Do you use the same URL structures for all of your global websites?
This is not another top-level domain versus subdomain article.
It’s one that goes deeper into the benefits of a standardized global URL structure to your organization across a global network of sites.
I’ve seen far too many global companies – both large and small – cobble together local language sites that would make Frankenstein look like the statue of David.
I’ve even seen sites that use different URL structures depending on the section of the site.
In this article, I present five benefits of using standardized URL structures and offer some tips.
Hopefully, these will help you to minimize a haphazard approach to local language URL structures.
You may think it’s not much of a big deal, but it actually creates many hurdles in many areas of website management that will end up costing you a lot of money.
For the purpose of this article, I define URL structures as the part of the URL that follows the domain name.
Consisting of a consistent folder structure and a final webpage that is the same across all market versions of the site.
The reasons for a lack of organization ranges from acquisitions, different CMS versions to a simple lack of coordination or future state planning.
Uniform URL Examples:
Different URL Structure Examples:
Benefit 1: Easier Hreflang Element Implementation
For SEO, having uniform and non-localized URL structures makes it easy to implement hreflang elements.
All of the alternate versions of URLs are the same.
When the overall structure, the folder naming, and the page naming are the same across the sites, the most CMS can do is search and replace for the domain or country/language folders and create in page or XML sitemap files.
If some of the sites use different structures or naming of the folders or the files, you need to either put additional logic or to manage the hreflang elements manually to implement them.
A bonus benefit of consistent country and language folders makes setting Google’s Geographical Targets much easier.
You can add each of the site versions into your Google Search Console (GSC) account and then use the country targeting function to indicate it’s for a specific country.
The less uniform these structures are the more time it will take to create and map countries in GSC.
Benefit 2: Data Segmentation
Uniformed URL structures make comparing page performance between sites much easier in analytics tools.
If the same product has dozens of URL variations across sites, it becomes hard to compare the performance of a specific content asset or product between websites.
This is especially the case since many of the global teams and the analytics teams don’t have a complete grasp of all variations of URL structure across the sites.
For example, if someone creates a segment using the country naming folder in the URLs and assumes that all sites have the folder following the domain, the segment will not work with the JP URL structure: jp.yourdomain.com/products/shoes/women/赤い靴.html
Because it doesn’t have “/jp/” folder following the domain.
It also doesn’t work with the ES URL structure: www.yourdomain.com/products/es/shoes/women/redshoes1.html, which has /products/ before /es/ folder.
Benefit 3: Simplified Content Management
If you are using a common CMS for all sites, it’s rare that the URLs are not uniformly created.
Many sites have the “parent-children” content generation set up in the CMS.
However, it can get out of hand quickly as companies try to align their websites to match corporate silos.
Larger or more aggressively expanding companies will often create new sites or microsites when spinning out new local content segments for a country.
These often do not align with the main sites’ standards.
Forcing all sites to comply with a uniformed structure and naming convention will minimize many of the orphan or non-aligned pages across the global site.
There may be some pages that don’t live on all global sites.
Certain content is not applicable to specific sites due to the local regulations or the contracts with the local resellers.
Even in those situations, using the uniformed URL structures and naming conventions make it easy to manage content.
Benefit 4: Easier DevOps Management
Companies that are aware of the costs and challenges of a non-uniformed structure have strict rules in place to prevent it which makes managing the sites much easier.
Using a consistent structure allows for a more convenient migration from staging to production – and especially global update deployments.
This is because the URLs are the same across the site – minimizing testing requirements and redirects if URLs change.
Benefit 5: Easier Localization Management
Similar to the DevOps benefits, the localization team can leverage translation management tools that help identify changes or updates to URLs in a country that need to be implemented in other countries.
It makes cloning a common language easier as it often has been validated for linguistic and messaging accuracy and just needs to be adapted for the additional countries.
This is not to say that you should translate the content using translation tools, nor to copy and paste the same translation on multiple sites.
You still want to adopt the translation for local nuances, etc.
But having standardized URL structures makes it easier to manage the project.
The lack of standardized URL structures and the content segmentation challenges outlined in this article demonstrate why the SEO team needs to be better aligned with the Dev Operations team.
It also shows the importance of enforcing more rigid web content management standards.
Beyond just being an SEO problem, these types of issues create problems that can impact linking, and more importantly, usability and customer satisfaction.
Most of these issues could be effectively managed if the teams knew the downstream implications of their lack of control of content segmentation.
Updating the URL structures on multiple websites can be a huge project, but the benefits are far beyond SEO.
It goes across the multiple websites, and the efforts and costs are definitely justifiable and recoverable in a short period of time.
It’s one of the must-do items if you plan to create new global websites across multiple countries and languages.
You will thank me later.