URL Best Practices: Your Guide to URL SEO

Matthew is a Marketing Copywriter with a B.A. in Professional and Public Writing from Auburn University. He aims to learn a little more about the SEO world each day, and share as much of that knowledge with you as he can. When he's not striving to put out some fresh web content, he's usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.

Robin is looking for information about visiting Toronto, so she turns to Google. In the search results, her eyes are drawn to the top two sites listed.

Both have compelling title tags, but then she sees the URLs for each of them. The first one reads:

The second one, on the other hand, is:

In the end, Robin ends up picking the second result. That’s because the second URL was much more user-friendly, and therefore better optimized for search engine optimization (SEO). But what makes for an SEO-friendly URL? We’ll dive into that question below.

Read on to learn more about URL structure, including a list of six URL best practices for SEO. Then subscribe to Revenue Weekly for more digital marketing tips from the agency with over 500 client testimonials!

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How do URLs impact SEO?

Given that we’re discussing URL SEO, the big question here is this: How do URLs impact your website’s SEO?

There are several misconceptions about the role URLs play in your Google rankings. URLs are not going to make or break your place in rankings. A badly optimized URL won’t land you on page 600 of Google results.

In fact, Google pays very little attention to your URLs when it ranks your site. What it pays more attention to is how users engage with your site — and a poor URL can deter users from clicking.

In short, URLs can impact your SEO, but they mainly do so through the way they influence users. So, to make your URLs SEO-friendly, your best shot is to also make them user-friendly.

6 URL best practices

Now that you have a basic understanding of how URL structure impacts your SEO, you may be asking what you can do to optimize your URLs. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to craft your URLs in a way that benefits your rankings.

Here are six URL best practices to consider when building out your website!

1. Don’t obsess over your URLs

The number one tip when it comes to URLs is this — don’t stress over them. Should you try to optimize your URLs? Absolutely! But don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that your SEO will live and die by the content of your page URLs.

Overthinking URLs is something all too many businesses end up doing, and it’s simply not worth your time. If your rankings are suffering, your URLs aren’t to blame. Sure, a poor URL could mean the difference between a few clicks, but it won’t knock you down six pages in search results.

If your SEO needs work, look into fixing bigger issues, like page speed or mobile-friendliness. URLs are only a very minor factor when it comes to rankings.

2. Focus on making URLs user-friendly

As stated earlier, URLs have almost no impact on SEO as a direct ranking factor. Instead, their impact comes through the way they influence user behavior. For that reason, you should try to make your URLs as user-friendly as possible.

There are two key components to optimized URLs: simplicity and relevance. Try and avoid giving your pages long, convoluted URLs filled with random combinations of letters and numbers. The shorter your URLs, the easier they are to look at and remember.

You should also try to make it clear through your URLs what’s on the page. So, on a page about  how rockets work, a good URL would be something like:

It’s short, succinct, and to the point — making users much more likely to click on it.

3. Use lowercase letters and hyphens

When you create your URLs, make sure you use lowercase letters and hyphens every time.

For technical reasons, there are a few text characters you’ll want to avoid using in your URLs. Try not to use uppercase letters or underscores.

Using uppercase letters makes it easy to mistakenly create redirects and 404 errors. Take these two example URLs:

 

 

Other than the two capitalized letters in the first one, the above two URLs are the same. But a server could treat them as different and return an error, so stick to lowercase.

The problem with underscores, meanwhile, is that URLs frequently appear with an automatic underline beneath them. If you use underscores, they’ll blend in with the underline, making them look like spaces. To make it clear what the URL is, stick with hyphens.

4. Include relevant keywords

Another way to create SEO-friendly URLs is to include keywords in them. Just as you should include keywords in title tags and headings, you can also put them in your URLs. For example, if you target the keyword “laptop repair” in a blog post, your URL could be:

Now, be aware that keywords in URLs aren’t a prominent ranking factor. One of the biggest misconceptions about URL structure is that Google will rank your site based on whether your URL has the right keyword in it, but that isn’t really true.

Instead, keywords in URLs are for the users’ benefit, helping them see what the page is about and enticing them to click. If someone looks up the keyword “car repair services” and sees a URL ending in “/car-repair-services,” they’ll be more likely to click.

5. Use HTTPS

This tip isn’t directly about your URL structures, but it’s heavily related: Be sure to use HTTPS on your website. HTTPS is the more secure alternative to HTTP, ensuring safe browsing on your website and protecting users’ information.

The reason this tip is relevant to URL SEO is that the very first thing to appear in most URLs is either “http” or “https.” That means it will be clear to users from the second they see your URL whether your site is secure. And if they don’t see it’s secure, they may not click.

HTTPS also has a direct benefit on your Google rankings. Google ranks sites with HTTPS higher than those without it. For that reason, HTTPs is vital for more reasons than one.

6. Try to use anchor text

As a bonus tip, let’s talk about how to use URLs on a page. If you want to link to a specific URL, there are essentially two ways to do it: You can display the full URL as-is, or you can embed it in a piece of anchor text using a hyperlink.

For example, here are two versions of the same link in the context of a sentence:

  1. Learn more about how dictionaries are made at https://www.dictionary.com/e/getting-words-into-dictionaries/!
  2. Learn more about how dictionaries are made on our website!

Whenever possible, try to use anchor text. When Google crawls your page, it takes links into account. With anchor text, Google gets a sense of the link’s context — but a bare URL doesn’t tell it anything, meaning it doesn’t contribute to your rankings.

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WebFX can help you optimize your URL SEO

Want help creating SEO-friendly URLs? WebFX would love to give you a hand — and we can do much more than just optimize your URLs. With over 20 years of SEO experience, we know all the ins and outs of achieving better Google rankings, and we’d love to show you firsthand.

With our SEO services, you’ll get help optimizing everything from your page speeds to your keyword research. You’ll also receive a dedicated account representative to keep you informed about everything we do for you.

To get started with us, just give us a call at 888-601-5359 or contact us online today!

Bonus Reading: 7 Ways to Give Your Business an SEO Boost