SEO friendly URL structure

SEO Friendly URL Structure For Your Website

The URL of a webpage is a strong SEO signal to search engines. If the URL is structured, easy to remember, conveys some meaning depending on the words used in the URL, then it is considered a good URL and is favored by search engines. However, if a URL is not structured well, is very difficult to remember, is unnecessarily long, conveys no meaning about what could be the content of the page in question and contains no keywords, it is usually considered a not so SEO friendly URL.

In this article, we will see what an SEO friendly URL structure looks like and what you should remember before naming the URL’s of your web pages or blog posts. We’ll also take a look at some example URL’s and re-assess them to see if they are friendly to Search engines or not.

What makes an SEO Friendly URL – The Ingredients of a Good URL Structure

First of all, there is no fixed guideline that this is the best URL structure for any website.

There can be different structures around which the pages of a website are grouped or categorized and no one structure is better than other as long as the principles of maintaining a good URL structure is maintained. The URL structure of a website is decided based on the unique needs of the website in question.

So an eCommerce Website will have a different URL structure compared to a blog and that is totally acceptable. A local website may have a different URL structure compared to an international website which is available in different languages. A user-generated content portal may have a different URL structure compared to a website which serves videos to its users. A social networking website or a social networking form may have an entirely different URL structure compared to an educational website or a government website.

So you see, depending upon the niche of the website and the purpose of the website, the URL structure can be different. It is not mandatory that every website should follow the same URL structure by default.

However, what is important to note here is that the basic principles of creating “Friendly URL’s” is maintained no matter what structure is chosen by the website owner in structuring the URLs of a website’s pages.

Given below are the best principles which Search engines like Google and Bing suggest to webmasters for creating search engine friendly URLs.

Use meaningful and relevant keywords in URL’s

Similar to the title tag, it is very important to use meaningful and relevant keywords in URLs. There are two reasons why including keywords in URL’s are considered a good practice.Firstly, URL’s with words provide a better user experience than urls without words. A user looking at the words included in the web page URL can guess what could be the content of a webpage before he even decides to visit it. That is useful.Secondly, URL’s are displayed on the search engine result pages and websites who have words in URL communicate with the user and the search engines on what the user is supposed to find on the webpage.

For example, a webpage which has the word “shoes” and “women” in its URL is a strong hint that the content of the page in question is about women’s shoes. However, another website which has the same content as the previous one but has a URL structure like – www.example.com/page_id=745384734 provides no hints and guesses to users as well as search engines on what could be the page’s content.Hence, using keywords in the URL of a website is considered a good practice.

Use Separators to differentiate words used in URLs.

The most common separator used in URL’s is a Hyphen (-). Each word in a URL should be separated by a Hyphen. For example, the URL – www.example.com/women-shoe-summer-2016 is far better than a URL – www.example.com/womenshoesummer2016. The former is easier to read and scan while the latter although containing the same words in a slightly different order contains no separators and hence is difficult to read and comprehend.

Create a simple directory structure on your website.

All the website pages should be neatly organized into different folders of your website if folders are used at all. So for example, if the website sells products, services and consults clients on different projects, the URL’s of the pages should be

www.example.com/products/product_1.html
www.example.com/products/product_2.htmlwww.example.com/services/service_1.html
www.example.com/services/service_2.html
www.example.com/services/service_3.htmlwww.example.com/consulting/consulting_1.html
www.example.com/consulting/consulting_2.html

www.example.com/about_us.html
www.example.com/contact_us.html

As you can see different pages are grouped together under a common folder which not only makes it easy for the website administrator to organize pages of the same category under a common folder but it also helps search engines find similar pages and pages of the same “type” all under one folder. Also, the users can remember to find specific pages under a given directory and if the website supports Breadcrumb Navigation, then the users can make use of Breadcrumb Navigation and navigate to pages of the same type without having to remember or bookmark individual URL.

