What Are Search Engine Friendly URLs?

A good user experience normally ensures that, beyond getting to the homepage of a site, visitors never have to think about URLs, but URLs are not just for visitor navigation. Many site designs fail to take this into consideration. It's surprising how often, even today, that we come across URLs online that are simply a jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols. A website with a main address like www.badurlexample.com (In case you hadn't guessed I made this name up) could have a URL for subpages on the website that looks like this

www.badurlexample.com/categorypage.asp?prodld=1234567

These kinds of URLs are often auto-generated and created without any regard for their impact on a site's Digital Marketing strategy. We can certainly say that these types of URLs are not SEO friendly, a lot can be done to this URL to  maximize its SEO potential. Googlebot and all the other search engine crawlers use URLs to find, access, and sort site content for the search engines results. This means that URLs play an important role in SEO. They also influence click through rates and site navigation which are also crucial ranking factors. This article will show you what you need to do to create the best URLs for SEO and  toavoid any of the common problems that bad URLs create. 


What Are Search Engine Friendly URLs?


When we talk about SEO friendly URLS, we are referring to URLs that work in three key ways



  1. URLs that make appropriate use of keywords helping with SEO and avoiding penalties

  2. URLs that search engine crawlers like Googlebot can easily find and index 

  3. A URL structure that makes it easy for crawlers to make sense of a page's content and the way it relates to the rest of a site


Let's see how we can make sure our URLs cover all three of these areas. 


Don't Build Dates into Your URLs


This mistake is common with Bloggers who may be auto generating URLs to include date, month, and year for posts. Creating URLs in this way is bad for two reasons: First, this valuable keyword space in the URL could be used for more specific long tail keywords that users will be more likely to type into search engines. A URL built around keywords and a logical structure will increase the likelihood of each page on a site being correctly crawled and indexed for these keywords.

Second, and most importantly, even if a year may be important for a term like the Oscars 2020, placing this date in the URL will make this page useless for Oscars 2021 2022 and so on. This won't just look bad to users, the algorithm from search engines like Google take the dates listed on pages as a ranking factor for relevance , meaning that URL and page content referring to previous years will often be marked by search engines as outdated and irrelevant. so any dates on a page will need to be updated to give the pages any chance of ranking. You may be considering just changing the dates on your urls...

Do not just change URLs on any of your existing pages that rank!


Changing a URL without putting in sufficient 301 redirects will lose any ranking progress the previous page had. Changing the old name of the page essentially means you are deleting it and replacing it with a new one and throwing away the old rankings. This is not the only problem, listings for pages that no longer exist that have not been correctly redirected will linger around on search engines for a while, and any user who clicks on them will be greeted with an error 404 page not found page -. This makes an awful first impression on customers and is really bad for your rankings. 

So rather than spending a lot of time redirecting old URLs or having to start a new page each year, just leave the dates out of your URLs. This is the reason why major music festival websites dateless URLs for their promotional websites and subpages:


www.coachella.com


www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/line-up/


This way these festival sites don't need to get new pages to rank on Google and other search engines, when they put on a new festival each year, instead they update the dates, details and lineup for that year's festival on dateless, logical  general URLs, this maintains the strength of these URLs and makes sure they can be used every year. 


Finding The Right URL Structure for SEO


It's not just the individual names of URLs that is important. The way URL names are structured and relate to one another plays an important role in the overall crawlability of your website. If you are yet to start website you can start by placing keyword in your page address:


www.buybeatles-tshirts.com


This address will optimize the term 'buy beatles T-shirts'. Also note the dashes, adding these to ULRs in between your keywords makes them easier for Googlebot to identify. 


Perhaps you can't afford to buy this URL or its focus is too specific. If the website in the previous example had the website address www.rocktshirts.com, they could then add  beatles to the end of the URL for a subpage:


www.rocktshirts.com/beatles-tshirts  


This would also be great for optimizing the term, but the first example would likely be better for optimizing that specific phrase beatles t shirts. This is because keywords that are part of a website's main URL get a powerful optimization boost.


Regardless of which part of the URLs you decide to put your keywords in, pay attention to the address for your subpages and always opt for keywords over random words and numbers. A site with an SEO friendly URL structure will  rank much better than one without. It will also get you more clicks on the search engine results page, Afterall where would you be more likely to buy festival tickets from?

 

Coachella 2021 - Festicket

www.festticket.com/rfölfmerfkmcategorypage.asp?prodld=1234567 (this is not a real URL) 

Coachella is North America's most famous music festival , held each April at its now iconic home at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.

Or 

Coachella 2021 - Festicket

www.festicket.com › festivals › coachella-valley-music-... (this URL looks logical and reliable) 

Coachella is North America's most famous music festival , held each April at its now iconic home at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.


Bad URL Characters and Invalid URLS 


The worst possible URLs for SEO are the ones that cannot be found by search engines at all. If your website's URLs are written with characters that Google's crawlers can't read then no users will find them on search engines. This is why it is so important to stick to the URL characters accepted by search engines and avoid creating invalid URLS.


There are a whole host of keyboard symbols and characters that should not be used in your URLs. Things get really complex when we get into other languages that don't use the latin alphabet but when it comes to English we have two easy tips to remember. The first is tha t if the character isn't on the following list it definitely shouldn't be used in your URL at all 


ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

0123456789

-._~:/?#[]@!$&'()*+,;=


Any characters that are not on this list are likely to create an invalid URL if they are not correctly adapted with percentage encoding (we will come back to this later)  One of the most common characters wrongly used in URLs,  that you may not have noticed isn't on the top  list, is the double quote marks "" so make sure you avoid those in URLs.


The second tip is an additional note for a handful of the characters on the list above, these ones:

: /#?&@%+~

These characters are referred to as reserved characters. This means using them in the URL also performs an important function. For instance / is used to separate the subsections of a websites and the # is used to create URLs that take users to a specific part of a page. Unless you are using these characters for their special purpose and know how they work, I would also avoid using them in your URLs. 

Percentage Encoding invalid URL Characters


For most people sticking  to the  accepted list of characters is enough, but some of you will be  wondering why URLs you have created with characters not on this list have worked, or perhaps you are always looking to bend the break rules. You cannot use characters that are not on the list above but a percentage code can be used in place of these characters. For example: 


   !       #       $     %     &       '       (         )    *        +       ,     

%21 %23 %24 %25 %26 %27 %28 %29 %2A %2B %2C


For most websites avoiding using any of the characters that are not on the first list is the best option. But if you do want more information on using invalid URL character with percentage encoding checkout this advice section from Google 


We hope this article has given you some good insights into the best ways to create Search Engine friendly URLs. For a complete audit of your website's Digital Marketing strategy along with a customized step-by-step plan for improving it, check out rankingCoach 360 .


Want more on Digital Marketing check out these articles: 



rankingCoach's Digital Marketing Tips of The Month


SEO & SEA as Different Parts of Online Marketing


What Is Duplicate Content And How Do I Avoid It?


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13 Aug, 2020