To put it simply, a URL is a web address that directs a browser to a specific page on the internet. Every webpage has one, you could think of it as an ID tag or name badge as it’s what distinguishes a page from all the billions of others on the internet.
You might be wondering what impact URL structure can have on your site’s SEO. While it might seem like a tiny part of your page, having a strong URL structure can:
As we mentioned, URLs can impact user experience and either encourage or discourage users to click through to your website, which is why they’re so important. This is because of default bias, which is the idea that people tend to choose the easiest options in order to avoid any complex decisions. URLs are often the first part of a web page, along with the meta title and description, that a user will see. Therefore, if your URL is the easiest and simplest to understand, they are more likely to choose your page on the SERP than your competitor who may have a more complicated, or less clear URL.
The structure of a URL without any queries or filters is usually as follows:
Making an SEO-friendly URL structure is simple if you know how! Here are our top six tips for ensuring the structure of your URL is as strong as possible.
Keeping your URL structure as organised and simple as possible is extremely important when it comes to user experience and SEO. Your homepage is the hub of your website and all pages will stem from it, but how they do this is up to you. To make your website clear and easy to navigate for users, we recommend keeping your URL structure organised by having categories, subcategories and so on. Otherwise, your URL is likely to become cluttered, disorganised and confusing for both users and search engines.
What do we mean by categories and subcategories? Let’s take The Moorings, a provider of sailing vacations. Their homepage links to their destinations page, which looks at all of the places they offer vacations. This then links to individual destinations, such as the Mediterranean, which in turn links to countries and then specific locations within the countries. You can even go as far as itineraries for specific islands, as seen below.
It wouldn’t make sense to have the Corfu Cruising Itineraries page link straight from the homepage (moorings.com/corfu-cruising-itineraries) when there are more relevant pages it can link to, such as Corfu, Greece and the Mediterranean. Therefore, it makes sense to divide the URLs into categories, subcategories and finally land on moorings.com/destinations/mediterranean/greece/corfu/corfu-cruising-itineraries. It gives a clear journey for users, almost like leaving breadcrumbs from the homepage, and tells the search engines which other pages are relevant!
Leading on from our first tip, it’s really important to ensure your URL structure is relevant. Search engines, such as Google, take website structure and relevance into consideration when ranking pages on their SERPs so it’s crucial to highlight exactly why the page you’ve created should be on your website, and why it should rank well.
One way you can do this is, as mentioned above, by ensuring you are using categories and subcategories to create a relevant and informative user journey, rather than linking everything straight from your homepage. However, our other tip for keeping the structure of your URL relevant comes down to the ‘slug’, also known as the very last part of your URL.
Your slug needs to speak to what the subject of the page is about. It is the very first indicator to search engines and users of what they can expect to find on this page so it wouldn’t make sense to have a slug that says /tennis-clothes when in fact it should be /sports-clothes if there are other things on the product page.
One way to ensure your URL is relevant is to take inspiration from your page title as that is a summary of what the page is about. Let’s take a recent Reflect blog as an example:
As you can see, the blog was about creating FinTech Digital PR campaigns that build trust. To ensure the URL was as relevant to the page content as possible, we used the same wording as the title, making sure to remove any capital letters (more on this later). This resulted in a relevant URL structure, making the page instantly recognisable and understandable to both users and search engines!
You may remember from earlier that Google considers URLs to be a minor ranking factor. To be more specific, using targeted keywords in your URL slug could help you to rank higher, providing the rest of your on-page SEO has also been optimised for keywords.
Just like when you write content, you need to ensure that any keywords you incorporate into your URL are natural and make sense. As most page titles will have targeted keywords in, you can follow our tip above about taking inspiration from the title of your page.
We don’t mean to state the obvious but users and search engines need to be able to instantly understand what your webpage is about from the URL. If it is unreadable or different to the content on your page, users may be more likely to click through to a different page, or off your website altogether.
Making sure URLs are readable is also very important for website accessibility. If someone uses a screen reader and what it reads back to them isn’t what they’d expect from the webpage they’ve clicked on, they are more than likely to go back to the SERP and use a competitor's website.
Our top tip? Keep it simple and if you’re going to paraphrase, make sure it makes sense when you read it aloud. Take a look at the example below, while /urls-friendly-step-by-step makes sense to us because we know about the topic, it might not to a user who doesn’t know about URL structures yet, whereas /seo-friendly-urls mentions SEO, URLs and offers a snapshot of what the page is about.
One of the most important pieces of advice we could give when it comes to URL structures: Keep your URL structures clean!
What we mean by clean is:
You might be thinking, why? Firstly, it makes all URLs across your website look uniform and neat, which is always a positive thing! However, there are implications if you don’t have a clean URL structure too.
URLs are case sensitive which means certain servers will treat capitalised URLs differently to lowercase. This means, if one interprets it with capitals and one without, you could be at risk of having duplicated content which will impact your rankings. Browsers also cannot recognise spaces (have you ever seen %20 in a URL and wondered why? This is what browsers rewrite spaces as). Aside from anything, this makes the URL look cluttered and it also takes away from the relevance of the slug.
We’d also recommend limiting the use of numbers or time-sensitive data in your URLs wherever possible as URLs cannot be changed, so if you want to update your content for a different year or have changed the number of tips in your blog from 5 to 10, you’d need to redirect the page to have it reflected in your URL.
To summarise, your URLs shouldn’t look like this:
Best practice URL structures should look something like this instead:
Want to test your URL structure to ensure it’s relevant, neat, organised and isn’t likely to cause duplicate content? You can use online tools such as the SEO Friendly URL Test from SEO Site Checker.
You may not realise this but website security and URL structure go hand in hand. We couldn’t write a guide about how to structure a URL without mentioning security!
You’ll notice that your website will either have http:// or http:// at the beginning of every URL. Http is a protocol used to transfer information across the internet. In other words, it’s what allows you to access web pages. However, the data is not encrypted or secure which means anyone can access it on any server, creating potential security risks. Https, on the other hand, is only available if you have an SSL certificate and adds a layer of security to your website.
SSL (also known as TLS) is a way of encrypting and authenticating traffic and server identity. If your website has an SSL certificate, users will know that you are keeping your data secure and are more likely to trust and use your website. In other words, having https:// at the beginning of your URL structure acts as a huge trust signal for users.
To get an SSL certificate for your website, you must go through a verified Certificate Authority (CA) which will validate your certificate and enable you to install it.
So there you have it…our guide to creating SEO-friendly URL structures!
From using keywords in your URL to removing capital letters and using subcategories, there are so many ways to elevate your URL structures and positively impact SEO in the process. Remember, the most important thing is that your URL structure is easy for users and search engines to understand, just like your copywriting.
In doing so, users are less likely to return to the SERPs and, with a strong website architecture in place, will be more likely to continue their user journey on your website and convert.
If you have any questions about URL structures and SEO strategies or want to understand more about how we can support you to elevate your digital marketing strategy through human behaviour insights, get in touch with us today.
Wordsmith Morgan joined the Reflect Digital team fresh out of University and is learning about the world of digital marketing while supporting the SEO team with highly engaging content. With a background in website administration and social media, she also brings a broader perspective to her clients.More about Morgan