Most of us have heard and know what a URL is, this term is too common. But did you know URL address is an important Onpage SEO factor that helps to rank high on SERPs? Specifically, according to Backlinko's report on the following URL:
The URL length is listed as #46 in Google's top 200 ranking factors
The URL is listed as #47
Keyword in URL is #51
The URL string is #52
So creating and optimizing URLs is a matter of immediate implementation. However, to do that, you need to understand all the bases of URLs that satisfy search engine bots and users. But how and where to start? This is still a problem you have not found the solution to!
Well, today, you have found the answer for yourself.
In this share, I will explain in detail what a URL is, all the important factors of a URL, and how to best optimize it. From there, you can immediately deploy your own URL optimization strategy.
So what are you waiting for, let's get started!
What is a URL?
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the location of a website, page or file on the Internet. Each URL is made up of many parts, and how you construct the URL will have a lot of impact on the security and effectiveness of your website's SEO.
What is the concept of URL?
You can type any of the 3 URLs above into your browser's address bar to have your browser load the desired content (or resource) page.
URLs are made up of many different components, some of which are mandatory and others optional (optional).
Now, let's explore the typical components of a URL by “dissecting” a full URL with the following components:
The meaning of “Protocol” (network protocol) is the first part of the URL, browsers will rely on Protocol to know which protocol they must use to work. A protocol is an established method for exchanging or transmitting data around a computer network.
Currently, the most commonly used network protocol by websites is HTTP or HTTPS (the secure version of HTTP). The Web requires either of these protocols, but browsers also know how to handle some other form of protocol like mailto: (to open mail clients) or ftp: (to handle file transfers), so don't be surprised if you see these types of Protocol protocols.
2. Domain Name
The Domain Name (domain name) indicates which Web Server is being requested. Alternatively, you can use an IP address directly as a substitute for a domain name, but because IP is less convenient, it's not often used on the Web.
The technical name “port” is used to access resources on the Web Server. Ports are often ignored if the Web Server uses standard HTTP Protocol Ports (80 for HTTP and 443 for HTTPS) to grant access to its resources. Otherwise in this case Port is required.
Next “Path” is the path to the resource on the Web Server. In the early days of the Web, a path represented a physical file location on the Web Server. Nowadays, the path is considered something quite “abstract” because it is handled by Web Servers without following any logic.
The Parameter is an additional parameter provided to the Web Server. The parameters are a set of key/value sets separated by the & character. The Web Server can use these parameters to do additional work before returning the resource to the browser.
Each Web Server has its own rules about parameters, and the only way to know if a particular Web Server is processing parameters is to ask the Web Server owner.
6. Anchor (or Fragment)
Where Anchor (or Fragment) is a scoped part of the resource. Anchor represents a type of “bookmark”, providing the browser with “directions” to display content located at that “highlighted” location. For example, on an HTML resource page, the browser will scroll somewhere on the page right at the position specified by the Anchor.
More info for you, the part after the # symbol is called Fragment Identifier.
Note: There are some additional elements and rules in the URL structure (like: user, password, etc.), but they are not really necessary, or not very user-friendly for Web developers. Don't worry about this, you really don't need to know they exist and still can build the most fully functional URL structure.
In short, You can think of a URL like an address for you to send orders by post office, with:
Protocol represents for the postal service
Domain Name is city or province
Port is like zip code
Path represents where your order will be delivered, including: House Number, Street Name, Neighborhood (Village), Ward, District.
The Parameters represent additional information such as the number of apartments in a building.
And finally, the Anchor represents the person you send the order to.
Most websites will have both types of URLs:
Dynamic URLs are URLs generated by the server or content management system and are not easy to remember. They are generated, because the server or CMS doesn't know what to call each page. You can usually detect dynamic URLs by looking for characters like: ? = &.
Static URLs are URLs that do not change and do not contain any parameters.
Some other advantages of static URLs are high click rate in SERPS, easy to use, easy to remember. This is always good for branding.
So the key difference is that dynamic URLs don't give you the same value in search results page ranking or usability that static URLs and keyword optimization give you.
I recommend showing each page on your website a unique piece of information compared to the rest. You need a separate static URL so that both users and search engines don't have to be confused to understand the content of each page.
Why are URLs important in SEO?
Or in other words, what are the benefits of URLs? There are 3 main benefits of URLs:
1. Improve User Experience
A well-constructed URL provides both users and search engines with easy-to-understand information about the content of the landing page. For example, the URL of a GTV SEO article is below:
URLs help improve user experience
Even if this page's Title Tag is hidden, the user-readable URL will still understand the topic the article revolves around.
Note: Google increasingly tends to replace URLs in search results with website names and breadcrumbs. This often appears on mobile devices.
URL is a small ranking factor that search engines use to determine how relevant a particular page is to a search query.
While URLs are less powerful than the overall domain name, the use of keywords in the URL can act as an important ranking factor in SEO.
In a nutshell, a short, easy-to-understand, easy-to-remember URL can act as its own anchor text when sourced and shared on forums, blogs, social networks, or other online platforms.