Almost all content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Wix, Blogger.com support having your own URL structure for pages or setting up a Permalink structure for your website’s pages.

However, if you put all the URL’s in one folder with no segregation, it is sometimes considered not as friendly. That does not mean that you are not permitted to do it. You, of course, can, if you do not want to use sub-folders to organize pages in your website. However, using sub-folders is a recommended good practice for creating SEO friendly URL’s that are easy to find and easy to navigate.

Provide only one version of a URL and stick to it

The Content of a webpage should be accessible from only one URL and it should be uniform on the website. It should not occur that the content of a page is available from multiple URL’s, that will give birth to Duplicate content issues and your site may get penalized in the worst case.So for example, if there is a page on your website – www.example.com/aboutus.html, the content of this page should be accessible from this URL alone and no other URL on the website.

It should not occur that someone is able to access the same page with the following URL’s

www.example.com/about_us.html
www.example.com/about.html
www.example.com/about.php

301 redirect- old URL’s to the new ones whenever you make changes

It is possible that you will make changes to your website as you build it. Initially, you may choose a URL structure but decide to change it after a couple of years. It is possible that when you decide to make the change, you already have hundreds of pages on the website.If your website is static in nature, it is possible that you create a page manually and the URL is also created manually for each page. In that case, it is fairly easy to manage this change because the old pages will continue to have the older URL structure while the new pages can have the newer structure. In this case, it is perfectly fine to keep the old URL structure for the old pages and the new URL structure for the new pages.

Although, it is sometimes advisable to keep a uniform URL structure across all the pages of your website. If you can change the URL structure of the old pages to the new structure, then it is the best practice and highly recommended.

If you have a dynamic website which is managed by a content management system, it is not possible to keep two different URL structure in the same website (one for old posts and one for new posts). It could be possible with plugins but it is certainly not recommended and may give birth to unusual issues like redirection, duplicate content, indexing and so forth.

So in case you have a dynamic website and you wish to change the URL structure of your website, you will have to ensure that you do a 301 redirect the old structure to the new one after making the change in URL structure. That way, when someone opens the old URL structure, they will automatically come to the new URL and won’t see a broken 404 page. Also, if anyone has linked to the old structure from their sites, that link will not be broken and it will continue to pass the value to your site since search bots will be re-directed to the new page through the 301 redirect.

Say No to Keyword Stuffing in URL’s

Just like keyword stuffing is bad for title tags, body copy and meta descriptions, it is also bad for URL. There is no need to stuff the keywords in URL with repetitive keywords over and over again. It looks spammy and creates an impression that instead of conveying what your page is all about, you are overemphasizing on whether your page will get discovered from the first page of Google or not.

Minimize Dynamic Parameters in URL’s

So long as it is possible, avoid dynamic parameters in the URL of your website. A dynamic URL parameter is a query string added to the URL of a page which shows and passes parameters.For example,

www.example.com/men-shoes?productid=638346&search_type=mobile

In the above example, the text after “&” is nothing but a query parameter. Anything placed after the sign & is generally a query parameter.

As far as it is possible, avoid having query parameters in the URL of your website’s page. If you have a product store or an eCommerce store or a store which offers a digital sale of goods or services, it is possible that multiple pages of your website may have query parameters. If it makes sense to keep the query parameters, you can choose to keep them.

However, if the query parameters are generated by the content management system or the software which you use to maintain your website and you have explicitly not added the query parameters to those pages, we highly recommend performing a clean up of your website and remove the query parameters from those pages.

URL’s should be as clean and as readable as possible which are easy to remember and easy to read.

Some example cases when you can choose to keep the query parameter in the URL’s are as follows

— Tracking Clicks from a specific referring website.
— Tracking Clicks from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook.
— Tracking Marketing Campaigns.

Unless you have these needs in place, there is no point in having query parameters in the URL of your website. If possible, tweak your content management system and ensure the URL’s are free from Query parameters.

