SEO URL structure words against numbers
How to Create SEO Friendly URLs
Urls. They are one of the basic elements of SEO. They are extremely important.
Backlinko says URLs are a crucial ranking factor.
- The length of the URL ranks 46th out of the 200 most important ranking factors from Google
- The URL path is at position 47
- The keywords in the URL are in 51st place
- The URL string is at position 52
When you look at all of these elements together, URL optimization is pretty important.
It's actually quite simple.
Just choose a few words, put a keyword or two in the URL and you're done. Or?
If only it were that easy.
URL optimization is a science in itself.
But with a lot of research, a little tinkering and after a few mistakes, I have developed what I think is a waterproof formula.
My formula covers all the basics and makes both search engines and real users equally happy.
In this post, I'll explain how to create an SEO-friendly URL and what's behind each tactic.
Here we go.
Decide on a top-level domain
We'd best start at the very beginning.
There is an infographic from Search Engine Land that covers all of the elements of a good URL structure.
I want to emphasize that a top-level domain (TLD) is mostly the best choice.
So you should choose a “* .com” domain and not a “.biz”, “.pro” or “.tel” domain.
I'm not saying that all is lost if you don't have a “.com” domain.
The TLD does not directly influence your ranking in the search engines.
But users tend to trust these domains less.
And that's a problem.
When users trust your domain, it has a positive impact on your SEO.
I know that this advice won't do you much good if you've already chosen a different domain.
I am also aware that it is not always possible to land a “.com” domain with your brand name (in 2016 there were over 124 million “.com” domains). But you should keep my advice in the back of your mind in case you have to choose a domain again in the future.
In this article you can read what you should do if your desired domain name is already taken.
HTTPS is ideal
Online security is an important issue.
Internet users want a secure connection as cybercrime and identity theft make their rounds.
Just look at how much cybercrime increased from 2001 to 2015.
A dramatic increase.
Therefore you should use an HTTPS and not an HTTP connection.
In case you don't know the difference, here is the explanation. HTTPS stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure”. This is the secure version of HTTP.
It means that the information on the website is encrypted and therefore much more secure.
Here is a picture to help you understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS:
It not only calms your visitors, it is now even a ranking signal.
According to Searchmetrics, “HTTPS is becoming more and more important and is even being used by Google as a ranking signal. The encryption of information is especially important for sites that sell products or handle sensitive customer information in order to gain customer trust and improve the conversion rate. "
I think it will become even more important as a ranking factor in the future.
If your site does not yet have an SSL certificate, you should take care of it as soon as possible.
Especially when you process customer orders and handle sensitive payment information.
You can learn more about the process here.
You can choose a company to buy an SSL certificate.
One of the top providers is Namecheap.
First you choose a plan.
Then you decide for how many years you want to buy the SSL certificate.
Then you have to confirm your order.
Once the SSL certificate has been activated, you will need to install it and refresh your site to use HTTPS.
It's pretty technical, but you can read everything you need to know about it here.
The article explains everything step-by-step.
Now that we have clarified the technical aspects of URL optimization, let's get down to business.
I want to go into the length of the url first, then that is an important factor.
Setting the length of the URL is actually not that difficult.
The shorter the better.
According to Backlinko, "shorter URLs are better placed than long URLs".
To prove the point, they extensively tested millions of Google results.
Here is a statistic that shows that the longer the URL is, the longer the URL, the lower the Google ranking.
You can clearly see that URLs that are number one have an average of 50 characters.
In 10th place, the average number of characters is already 62.
So between 50-60 characters is quite good.
If your URL is way too long (let's say over 80 characters), it is very likely to have a negative impact on your ranking.
How many words should you use?
Personally, I use three to five words per URL, because that is clear and the users can still get a clear impression of the topic of the website.
Here are a few examples from NeilPatel.com
Do you see what i mean?
I keep the number of words in the URL to a minimum, but you can immediately see what to expect when you click on the link.
In an interview with Matt Cutts, it turned out that this is a good formula to stick to.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
You should summarize the content of your page in three to five words and try to use a maximum of 60 characters.
If you use this formula, you should be on the safe side.
As already said, the usability and the general SEO of your site are related.
They are connected to each other.
This is especially true for URL optimization.
Or as Moz says: “A well-built URL serves people and Search engines with easy-to-understand hints about the content and subject of the landing page. "
That brings me to my next point.
You should aim for a legible URL.
Even though I am aware that this is entirely subjective, this “scale of readability” explains the point quite well.
The first example is short, gets to the point, and is easy to understand.
Before you even click, you know that the page contains pictures of cute puppies who are being confused by a rainbow.
The page likely contains such images:
The other examples are always more confusing.
In the third example, you cannot tell what you will see when you click on the link.
It could even be an infected link that gave your computer a terrible virus.
But I would like to go into more detail about the importance of legibility.
So let's say someone links to one of your posts.
Even if you add your own anchor text, something like “cute pups confused by a rainbow”, to the link, the URL may well be shared elsewhere over time.
Sooner or later, just the original url might just be shared.
If the URL is readable, such as http://mydomain.com/puppies-adorably-confused-by-rainbow, the URL can still be understood.