At this point, you also see that URL is one of the most basic elements of Onpage SEO and one of the important ranking factors. So URL optimization is a must. And it seems simple. Type a few words into the URL Slug, add a keyword or two, and you're good to go. Right?
If only URL optimization were so easy. In fact, there's an entire body of knowledge behind proper URL optimization. After tons of research, a lot of trial and error, I came up with a formula that I think is a solid one. Find out in the following content!
11 Ways to Create SEO Friendly URLs
In this content, I will explain all the basics of creating and optimizing URLs to satisfy both web crawlers and users.
So, immediately grab a pen and paper to note down this important content!
1. Choose a top-level domain
Let's start from scratch.
Infographic from Search Engine Land includes detailed information of friendly URL structure. They point out that using a top-level domain (TLD) is often the best way. This simply means that you should use the domain “.com” instead of “.biz”, “.pro,” “.tel,”…
Now I'm not saying you won't be okay using anything other than “.com” for the domain. In fact, TLDs don't directly affect rankings. But what is familiar to users will be increased trust for users.
When people trust your domain, it positively impacts overall SEO. I realize that making this point doesn't do you much good if you already have a domain other than “.com”.
I also know it's not realistic to be able to name your brand with a “.com” domain (there were over 124 million “.com” domains in 2016), but it's something to keep in mind if you're choosing one future domain.
2. HTTPS is ideal
Online security is a big issue these days. With cybercrime and identity theft on the rise, Internet users want to know that they're using a secure connection.
The amount of money loss from cybercrime increased from 2001 to 2015.
HTTPS is the ideal of an SEO-friendly URL
Therefore, I strongly recommend using HTTPS instead of HTTP. HTTPS stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure”, which is the secure version of HTTP. This simply means that information on a website is encrypted, greatly enhancing security.
This is an illustration of the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.
Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
Not only does it help visitors feel comfortable, but it actually becomes a ranking signal.
According to Searchmetrics:
“HTTPS is becoming more relevant and even a ranking signal for Google. Encryption is mainly important for websites with sensitive purchasing or customer information to increase reliability and conversion rates.”
And in my opinion, this could become an even bigger ranking signal in the future. If your website has not received an SSL certificate, I recommend that you take care of this as soon as possible. And that's especially true if you actually process customer orders and capture sensitive financial information online.
You can choose from a number of reputable companies to buy SSL certificates. One of the top providers is Namecheap.
First, you choose a suitable time level and click “Buy Now”.
Click “Buy Now” to start buying SSL certificate
Then, choose how many years you want your SSL certificate to last.
Choose the number of years to maintain SSL
Then confirm the order.
Click “Confirm Order” to confirm the order
Once activated, you will need to install an SSL certificate and update your website to use HTTPS.
3. URL length
The factor I want to mention here is length and that's a big deal when optimizing URLs. And deciding the length of the URL is not as difficult as you think.
According to Backlinko:
“Short URLs tend to rank better than long URLs.”
To prove this, they did some extensive testing on a million Google search results.
Here is a graph showing the correlation between Google Position and URL Length
Google Position and URL Length
Note that position number one has a URL with about 50 characters. But when you move down to position 10, the average URL is 62 characters. So somewhere around 50-60 characters is a pretty good number. If you go any further (say 80+ characters), this can have a negative impact on ratings.
4. How many words should be used for the URL?
Personally, I try to put about three to five words for each URL. Because it's simple and gives the user a pretty clear idea of what the specific content is all about.
I keep the word count in these URLs to a minimum, but you can still understand what you can expect to find by clicking on the links.
According to an interview with Matt Cutts, this is a pretty good recipe for sticking.
Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Excerpt from Matt Cutts . interview
The bottom line is that you want to condense the essence of your content to about three to five words and try to use 60 characters maximum.
If you implement this formula consistently, the URL optimization strategy will be better.
5. Easy to understand
Like I said earlier, there is a correlation between user-friendliness and overall SEO.
They are forever attached to each other.
And this is certainly true when it comes to URL optimization. Or as Moz said:
“A well-constructed URL gives both users and search engines an easy-to-understand clue as to what the landing page is about.”
This gives me a new perspective. That, you should try to make your URLs as easy to understand as possible. While this is just a subjective opinion of Moz, I think the following illustration “The Scale of URL Readability” explains it quite well.
“The Scale of URL Readability”
Notice, is the first URL in the illustration short, to the point, and easy to understand?
You don't even have to click on the link, it's clear that you can immediately picture the image of adorable puppies confused in front of the rainbow.
But be aware that URLs below are becoming more and more confusing. The third URL in the illustration above does not at all indicate what you will get when you click on the link.
In fact, it's entirely possible that a nefarious link will infect your computer with a virus. But let me be a little more specific about the importance of readability.
Let's say someone points a backlink to one of your articles.
Although they could replace the bare URL with Anchor Text, like “cute puppies under the rainbow”. But, most likely the URL is still kept as a naked link.
