The structure of your domain name and URLs can have a big impact on your site’s SEO. While Google and the other major search engines have evolved to handle a wide range of URL structures, your original web content is likely to rank better if you follow certain best practices and suggestions. Let’s take a look at some key tactics that can help you optimize your URLs for the search engines.
Single Domains and Subdomains Work Best
The evidence speaks for itself: Websites consistently see improvements in their ranking when they move their unique content from a subdomain to a subfolder. If it’s possible to have your blog on the same sub and root domain as the rest of your site, the blog is likely to rank better and help the other parts of your site perform better as well.
Make Your URLs Easy to Read
Search engines place a good deal of emphasis on accessibility, and they use data signals to figure out which content gets more user engagement. A URL that’s compelling and clear will give users a good idea of what to expect when they click on the page, and it’s likely to fare better in the rankings.
Use Your Targeted Keywords in URLs
The same keywords you’ve targeted for your SEO content can work well in your URLs. Those keywords help searchers understand what they’re getting when they hover on a link and see the URL before clicking. When a link gets copied and pasted with no anchor text, the URL itself serves as the anchor text; in these cases, having targeted keywords in the URL gives it added SEO power.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Short URLs tend to perform better than longer ones. Try to keep them under 60 characters if you can. If your URLs are currently over 100 characters, rewriting them would likely make a real difference in user experience. While the search engines have no trouble handling long URLs, shorter ones are easier for users to understand, embed and share on social media.
Separate Words with Hyphens and Underscores
Try to avoid spaces in your URLs: They render as “%20”, which can decrease the URL’s readability. Search engines handle both hyphens and underscores with ease, so either of these separators can be used between words.
Canonicalize URLs to Avoid Duplicate Content
Many websites end up having two URLs that serve nearly identical content. Canonicalizing these URLs is a fairly straightforward process that can have big SEO benefits. If you don’t really need to maintain the duplicate page, you can use a 301 redirect to canonicalize the first one. For instances where both versions of the content need to be maintained, such as a printer-friendly version of a page, you can use the rel=canonical tag. Duplicate content can hurt your SEO by splitting ranking signals between two pages. When you canonicalize the pages, you give the preferred page a better chance of rankng well.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Earlier in this article, using targeted keywords in your URLs was recommended; however, it can be easy to overuse these words and actually hurt your ranking. Repeating keywords in a URL won’t help your SEO, so it’s best to play it safe and only use each targeted keyword once.
Whether you create your own SEO content or you buy content from a freelance technical writer, the structure of your URLs can make a real difference in your website’s rankings. With these tips in mind, you can be sure that your URLs are optimized for both human readers as well as the search engines.