In this blog, Jim Beckham, SEO Director at The B2B Marketing Lab, explains how you can create SEO-friendly URLs, including how to structure them, best practice and other things to consider.
When it comes to URLs, it should come as no surprise that the easier they are for humans to read, the easier they are for search engines to read, too.
Readability has always been a big SEO factor – but now more so than ever as voice searches become more prominent and search engines try to deliver more accurate results.
But it’s not just about how a URL reads – it’s also about how it looks.
And if users are avoiding them, you can bet search engines are, too.
Ultimately, any URL should provide humans and crawlers with a clear idea of what the destination page is about. Before clicking on the link, anyone (and anything) should know what the link points to.
In this blog, I'm going to provide a few best practice tips on how to structure URLs so they are easy for searchers and search engines to understand.
So, what makes up a URL?
URLs (and SEO-friendly URLs) are comprised of the following elements:
This refers to http and https://
This is normally automatically set up by your content management system (CMS) and is based on whether your site has an SSL certificate installed to ensure pages load securely.
Google now considers SSL a ranking factor, so if you don’t have SSL it's worth acquiring.
What is a subdomain?
A subdomain is used to organise separate sections of your website. In the simplest terms, subdomains are added in front of the root domain and separated by a full stop.
are both subdomains of the root domain: microsoft.com.
Subdomains are also sometimes used to separate content by language or region.
Whether your content is hosted on your root domain, (or www.) or a subdomain will depend on your current CMS and/or server. For example, if your blog is in HubSpot but your main web pages are in WordPress, your blog will need to be hosted on a subdomain (you can find more info on how to set up HubSpot here).
If you are setting up a new subdomain, make sure it is as short as possible and clearly conveys the type of content being hosted (blog. content. or language/region. are common subdomains).
3. Your brand
The name of your company needs to be included in your URL.
If you’re just starting out, here are a few things to consider:
- Google your brand name idea before you lock it in. Someone else might have thought of it already or worse, it means something disgusting on Urban Dictionary that you hadn’t realised!
- Your actual domain brand may vary depending on what is available to buy.
- If you’re able to create a brand that uses a keyword, people might search to look for your offering. This will give you a great head-start against your competition.
e.g. london-taxi.com is a better domain name for a London taxi company than abc-cars.com
- Don’t make your domain name too long otherwise all of your page URLs are going to be super long, too. Shorter domain names are easier to remember and easier to type.
These follow the end of the domain name. For instance, website.co.uk/topic/content.
The debate still rages over whether having your blog on a subdomain is worse for SEO compared to hosted in a subfolder. In our experience, we’ve seen better results for subfolders, so we prioritise that in our recommendations to clients.
This part of the URL is the page itself.
For example: www.website.co.uk/topic/content/how-to-write-blogs – the ‘how to write blogs’ part of the URL is the page.
6. Top-level domain (TLD)
If you were to read a URL out loud, this is the part at the end after the final “dot”.
TLDs can be used to show users which country you operate in. But in recent years a whole host of industry-specific TLDs have also been made available.
Some TLD’s are more exclusive than others. For instance, .ac.uk is reserved only for verified UK universities that have passed an application process.
Furthermore, because they are considered a trusted resource, content hosted on or linked to from these TLDs receive a little SEO boost.
7. Named anchor
Anchor tags determine where on the page the reader lands when they click on the link. Use these only when you are sharing a link and want users to jump to a specific part of the page.
How should SEO-friendly URLs be structured?
Now that you know how URLs are structured – what can you do to improve yours and make them SEO-friendly?
Well, keeping your URLs as simple, relevant and enticing will enable readers and crawlers to understand them and click on them (which is a requirement to ranking well).
Here are some other things to do to create SEO-friendly URLs:
- Avoid using numbers and codes instead of words people can understand
- Keep them clear and concise – people should understand what a page is about at a glance
- Use hyphens to separate words – don’t use underscores, spaces or any other special characters
- Ensure your target keyword is part of the page’s URL. This is crucial if you want it to rank. For instance, if the web page is an article or blog post, use the main keyword from the article’s headline in the URL.
- Develop a standard URL structure for consistency. Don’t make it overly complicated. Have a few categories to split things up between.
- Remove unnecessary words – so blog.website.com/data-quality-analysis-and-statistics/understanding-x-y-and-z would become www.blog.website.com/en/understanding-x-y-and-z
- Use canonical tags. This is a bit more technical but if you have different versions of one web page you want to ensure the most up-to-date version is shown to Google (and other search engines). This is what canonical tags allow you to do.
What about historic URLs?
Generally – we would advise that you do not change historic URLs. This is because any benefit gained by shortening the URL is usually negated by the reduction in page authority caused by redirecting the old page to the new one.
However, if changing your URLs is part of a wider site restructure – or if analysis has been done to show that the old content is under-performing and not generating much organic traffic from search engines – then it’s certainly worth considering.
As well as updating your URLs in this instance, you should also think about:
- Identifying keywords for each page
- Creating a hierarchical URL structure
- Optimising individual pages
- Setting up redirects to point website visitors to the new content
How can The B2B Marketing Lab help?
In order to be found online, it’s important that you not only build your website for your prospects but also search engines… and SEO-friendly URLs are just the start.
At The B2B Marketing Lab we have an in-depth understanding of SEO and best practice. We can help you to construct a website that is optimised for your target keyword terms, responsive on all devices, fast and easy to navigate.
As well as optimising your website, we’ll also go back and refresh old content that’s not performing as well as it should or could do. The reporting will be managed on your behalf and we’ll tease out the most important information.
This might all sound simple but it is, in fact, an ongoing process and requires a knowledge of how people engage with and move through your website – all of which we can work out.
If you want to optimise your website, we can help. Just click the button below for a no-obligation consultation to find out more about our services.