Website URL Structure and SEO Benefits – Part II
In Part I we looked at website URL optimization from both a search engine and user perspective. There are numerous best practices as discussed in part 1.
Let’s continue with other aspects of website URLs.
Exclude the dynamic parameter
User-friendly URLs don’t contain query strings. When possible, rewrite these “dynamic” URLs into a more readable form. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) allow you to transparently switch URL schemes, by making a simple change in the settings. If no CMS, a second option to investigate is mod_rewrite or ISAPI_Rewrite (for IIS).
Match URLs to titles
If the title of your article is “My Favorite Top 5 2016 Smartphones vs. Price” there is no requirement that URL should be exactly the same. It can use a variation or abbreviated form:
You are looking for a good compromise between keywords or terms from the full title of the piece and keywords used in the URL. URLs should not betray expectations of what a user finds after clicking the link. Ideally, the URL’s structure will make people understand quite well the topic of the page.
Stop words are words consisting of only a few characters, usually conjunctions or prepositions (a, but, the, and).
It is not necessary to include such words in a URL. While adding to grammatical correctness, they usually don’t contribute more meaning within the context of the URL. Eliminating them can make shorter and more readable URLs.
The problem with standard punctuation marks is that they makes use of reserved characters, ASCII control characters, or unsafe characters and may lead to problems in certain browsers, crawlers or CMS. If you feel that some kind of word separation is needed for readability purposes, stick with dash (hyphen) or underscore (- or _ ) instead of usual punctuation marks.
Hyphen word separators
There has been much SEO discussion over the years about differences between a dash and underscore. Either one will work fine as word separators, but a hyphen is usually recommended instead of an underscore.
Never use spaces as word separators. They are handled by the search engines, but not in a way you might expect. Empty space is not allowed and gets translated into “20%.”
Fewer folders are better
Comparing and contrasting the structure of these two URLs:
The use of folders and subfolders won’t necessarily harm performance or SEO effectiveness, but too many folders can create the perception of useless site depth (to users or search engines). As well as making it more complicated to modify in the future.
URLs are not the place for keyword stuffing. Other than mirroring the title, don’t repeat keywords or add extra keywords in an attempt to better position with the search engines. This practice holds a penalization risk with search engines that detect keyword redundancy. Also, some users may notice the repetition, perceive your site as spammy and avoid clicking on the link.
When serving the same content
Try to stay away from duplicate content. If you are forced to work with URLs that serve very similar content, redirect from one to the other via a 301 HTTP status code. The point here is to avoid being penalized by search engines. Canonical is an html element for specifying the preferred version of a page. Use it for example, when you serve a main version and a printable version of a webpage.