*Note: All websites listed in this post were used for example purposes only
URL structure typically includes four main elements: subdomains, domains, folders, and pages. Does this look familiar?
Each element has a different priority in SEO tactics (source: SEOmoz). When possible, you want to work your target keywords into each element. This means thinking about SEO while selecting your content management system, naming your products and reserving the domain itself.
But here are 5 specific tips on how to make sure your URL structure follows SEO best practices:
1. Be Short and Descriptive
Every website’s URL is visible on Googles search engine results pages; its in green just under the link. If your URL makes sense to humans, it makes your search engine listing look better. So when possible, use comprehensible words.
2. Not Too Many Folders
When a URL has many directories and pages deep within those directories, the pages appear to be farther away from the root domain, and will therefore benefit less from the authority of the main domain. In other words, the more slashes in a URL, the less search engine friendly it is.
Avoiding folders (and folders within folders) will also keep your URLs shorter, which makes your URL structure more legible to humans.
3. Sink the Subdomains
Sometimes there are good reasons to use subdomains, but they can be a problem for SEO. The trust and authority built up at the domain level doesnt get fully passed on to the subdomain, so avoid putting any search optimized content here. Save the subdomains for login areas, secure areas, internets, extranets, etc.
4. Domain, Sweet Domain
Regardless of the rest of the URL structure, the domain itself still impacts ranking. Although less important than in years past, domains with keywords are still preferred. This is partly due to the fact that keyword-focused domains attract keyword-focused links, since the domain inevitably serves as the anchor text in many inbound links.
An exact match domain is a domain name that contains the entire target keyphrase, such as www.timesharesincancun.com. Yes, they are considered spammy. No, they are not as effective as they once were, but if you have an entire website focused on a single topic, a highly focused domain wont hurt. Just dont get carried away and start registering five word domain names.
So if your domain doesnt have much link popularity yet, consider switching to a domain with at least one word from your primary target keyphrase.
5. Dashes = Good, Underscores = Bad
Of course, URLs cant have spaces, so when separating words, you may choose either an underscore or a dash. Choose the dash. It helps Google know that youre using two separate words.
You can do this when youre creating files and pages. But if you use a content management tool, it may choose this for you. Hopefully its using dashes. When choosing a new CMS, look closely at the URLs it creates.
6. Beware Duplicate URLs
If there is any chance that Google may see two addresses returning the same content, pick the URL you prefer and stick to it. When Google finds the same content at two URLs, it will generally choose one, and sometimes its not the one you wanted.
The goal is to make sure Google knows which address to use for which page. You dont want webaddress.com and webaddress.com/index.html both showing up in your Analytics. You also dont want site.com/products and site.com/page.php?q=products to both get indexed in Google.
Bonus Tip: www or no www?
Speaking of making things official, ask yourself how much you like the letter w. Every site should decide if its http://address.com or http://www.address.com. It doesnt matter which, but make up your mind. Set the server to force your preference. Then, for as long as you live, every time you type the address, keep it consistent.
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