Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a vital role in determining how well your website ranks on search engine result pages (SERPs). One important aspect of SEO is optimizing your URLs to make them more search engine and user-friendly.
Creating SEO-friendly URLs doesn’t have to be a complex task. By following a few simple steps and best practices, you can ensure that your URLs are optimized for search engines while providing a positive user experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of creating SEO-friendly URLs step-by-step.
Understanding the Anatomy of a URL
Before we dive into the process of creating SEO-friendly URLs, it’s important to understand the different components of a URL. URLs consist of several parts, but for SEO purposes, the most important part is the slug. The slug is the part of the URL that identifies a specific page or post on your website. It usually follows the domain name and any subdirectories.
How to Create an SEO-Friendly URL Slug
The URL slug is the part of the URL that represents the title or topic of your page or post. It’s essential to choose an optimized URL slug that accurately reflects the content of your page and contains relevant keywords. Here is a step-by-step process for creating an SEO-friendly URL slug:
1. Start with your page title
One of the easiest ways to create an SEO-friendly URL slug is to start with your page title. Most page titles can be converted into URL slugs with a few modifications. For example, if your page title is “How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4-Step Process)“, you can use a simplified version of it as your URL slug.
2. Remove special characters
To create a clean and user-friendly URL slug, it’s important to remove any special characters that are not necessary. Special characters like backslashes, square brackets, commas, colons, and semicolons can make your URL look cluttered and difficult to read. Stick to using alphabets and hyphens in your URL slug for better readability and optimization.
3. Remove numbers
While including numbers in your page title is acceptable, it’s best to avoid including them in your URL slug. Numbers in URLs can create confusion and may require constant updates if the number of items in your page changes. By removing numbers from your URL slug, you can ensure that your URL remains relevant even if you update your page content.
4. Remove superfluous information
Keep your URL slug concise and focused by removing any unnecessary or superfluous information. Google recommends making URLs as simple as possible, as longer URLs are often truncated in search results and may appear less user-friendly. Remove any words or phrases in your URL slug that don’t contribute to its overall meaning or relevance.
5. Boil it down to a keyword
To optimize your URL slug for search engines, try to include a relevant keyword that represents the main topic or focus of your page. Most page titles naturally contain keywords, so choose a simplified, keyword-rich version of your title as your URL slug. This helps search engines understand the content of your page and improves your chances of ranking for relevant keywords.
6. Add keyword modifiers (optional)
In some cases, using an exact-match keyword as your URL slug may not provide enough context or be too generic. To add more specificity and relevance to your URL slug, consider including keyword modifiers. Keyword modifiers are related words or phrases that provide additional context to your URL slug. Choose modifiers that are relevant to your content and enhance the overall meaning of your URL.
7. Make it readable (optional)
While not necessary, making your URL slug more readable can improve user experience and make it easier for visitors to understand the content of your page. Consider adding conjunctions, pluralizing words, or rephrasing your URL slug to make it sound more natural and readable. However, ensure that the readability doesn’t compromise the accuracy or relevance of your URL slug.
8. Make it lowercase
To avoid any potential issues with case sensitivity, it’s best practice to use lowercase letters in your URL slug. While most web servers treat lower and uppercase URLs the same, using lowercase URLs ensures consistency and helps prevent any duplicate content issues. If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, it automatically converts your URL slugs to lowercase.
9. Replace spaces with hyphens
Spaces are not allowed in URLs and are typically replaced with “%20” by browsers. However, for better readability and usability, it’s recommended to replace spaces with hyphens in your URL slug. Google officially recommends using hyphens instead of underscores for better recognition and readability. Hyphens are more commonly used and familiar to users, making them a preferred choice for URL structure.
Best Practices for the Rest of the URL
While the URL slug is a crucial component of SEO-friendly URLs, it’s important to consider other factors that contribute to overall URL optimization. Here are some best practices for optimizing the rest of your URL:
Using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is essential for website security and SEO. HTTPS encrypts data sent between your website and users, ensuring a secure connection. It has also been a lightweight ranking factor since 2014. Switching to HTTPS not only protects user data but also improves your website’s credibility and visibility in search engine rankings.
Use subdomains sparingly
Subdomains are separate sections of a website that are typically used to categorize or organize content. While Google treats subdomains as separate entities, it’s generally recommended to use subfolders (also known as subdirectories) instead. Subfolders provide a sense of hierarchy and make it easier for search engines to understand the structure and organization of your website.
Choose a memorable domain
When selecting a domain for your website, prioritize memorability and brandability over keyword-rich or exact-match domains. While keywords in a domain can be beneficial, they don’t guarantee automatic ranking for those keywords. Choosing a memorable domain helps users easily recall and access your website, improving brand recognition and user experience.
Choose an appropriate TLD
The top-level domain (TLD) is the part of the domain that comes after the dot (e.g., .com, .org, .net). When targeting a global audience, choose a generic top-level domain (gTLD) like .com. If you’re targeting a specific country, consider using a country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) specific to that country. Avoid using TLDs associated with spam or low-quality websites, as they may negatively impact your website’s credibility and ranking potential.
Create hierarchy with subfolders
Subfolders help create a hierarchical structure within your website, making it easier for search engines and users to navigate and understand your content. Use subfolders to categorize and organize your pages into relevant sections. For example, if you have an online store selling shoes, you can create subfolders like “store/footwear/sneakers” to provide a clear hierarchy and context to your URLs.
Use as many subfolders as needed
Contrary to popular belief, the number of subfolders in a URL does not directly impact search engine rankings. Google has clarified that as long as URLs are linked consistently, the number of subfolders is not a ranking factor. However, having too many subfolders can make it challenging for users and search engines to navigate your website effectively. Use subfolders judiciously and consider the overall user experience when organizing your content.
Avoid keyword repetition
Repeating keywords in your URL structure can make it appear spammy and may confuse search engines and users. While it’s essential to include relevant keywords in your URLs, avoid excessive keyword repetition. Focus on creating concise and descriptive URLs that accurately represent the content of your pages without resorting to keyword stuffing.
Including dates in your URLs, especially for blog posts, can create challenges when updating or repurposing content. If your content management system automatically includes dates in URLs, consider modifying your permalink settings to remove them. This ensures that your URLs remain relevant even if you update or republish your content.
Avoid URL parameters where possible
URL parameters, often denoted by a question mark followed by key-value pairs, can lead to duplicate content issues if not handled correctly. While URL parameters are common in ecommerce websites with faceted navigation or sorting options, it’s best to avoid them on indexable pages unless necessary. Use canonical tags to consolidate similar or duplicate URLs to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate content.
Creating SEO-friendly URLs is an essential aspect of optimizing your website for search engines and improving user experience. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide and adhering to best practices, you can create URLs that are both search engine and user-friendly. Remember to choose relevant keywords, keep your URLs concise and descriptive, and consider the overall readability and usability of your URL structure. With well-optimized URLs, you can enhance your website’s visibility, attract more organic traffic, and improve your chances of ranking higher on search engine result pages.