But if the URL is ugly, like http://cdn07.mydomain.cc/9rf7e2/i?HXID+iaj34089jgt30hgqa3&qry=f#loaddelay, no one has any idea what it is all about.
Do you dare to click on such a link?
So you want to make your URLs as clear and understandable as possible.
If you can immediately understand them at first glance, you've done everything right.
Fortunately, you are human. So it shouldn't be too difficult to structure URLs for other people.
Use hyphens, no underscores
You have two options for filling the gap between two words.
You can use either hyphens or underscores.
What is better?
Clearly. You should always use hyphens.
Here's a tip straight from the source:
If Google prefers hyphens, you can be sure that this is the best choice.
Okay, most of you are probably already aware of that.
I want to mention it anyway, just to be on the safe side.
You should always use lower case.
Capitalization can cause problems with redirects and 404 errors on the servers.
You should avoid that.
Here is a controversial topic.
Should I use stop words or not? That's a good question.
But what are stop words actually?
These are “filler words” that connect the important words that make up the foundation of your URL.
These stop words have been an ultimate and unforgivable sin in SEO for a long time.
But, you know what?
They really aren't that bad.
It is unlikely that you will be punished for using stop words.
Still, you're doing yourself a disservice.
Stop words are ignored by the search engines and have no weight as a ranking factor.
Here is my advice:
Avoid them if possible.
If your URL structure makes sense and is readable even without stop words, they would only lengthen and complicate your URL unnecessarily.
But if you think a stop word is necessary for your URL to make sense and be readable, then you should add it.
The emphasis is on “readable”.
If the url with the stop word is more readable, then this is your best option.
Here you have to use common sense.
Use “safe” signs
Here is one more point that I need to address.
This has to do with using “safe” characters in your url.
I can best explain this by showing you the difference between a safe sign and an unsafe sign in this graphic from Perishable Press:
It's actually quite simple.
You will have no problem using safe characters in your url.
However, you should definitely avoid the unsafe signs.
This is because these characters cause browser problems.
This is not good.
Use a maximum of two folders per url
If you don't know what I mean by “folder”, I'll explain it to you. These are the slashes between the text in the URL.
As always with URL optimization, you should also keep the number of folders you use per URL to a minimum.
True to the motto: less is more.
According to Moz, “the slashes (aka orders) do not directly harm the performance of your page, but they can cause search engines and users to misjudge the depth of the page, and they make processing the URL string significantly more complicated (at least that's true to most CMS protocols).
Here is an example from Rand Fishkin to clarify:
Users can still see what it's about right away, even though the second, revised URL has fewer folders.
And if you really want to be on the safe side, use a folder or two at most.
Then your URL is much prettier and can be better deciphered by the search engines.
Aim on 1-2 keywords
Oh yes ... keywords.
You would have wanted to know that the topic would come up sooner or later.
What is the best way to deal with the keywords when creating a url?
Should you use it?
If so, how many can I use before my page is considered spam and I get myself a penalty?
Here is my take on the subject.
You should definitely continue to incorporate your keywords into your URL.
Even if you are not catapulted to first place in the search results, it should improve your ranking little boost miss.
And from a user perspective, the keywords serve an important purpose.
The URL acts as anchor text, should your URL be shared without an explanatory supplement.
Then you can immediately see what it is about at first glance, no matter where the link is shared.
The URL is understandable even without anchor text.
Then you don't have to make any guesses, which in turn will encourage more people to click the link.
But you have to pay attention to something.
In no case should you stuff your URL with keywords.
That should be clear to you.
That would be a disaster.
How many keywords can you use?
Is there a certain number?
According to Brian Dean of Backlinko and John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, you should use one or two keywords per URL.
If you use more, Google will “give you less credit”.
Let's be completely honest.
Keyword stuffing is always a bad idea.
You don't stuff your content with keywords either, why should your URL be any different?
When it comes to keyword positioning, there is a general belief that keywords should be placed at the beginning of the URL.
Avoid repeating keywords
Here is one more detail.
The keywords in your url should never repeat themselves (this applies to all words, actually).
There is a reason for that.
Repetition is pointless because Google won't reward you for repeating keywords (are we still stuck in 2005?).
Such repetitions could even be viewed as an attempt at manipulation and of course this is not a good thing.
Also, your URL could look like spam and you would lose your credibility.
Moz provides a great example.
It just looks stupid because the keyword “Canoe Puppies” is listed twice.
So you should avoid this tactic at all costs.
Even if it looks straightforward in theory, optimizing a URL can be tricky.
There are several things to look out for when structuring your URL so that it appeals to both search engines and users.
This starts with the technical aspects, such as the selection of a top-level domain and the SSL certificate, because the users have to know that your site is trustworthy.
You should then use the correct number of characters and the correct words so that your URL is readable.
Then you also have to pay attention to the format so that the URL does not cause browser problems.
And of course you have to use the right keywords and always make sure that you don't use black hat tactics.
Yes, that can be pretty complicated.
But if you break the process down into its individual steps, you can handle URL optimization much better.
And if you really think about it, the whole process can be summed up in three words.
Short, easy to understand and read.
If you create your URLs with this objective in mind, you are prepared for any eventuality.
Do you know any other URL optimization strategies?
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