SEO Tips

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I’m a firm believer in having good on-page optimisation to help all your off-page optimisation. For me, it is the foundation of an SEO campaign that can make your campaign a little easier.

On-page optimisation includes your page titles, descriptions, image alt tags, the content itself and your URLs.
In this blog post, I’d like to give you some tips on how URLs can help your SEO and visitor usability.

1. Use Keywords in your URLs

This works in two ways. Firstly, it will help with your SEO efforts. Secondly, it will help your visitors. For SEO purposes, including keywords in your URL can help you rank better for these keywords. Additionally, having clear and concise URLs will help your visitors navigate your website. Let’s look at some examples:

Good example: https://www.minttwist.com/services/web-design

Bad example: https://www.minttwist.com/w/s/2011/23326897-238123

You’d have to be some sort of Internet, tech-mind reader to understand what the second URL might be. Far too many category IDs that you might understand, but your visitor won’t. The first is clear and concise and will help your visitors to remember it. The keywords will also help this page, and your domain, to rank for this keyword (and additional, related keywords).

It should be noted that you should not keyword stuff your URLs either as this is seen as spammy and can have a negative impact to your ranking.

2. Keep Your URLs Short

The shorter the better! Longer URLs are again seen as spammy and are less user-friendly. Not only will visitors not be able to remember the URL but they’re also less likely to copy and paste one that is about five lines long! The longer your URL is, and the more keywords in it, the less importance each keyword is given.

Shorter URLs are easier to share via Twitter, Facebook or email (or even text messages!) and so are much easier for your visitors to share amongst their friends, family and online contacts.

3. Plan Your Site Structure First

Try to map out your website and the content levels before you build your website. This will really help you to map out the content and how everything will fit. Having many content levels will mean your URLs quickly become too long. Try to limit to a maximum of two or three content levels.

Good example: https://www.minttwist.com/services/web-design

Bad example: https://www.minttwist.com/services/web/design/web-design

Additionally, it’s worth thinking about planning from the bottom – up, rather than top – down. Many people plan websites from the homepage and then try to think of all the content they need and where to put it. I think it’s easier (and more efficient) to think of the all the content you require or want and which sub-category it can fit in and then how that fits under the homepage.

4. Hyphens not Underscores

Separating words in URLs can be a tricky task. Having too many can mean you have really long URLs, whilst not having any can make a URL unclear and difficult to read.

It’s important to note that hyphens are seen by search engines are separators. Let’s look at an example:

No Hyphens – https://www.minttwist.com/services/webdesign; keyword – webdesign

Hyphens – https://www.minttwist.com/services/web-design; keyword – web design

Underscores – https://www.minttwist.com/services/web_design; keyword – webdesign

If you use underscores, the search engines won’t see the separate words (as if they were written without a space). Therefore, it’s always best practice to use hyphens. Whilst this can result in very long URLs, especially for e-commerce websites and blogs, it’s still best. Read a post from Matt Cutts here.

5. Canonical Issues

This refers to whether your URL is shown as https://minttwist.com or https://www.minttwist.com.There is no inherent ranking factor to include the www or not. However it is completely feasible that you can access a website from both of the URLs above. This can, and often does, create duplicate content issues in the eyes of the search engines. They will see these two URLs as being completely separate and may mark you down for duplicate content issues.

Working around this is relatively simple and you can create 301 redirects for either version to point to the other. For example, Twitter forwards http://www.twitter.com to http://twitter.com whereas Facebook prefers http://www.facebook.com – it’s up to you! Just make sure the other URL 301 re-directs.

Additionally, this also touches on a point about index files. Web browsers will automatically read the index file of a web directory as the main page of that directory.

For example: http://www.facebook.com/index.php is the same page as http://www.facebook.com – this can create some content duplication issues, and can just be a bit confusing for visitors. Therefore, we also suggest to 301 redirect all index files to the directory URL – it also looks cleaner!

These are just five easy tips to help you have neater, cleaner, SEO-friendly and user-friendly URLs. There are a lot more tips out there that you could use – some being more complicated than others. What useful tips do you have for URL best practice? Tweet me @seocolin!

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