How to Make Your URLs SEO Friendly

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Making Your URLs SEO Friendly | Search Engine Journal

The subject is up for much discussion: SEO friendly URLs. Should or shouldn’t I include the category? Should the URL be as short as possible or is there room for extras? Should it be stuffed with keywords or not?

In this post, I’ll explain our take at Yoast on SEO friendly URLs and try to elaborate a bit on why we think that is the best option for that link. First, let me tell you that an SEO friendly URL differs per type of website. In this article, I’ll discuss a few to show the differences. There are a few ground rules, but I strongly encourage you to keep the visitor in mind when setting up your URL structure.

Ground Rules for SEO Friendly URLs

No matter what kind of website you have, there are a couple of ground rules that apply to all websites.

  • The main thing to keep in mind is that your URLs should be focused. Strip your URLs of stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of  verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
  • The length of your URL isn’t really a factor in this. We do recommend keeping your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are probably more focused. Keep in mind to use a logical structure in your URL, as Google bolds the keyword used in search, even in the URL:

Making Your URLs SEO Friendly | Search Engine Journal

  • This snippet also shows length isn’t that much of an issue: Google will show what they think is important for that visitor. Keep in mind, meta titles and descriptions are cut off at 512 pixels, and so is your URL – as you can see above.
  • Don’t use underscores, as these connect the words and make them into one. Dashes are preferred.

These are the ground rules for SEO friendly URLs. The best SEO friendly URL differs per type of website.

SEO Friendly URLs for Your Company Website

If your website holds information about your company and/or services and that is basically it, no matter how many pages you have, I’d go with the shortest URL possible.

http://example.com/contact/
http://example.com/about-us/

SEO Friendly URLs for Your Webshop

If your website is a webshop, there are two ways to go about:

http://example.com/product-name/
http://example.com/category-name/product-name/

Some content management systems (like Magento) create both. In that case, use rel=”canonical” to point Google to the one you want to appear in Google.

The question remains what URL structure to use. In this case, SEO friendly URLs should also be helpful URLs for your visitor. If your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, by all means include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will remind the visitor where there are in your website:

http://example.com/birds/crane
http://example.com/equipment/crane

See what I mean? Decide for yourself if your categories add value to the product and URL. If so, it’s also better for SEO to include the category, as category and product are very much related.

SEO Friendly URLs for Your Blog or News Site

If your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URL. Let’s go over these separately:

  • http://example.com/post-title/
    If your site as a whole has a strong coherence, you could consider focusing on the post title and the post title only to create an SEO friendly URL. The coherence will indicate the main topic of your website to Google, so no need to add that in the URL.
  • http://example.com/category-name/post-title/
    If your website is a news website and you’re writing about different topics, adding the topic (for instance as a category name), will make even more clear what the page is about. It’s a bit similar as explained above at SEO friendly URLs for your store.
  • http://example.com/mm/dd/yyyy/post-title/
    If your website features daily news and the news is related to a date, be sure to include that date in the URL as well. If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the date in the URL will already show if the page is about this year’s iPhone or not. My recommendation: only use the date in the URL if the date matters.
  • http://example.com/post-title/three-digit-ID/
    Google News’ technical guidelines clearly state: “To make sure we only crawl new articles, please make sure your URLs are unique with at least 3 digits, and are permanent.” If for some reason you don’t want to include the date in the URL of your news article, you could add an ID for the post as well to get this covered. Keep in mind that Google News is only for news that matters to the world, which doesn’t apply to most company news.

This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Stokkete/Shutterstock.com
Screenshot by Michiel Heijmans. Taken September 2015.

Michiel Heijmans

Michiel Heijmans

Michiel is a senior online marketing consultant at Yoast. He was one of the first bloggers in the Netherlands and co-founded one of the first Dutch blogs about webdesign and blogging.
Michiel Heijmans
Michiel Heijmans
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  • http://promozseo.com Soumya Roy

    Michiel Heijmans, the article is definitely good but I am a bit disappointed, because everyone is not running a WordPress site. There are lots of websites outside WordPress engine and a big percentage of those are running on HTML. To make URLs search engine friendly one must know how to use htaccess (linux) and URL rewrite. This is one of the advanced techniques of SEO and pretty difficult for a non-programmer but a good SEO must have this skill. Other than this, this article covers some really good points about general URL optimization and enjoyed reading those. Thanks for the post.

    Regards
    Soumya Roy
    SEO Coach
    PromozSEO.com

  • http://www.internet-webdesign.org Patrick

    The article really filled some knowledge gaps, thank you for posting this.

    One question for me remains: Does putting certain url groups/categories into a folder hurt with respect to a duplicate url issue? In other words, does it hurt that the folder name comes up for each url that is in the folder?

    Second question: What would be the main advantage of having urls groups in certain folders?

  • http://marcinleonkempka.info Marcin Leon Kempka

    Hello Michiel,

    Thank you very much for this article. It is very informative. I never actually thought that the topic of your website can be indicated not in the url itself but rather in the post title – which Google will also recognize.

    Thanks a lot for this and I am sure those tips will help me improve my ranks.

  • prashant

    If I want to promote our brand, and suppose my domain is different from my brand name, how do I write it in SEO perspective?

  • http://www.VisionFriendly.com Bobby Fischer

    First time reading your stuff/commenting here, excuse my naivete:

    URLs are important for both SEO and just good housekeeping, if people aren’t paying attention to the name of pages, they are way behind the curve. In regards to stop words, I’ve heard search engines ignore all prepositions, essentially the same thing in both URLs and content when it comes to ranking factors. Just for cleanliness, you are saying pull them out of URLs. Not going to hurt if you have some though?

    The 512 px width is news to me. I’ve never heard the limitations referred to like that. I have always worked off characters. 55 max in titles for universal compliance, 70 max for Google only, etc. Apples to apples or did I just learn something new?

  • http://www.makvirag.net/ Makvirag

    What about folders? In the past it seemed liked a good stucture to have 2-3 folders in the url to make it more specific and topic oriented. Now I can see more and more content opening from the root – leaving the folders out. URLs become shorter in this way but trust flow might shape differently with google. Am I mistaken?

  • http://proadinsight.com Chad Musgrove

    Short, Sweet, and to the point.

    Re: Company website and branding you state that you would go with the shortest URL possible. I’m of a different mindset.

    Your “about” and “contact” page URL’s should include the company name.

    For example:

    http://example.com/contact/ should be http:example.com/contact-companyname
    http://example.com/about-us/ should be http:example.com/about-companyname

    Using this method – when someone Google’s your company name – your home page, contact page, and about page may show up.

    Taking up real estate on Google for your company name keeps competitors (if you are successful) from showing up on Google – always a plus in my book.

    Chad

  • http://davidbutler.co David

    Nice article, but the information on Google News is a bit out of date. Google News no longer requires three digits in the URL: http://searchengineland.com/google-news-publishers-no-longer-require-three-digit-numbers-in-urls-231936

  • http://www.latestjobsinkenya.com Harrison

    SEO friendly URLs also increase CTR in the search engine results pages. But leaving stop words in the URL sometimes makes them more human-friendly.

  • Ganpati

    Hello Michiel Heijmans, It was quiet interesting with your blog post..yes its informative, but i have a question in my mind regarding the ‘Anchor text variation’ in off page SEO that how much its helpful to make variation on anchor texts while creating backlinks ? is it really helpful ? or its juss to show google that links are real due to variation. Kindly enlight me
    Ill be glad to get an early response..all are invited
    Thanks

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/ozairakhtar Ozair Akhtar

    It’s really nice to see some details regarding it.