How to Create SEO-Friendly URLs

URLs form a small, yet important part of website visibility. Not everyone realises that their URL can be a very strong tool for SEO success – affecting both how users and search engines perceive a website.

In this guide around URL structure, we’ll explain exactly what an SEO-friendly URL structure is, why it’s important for SEO, and we’ll outline some key tips for optimising your URLs for Search:

  1. Keep them short and sweet
  2. Include your target keyword
  3. Use hyphens, not underscores
  4. Only use lowercase letters
  5. URLs should read naturally
  6. Futureproof them
  7. Have a well-organised navigational structure

What is an SEO-friendly URL structure?

Basically, an SEO-friendly URL is one that has been optimised to meet the needs of both your users and your search engines. 

Imagine searching for “coffee makers” and coming across two sites. One with a URL structure like this:

www.example.com/coffee-machine-filter-2234988922

And one with a structure like this:

www.example.com/electricals/coffee-machines

As a user, the second URL structure is much more trustworthy and shows a clear path of direction from the home page. The user is much more likely to click on the URL structure that fits with what they’re searching for.

Why are URLs important for SEO?

URLs are important for SEO because, alongside your website content, including titles, meta descriptions, and headings, search engines use the URLs to understand your page’s content and how it should rank.

While over the years the importance of URLs for ranking has changed, John Mueller has made it clear that you should write your URLs with your users in mind.

In Google’s SEO Starter guide, there is even a whole section dedicated to understanding URLs and how they are used in search.

It’s important to understand that URLs are used to identify content, not to index it. So it is most impactful on user experience and increased click-through rates.

With Google moving more and more towards User Experience, it’s not hard to understand why.

Tips for an SEO-Friendly URL Structure

  1. Keep them short and sweet

There is no need to have some long-winded URL, with every word included from your title. Having long URLs tend to confuse search engines, especially if they’re full of unnecessary fluff. This can also lead to several URLs having duplicate content, or Google’s indexers not being able to index all of your content.

Google finds it much easier to understand URLs that stick straight to the point – and you’ll see SEO rewards for helping them.

  1. Include your target keyword

As with most things in SEO, your URL should be focused on your target keyword. You should ensure it is prominently displayed in the slug, without too many fillers or extra words.

This is especially important when first getting a page live, as search engines use URLs to find relevant content before it’s indexed.

  1. Use hyphens, not underscores

When separating words in your URLs, you should use hyphens. It’s much easier, for both users and search engines, to understand a URL that looks like this:

www.example.com/seo-friendly-url-structure

Rather than one that looks like this:

www.example.com/seofriendlyurlstructure

Google, itself, says hyphens are the standard way for separating URLs, and recommends avoiding spaces and underscores.

  1. Only use lowercase letters

While most servers treat capitalised URLs the same as lowercase, some don’t, and you can create capitalised URLs in your CMS.

Meaning www.example.com/This-URL

is different from www.example.com/this-url

To avoid any issues with duplicate content or indexing, stick with lowercase in all of your URLs.

  1. URLs should read naturally

As mentioned before, Google recommends you write your URLs for your users, not for search engines. 

When a user comes across your website URL on Google search, it can affect what link they click on.

Searchers are much more likely to click on a link that looks like it was written by a human, for humans, rather than one with multiple parameters and number IDs.

When creating your initial URLs, ensure they’re easy to read and understand.

  1. Futureproof them

Creating content constantly means that sometimes you’ll have yearly content, such as the “Best SEO Tools of 2021”. To prevent lost rankings and keep your web pages evergreen, you shouldn’t include any dates or years in the URL.

It’s beneficial to SEO to use one URL, such as “best-seo-tools” and update it every year with new content. Not only will Google recognise the changes to your long-existing page and give you a boost, but you’ll also keep any current backlinks to the page and lead users to the updated content instead.

You can even archive the original content through tactical redirects if you prefer!

  1. Have a well-organised navigational structure

Your site’s navigational structure will be the guide for how your URLs are formed. You should organise your pages into the most relevant subfolders, but ensure that they’re not hidden under too many of them. 

Like most other aspects of optimising URLs for search, the simpler the better. Two to three subfolders deep is the recommended amount.

Adding too many words onto the end of a URL means that search engines just weigh those words less, so you’ll have much more impact if you have a URL like this:

www.example.com/products/electrical/coffee-machines

Then one like this:

www.example.com/products/electrical/kitchen/coffee-machines/filter

 

Your URL structure influences many different aspects of your performance, including user experience, rankings, links, and security.

At Tecmark, we know that technical SEO aspects of a campaign are just as important, if not more important, than high quality content and link building.

And with the Core Web Vitals update in May, now more than ever you should make sure your website is up to scratch!

For help from the experts at forming the ideal website structure, or ensuring you’ve got the technical foundations nailed, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Lydia Rutter
Lydia Rutter
Lydia Rutter is an SEO Executive at Tecmark who joined us in 2019. She has a degree in Public Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and an MSc in Digital Marketing from the University of Salford. She brings us experience in digital marketing for the medical and healthcare industry, and in agency settings.

We create websites with your customer in mind to help you build your brand and grow your business.

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