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SEO URL Structure: Best Practices for an SEO-Friendly URL

Your journey to online success begins with a solid understanding of the basics of SEO. If you're new to this, you're in the right place.


For businesses, SEO is a lifeline. You need to ensure when potential customers search for products or services, they find your website. SEO enables small businesses to compete with industry leaders and establish a strong online presence.


In this article, our main focus is the SEO URL structure. It's more than just a web address. It's the roadmap that search engines use to navigate a website. A well-structured URL will not only enhance the visibility of your site but also improve user experience.


What is a URL?


A uniform resource locator (URL) is commonly known as a website address that specifies the location of web pages on the internet. The human-readable text was designed to replace IP addresses.


URLs consist of domain names and protocols that tell a browser where and how to retrieve resources. People use URLs by clicking a hyperlink on a webpage or typing directly into the browser’s address bar or bookmark list.


For instance, the URL below will help you retrieve information on LinkedIn.


Visualizing the anatomy of a URLURL format illustration

The domain name is the name of the location where resources are located. In this case, LinkedIn is the hostname.


What is a URL Structure?


A URL has multiple parts: subdomain, hostname/domain name, and path/page. Let’s dive deeper to understand the URL structure.


We shall use the URL below to break down the structure.

  • Protocol

  • Subdomain

  • Root Domain (Domain name)

  • TLD (Top-level domain)

  • Path

  • Query

URL Structure Example

Protocol


This is the "http://" or "https://" (Hypertext transfer protocol) at the beginning of a URL - the "s" means secure. It's the network communication protocol between a web server and your web browser. It is how your browser gets information about a web page.



image showing the protocal in a URL structure

Subdomain


These are the words that come before the first dot (.) in a URL. The most common phrase is "www" (World Wide Web). Other types may include "news", " support", and "blog" among many others.


The subdomain comes before the root domain. It enables a website to separate and organise content for a particular function.



Image showing subdomain in a URL structure

Root Domain


This is what you type in your browser to reach a website. In simple terms, it's the address of a website. This part comes after "www" in the URL of a website.



Image showing root domain in a url structure

TLD (top-level domain)


Also referred to as the domain extension, this is the last bit of text in the root domain. It helps identify, organise, and classify a website based on the type of content and purpose. Examples include ".com", ".org", ".edu", ".net", etc.



There are various types of TLDs including:


  • Generic TLD (gTLD): Like ".com", ".net", and ".org".

  • New Generic TLD (nTLD): These are a new generation of domain extensions e.g., ".google", ".amazon", ".online", and ".apple" among others.

  • Sponsored TLD (sTLD): These are sponsored and used by organisations e.g., ".edu", ".gov", ".museum", ".asia", etc.

  • Country Code TLD (ccTLD): They indicate a country, region, or geographical location e.g., ".ke", ".berlin", ".hamburg", ".us", and ".uk" among others.


Image showing TLD in a URL structure

Path


This part comes after the TLD. It's what leads you to the exact location of a page, post, or file.



Image showing the path in a URL structure

Query


In some URLs, you'll see a "?" followed by a set of characters. It is referred to as a Query string or parameters. It helps retrieve specific information from a database.



Imagine showing the path in a URL structure

Why URL Structure Matters in SEO


URL structure matters in SEO for search engines and users.


For search engines


Search engines like Google use URLs to understand the content of a page. They need to first find your page before indexing. Having a clear and organised URL can help search engine crawlers index your site more efficiently, increasing your chances of ranking well in search results.


Creates a good user experience


User experience matters just as much. Having a well-structured URL makes it easier for users to have a clue about what they'll find on a page before even clicking the link. This can lead to higher click-through rates.


An exceptional user experience depends on whether visitors find what they are looking for on a page. The SEO URL structure performs this function well and leads to a great user experience when they land on your page.


Best Practices for SEO-Friendly URL Structure


Here are some best practices for creating SEO-friendly URLs:


Choose a clear and descriptive domain name


Your domain name should reflect your business or website's identity. It should be easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. Avoid complex or lengthy domain names.


For example, www.masterclass.com is clear and relevant. On the other hand, www.masterclassz4youandmore.com is complex and less relevant.


Create user-friendly and relevant directory structures


Organise your website's content into logical directories. This not only helps search engines understand your site's hierarchy but also makes it easier for users to navigate.


For instance, www.example.com/blog/seo-tips is logical and organised while www.example.com/12345/page is not clear and it's disorganised.


Utilise hyphens vs. underscores in URL construction


When separating words in your URLs, use hyphens "-" rather than underscores "_". That is because search engines recognize hyphens as word separators.


For example, it should be www.example.com/seo-tips and not www.example.com/seo_tips.


Example of a good URL structure

Keep URLs short and focused on the target keyword


Shorter URLs are easier to read and share. Also, including the target keyword in the URL can improve search engine ranking for that keyword. However, stuffing keywords in your URL brings negative SEO impacts on your site - it makes content sound unnatural to visitors, and search engines can remove the page from search results.


For example, www.example.com/seo-tips is short and focused. On the other hand, www.example.com/blog/important-seo-tips-for-beginners is long and less focused.


Avoid URL parameters whenever possible


URL parameters like "?id=123" can create messy and confusing URLs. Try to avoid them when structuring your URLs.


For example, www.example.com/product?id=123 is messy and confusing. However, www.example.com/product/smartphone is neat and descriptive.


Ensure consistency in URL naming conventions


Consistency is key. Stick to a uniform naming convention for your URLs throughout your website. This helps maintain clarity and professionalism.


For example, www.example.com/blog/seo-tips is consistent whereas www.example.com/posts/seo_hints shows inconsistency.


Use HTTPS


HTTPS means your website is secure. Using this protocol in your URL proves to visitors and search engines that your website is secure. It helps reduce the chances of your website being hacked and makes visitors feel more secure particularly when making online payments.



Choosing HTTPS as Your Protocol


Avoid stop words


Remove stop words such as"a", "an", " the", "and", " for", "to", etc to make your URL SEO friendly. URLs don't need such words to convey meaning. They make a URL unnecessarily longer and hard to remember.



Use lowercase letters


You should use lowercase letters in URLs because they are case-sensitive. Using other uppercase letters in URLs can lead you to a 404 error page - in simple terms, your page can not be found.


For example, don't use https://example.com/Flights/GermanyToUK. Rather, it should be written as https://example.com/flights/germany-to-uk.


Avoid using dates


Including dates in URLs can make your content appear outdated with time. For instance, let's say you published an article on your website in 2020. People visiting the page in 2030 will see the information as outdated if a date appears in the URL. In simple terms, dates suggest that the information in your article is old.


For example, www.example.com/blog/seo-tips/2020/05/09 makes information in this blog outdated. Rather, it should be www.example.com/blog/seo-tips.


Wrap Up


By following these best practices for SEO-friendly URL structure, you'll be setting your website on a path toward better search engine rankings and an enhanced user experience. These simple web addresses play a significant role in how both visitors and search engines perceive your site's content.


Download SEO URL Structure: Best Practices for an SEO-Friendly URL under the image below or visit our blog for more resources.


SEO URL structure checklist

URL SEO Structure Checklist
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