Short URL’s are Better than Long URL’s

It sounds a little contradictory in the first place when you may think why shorter URL’s are better than their longer counterparts. Longer URL’s will have more keywords in the URL compared to shorter ones, but there is a reason why shorter URL’s are preferred than longer ones.

The first reason is usability. People can remember shorter URL better than longer ones. For example, someone can easily remember the URL –

www.example.com/best-shoes-men.html

compared to

www.example.com/men-shoes-summer-collection-2015-80-hot-shoes.html

3-4 words in the URL of a webpage is considered standard and anything above 6 words is considered a bad practice. Shorter URL’s are not only easy to remember, it is also easy to parse, to share on social media, email and overall, shorter URL’s are prettier than their longer counterparts.

It is not a huge issue though. If you have hundreds of pages on your website with really long URL’s, it is certainly not a mandate to update every single URL and make them shorter. If you can do so, that would be great and remember after updating the longer URL, you will need to 301 redirect the long URL (old) to the short one (new).

In general, before you create the URL of a page, remember that shorter, crispier URL’s are better than unusually long URL.

The URL Should Match the Theme of the Page

It makes no sense to create irrelevant URL’s which do not match the theme of the webpage in question. The URL of the webpage should match the title of the page and the content theme of the page.

For example, if you have a page on your website which discusses how to extend summer wardrobe collection for men, a relevant URL structure would be

www.example.com/blog/summer-wardrobe-collection-tips-men.html

However, an irrelevant URL structure would be

www.example.com/blog/men-clothes-buy.html

The URL should ideally speak what your page is all about and not necessarily contain all the keywords you can think of it to optimize it for search engines. Remember, what is good for the user is also good for the search engines. Keeping that principle in mind, you have to ensure that the URL matches the content theme of the page and contains the exact words which you used in the title to convey the purpose and goal of the page.

You can still insert a couple of important keywords in the URL but make sure that the URL conveys what the page is all about first.

Avoid Too Many Re-directs

There should not be too many redirect loops in the URL of a webpage and it should not happen that the URL which was entered re-directs to some other URL which in turn re-directs to some other URL which in turn re-directs to another URL and so on.If possible, ensure there are no re-directs in a URL. One or two re-directs occasionally is fine but anything more than two re-directs is not good. Also, ensure that not all pages on your website have the same re-direct problem, then it might be a serious issue with your website management software or content management system.

The best practice is to ensure that the page is accessible without any re-direct loops.

Look out For Case Sensitivity – URL’s are Often Case Sensitive in Nature

Be careful of Case sensitivity since most of the times, URL’s are case sensitive in nature. Hence, www.example.com/aboutus.html and www.example.com/ABOUTUS.html may be two entirely different pages.

In general, it is a best practice to avoid capital letters in URL’s since it is an industry-wide norm to use only small case letters in the URL of a webpage. When you are naming the file of a webpage, ensure that the file name only has lowercase characters and upper characters or special characters are avoided.

If you use a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal to manage your website, then you do not have to worry about this issue since these content management systems will take care of the case sensitivity issue in URL’s and they won’t let any URL have an uppercase character. However, if you own a static website which you have to take care of yourself, ensure that the file names do not have capital letters in them.

Use Canonical Tags

A canonical tag is a really easy way to tell search engines the original source of the content available on a webpage. If multiple pages on your website have the same content and you want to avoid duplicate content issues, you can use the canonical tag to tell search engines that one of the pages on your website is using the content from another page which is the original source of the content and the other page is simply borrowing that content from the main source.The usage of canonical tags is meant only for search engines since users won’t be able to see the canonical tags in the main body copy of the page. However, this gives a clear direct signal to search engines that which page is the source of content and which page is simply borrowing the content from the source. This prevents duplicate content issues and any other confusion with regards to who is the original source.

These are some of the guidelines you need to remember before creating the URL structure of your website to ensure it is friendly to search engines.


Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with examples.

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