.example.com/seo-friendly-url” exemplifies an SEO-friendly URL because it adheres to these principles, making it easily understandable for both users and search engines, which can contribute to better search engine optimization and visibility in search results.
What is the length of the URL for SEO friendly?
For SEO-friendly URLs, it’s generally advisable to keep the length reasonably short and concise. Aim for URLs that are under 75 characters, as excessively long URLs can appear cluttered and may not display fully in search engine results.
Are short URLs better for SEO?
Short URLs can be better for SEO because they are often more user-friendly and easier to remember, but their SEO effectiveness depends more on relevance and keyword usage within the URL than just their length.