If the bare link is easy to understand like http://mydomain.com/the-beautiful-dog, that would be great.
But what if the URL is ugly and long like
will provide no clues about the content to the user. So the point here is simplicity and clarity. That's what you need to aim for when creating the URL.
If just looking at the URL you can easily understand the content of the article at a glance, you should do it now!
6. Use dashes, not underscores
When it comes to putting spaces between words, you have two main choices: use a dash “-” or an underscore “_”.
So what is the best choice?
That is undisputed. Always use a dash “-“.
Always use dash “-” instead of underscore “_”
This is what Google likes, so rest assured it's the best option.
7. Use lowercase letters
Do you know why always put URLs in lowercase letters?
Because using uppercase can lead to redirects or 404 errors on certain servers.
Using uppercase may result in errors on some servers
So just don't do it.
8. Stop words
This is a topic that has received a lot of debate. To use stop words or not to use stop words?
First of all, what exactly are stop words?
They are words like:
These are essentially “sub” words that connect the essential words that are the backbone of the URL. For a long time, stop words were viewed by many SEOs as an unacceptable mistake.
But you know what?
It's really not a big deal. In fact, it's unlikely you'll be penalized for using them.
Stop words are basically ignored by search engines and don't carry any value as a ranking factor. So here's what I recommend in the face of stop words. Don't use them if you can instead.
If your URL structure still makes sense and is easy to see, using stop words will only make your URLs longer and more complex. But if you feel you need to add a stop word to make your URL more meaningful and understandable, keep it.
9. Use “safe” characters
And here is another point you need to make. It involves using “safe” characters in your URL instead of “unsafe” characters.
The easiest way for me to explain the difference between these two methods is to show you a chart from Perishable Press.
Chart from Perishable Press
It is quite simple.
There is nothing to worry about when you use safe characters in the URL. But you definitely have to “run now” before unsafe characters. This is because they can create browser rendering problems, creating unnecessary problems with usability.
10. Use up to two directories per URL
If you're not sure what “directory” means, they're simply the slashes you see between text in URLs.
Like most other aspects of URL optimization, it's best to keep it simple with the number of directories you use in the URL.
In other words, “less is more”.
According to Moz:
“It is not that slashes (aka directories) will harm performance, but it can create a perception of the depth of a website for both engines and users, as well as make edits to with URL strings that are significantly more complex (at least, in most CMS protocols).
Here are a few examples Rand Fishkin provided to clarify.
Example of directory count used in Rand Fishkin . URL
Users can still see what the content is with the second, refactored URL, but it contains fewer directories.
And if you really want to be specific about how many folders to use, pick one or two.
Choose one or two if you want to be specific about how many folders to use.
This makes your URLs more engaging and easier for search engines to decipher.
11. Target 1-2 keywords
You should know that this topic will come up at some point in this post.
So what is the best way to handle keywords when generating URLs?
How much can be included before it is considered spam and you get penalized?
First of all, you should definitely still include keywords in the URL. While this method isn't likely to skyrocket you to number one, it will give your ranking a slight boost.
And from the user's perspective, keyword inclusion serves a very important purpose.
It allows the URL to act as a naked link anchor text when your content is copied without quoting the source as a keyword anchor text.
The URL can act as an Anchor Text
This way, people can instantly know what your content is about at a glance no matter where they find the link. Even without anchor text. This eliminates the guesswork and will encourage more people to definitely click on the link.
You absolutely don't want to cram keywords into your URLs indiscriminately. That would be a recipe for disaster.
But how many keywords exactly should you target?
Is there a specific number?
According to Brian Dean of Backlinko and John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, you should aim for one or two keywords per URL.
Only aim for one or two keywords per URL
Keyword stuffing in any way is never a good thing. You absolutely must not stuff keywords in your content, and neither should URLs?
According to many studies, the top position of the URL is the best place to put your target keyword there.
Bonus: Avoid repeating keywords
Here's one last little detail.
Never repeat your keywords (or any words for that matter) in a URL.
It's pointless to repeat because Google won't reward you o you when using a keyword that appears more than once. In fact, this could be seen as a form of manipulation, which is clearly not good. What's more, it can end up making your content look spammy, or at the very least, lower your authority in the eyes of users and search engines.
Moz gives a great example.
A bad example of keyword repetition
It looks ridiculous to have the keywords “puppy” listed backwards between the two directories.
So stay away from this tactic at all costs.
These are all my shares of the URL to you. I know that the term URL is not new to anyone, but the process of optimizing URLs can be more complicated than you think.
So I want you to keep this in mind: Start with choosing a top-level domain and get an SSL certificate so users know your website is secure. Then you just keep working your way up to find the optimal characters and words. Also, you should choose an appropriate format that won't cause browser errors, ensuring that you're targeting the correct keywords.
One more piece of advice I'd like to give you: Break everything down into steps, and URL optimization will become more manageable. The strategy implementation process will follow the principle encapsulated as follows:
“Short, simple and easy to understand.”