Search Engine Friendly Development: URL Structures

Search Engine Friendly Development: URL Structures

Part 6 of our 8-part series on developing search engine friendly website structures. This was originally written by and Moz Staff, and posted on posted Moz. Image courtesy Chris Dlugosz via Flickr.

URLs—the addresses for documents on the web—are of great value from a search perspective. They appear in multiple important locations.

Google URL
Since search engines display URLs in the results, they can impact click-through and visibility. URLs are also used in ranking documents, and those pages whose names include the queried search terms receive some benefit from proper, descriptive use of keywords.
Browser URL
URLs make an appearance in the web browser’s address bar, and while this generally has little impact on search engines, poor URL structure and design can result in negative user experiences.
Blog URL
The URL above is used as the link anchor text pointing to the referenced page in this blog post.

URL Construction Guidelines

Employ empathy

Place yourself in the mind of a user and look at your URL. If you can easily and accurately predict the content you’d expect to find on the page, your URL is appropriately descriptive. You don’t need to spell out every last detail in the URL, but a rough idea is a good starting point.

Shorter is better

While a descriptive URL is important, minimizing length and trailing slashes will make your URLs easier to copy and paste (into emails, blog posts, text messages, etc.) and will be fully visible in the search results.

Keyword use is important (but overuse is dangerous)

If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for SEO purposes; overuse will result in less usable URLs and can trip spam filters.

Go static

The best URLs are human-readable and without lots of parameters, numbers, and symbols. Using technologies like mod_rewrite for Apache and ISAPI_rewrite for Microsoft, you can easily transform dynamic URLs like this into a more readable static version like this: Even single dynamic parameters in a URL can result in lower overall ranking and indexing.

Use hyphens to separate words

Not all web applications accurately interpret separators like underscores (_), plus signs (+), or spaces (%20), so instead use the hyphen character (-) to separate words in a URL, as in the “google-fresh-factor” URL example above.

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