Guide to SEO URL Structure

The uniform resource locator, better known as a URL, is basically what the address to your domain happens to be. It allows the data from your domain to be retrieved and then displayed through the browser of the user. Although there aren’t really any imposed limits to a URL, IE users can’t access sites that have 2,084 characters or more in them if they are using older versions of the browser.

Why do we have URLs today? Because they are easier to remember than the series of numbers that IP addresses use to communicate with servers. They also help to indicate the file structure and levels of navigation that are available within a website.

What Are the Best Practices For URL Structure?

One of the most important things you can do with URL structure is to make sure you’re using a hyphen to separate words [a-separated-word] instead of underscores [a_separated_word]. Don’t use spaces or other characters, like a %, to separate words either. Hyphens will indicate separation in a search, but the other items eliminate the separation.

In other words, if you use underscores, a search engine will see your URL as [aseparatedword]. Use hyphens and the search engine sees [a-separated-word]. Which is easier to read? Which has more overall value?

It is also a best practice to avoid the old dynamic structure of a URL. Most people actually look at the address of the site they are visiting to see what kind of content it will contain. If there is just a series of random looking numbers that are separated by files that look equally random, then it’s impossible to know what the content of the site is.

Amazon has made this change very rapidly. Take this SEO optimized link, for example.

Under the old dynamic structure, this link would have instead been this.

Limit the Dynamic Parameters As Much As Possible

Dynamic parameters are sometimes necessary in a URL – there’ s just no getting around it. This is especially true for ecommerce solutions. Bloggers – you shouldn’t be having any dynamic parameters at all since they aren’t necessary to what you are attempting to accomplish. What is a dynamic parameter? It is the part of the URL which gives data to a database so that a proper record can be retrieved.

The goal in limiting these parameters is to create three primary values that can be utilized so that search engines and visitors can make sense of what your content contains.

1. Semantics.
By looking at the URL, everyone can know what is contained within the URL. This improves decision-making all around because value can be immediately realized.

2. Links.
Anchor text is important in adding to the niche expertise of a website. When a URL is properly structured with keywords that make sense, then the URL can serve as its own anchor text if need be.

3. Relevance.
A URL that has relevant wording and verbiage within the address makes a site easier to locate on a search, which means more traffic referrals.

It’s All About Keyword Equity

We often talk about link equity, which occurs when incoming and outgoing links organically connect content that is valuable to the reader and the search engine. What we should also be talking about is keyword equity, which originates from the URL and then transitions throughout the rest of the keywords that are emphasized within the site.

Let’s use the Amazon product example from above. In the old dynamic format, where there is no actual description of the product, there will be no keyword equity passed along for anything. Under the new format, someone searching for “AC Delco Tools” might just hit that link, especially if they are using Google’s shopping searches. The “AC Delco Tools” search therefore has keyword equity.

In return, any other keywords that are emphasized will receive additional equity as well. “Power tools,” “DIY tools for the home,” and “affordable tools on a budget” might all receive ranking boosts because of the URL keyword equity. One just has to be careful about not packing in all of the keywords into the URL so that Google and other search engines can come up with an excuse to hand down a penalty.

Optimizing a URL for better SEO doesn’t take long and the process is rather simple. Follow this guide and you may just find a better ranking in all of your keywords in the near future.

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