How to Optimize Your URL for SEO: The Definitive Guide
Optimizing your URL is a fundamental part of On-Page SEO.
It’s the first thing search engines and internet browsers notice about your page. It’s also the key to your webpage.
As a result, your URL plays a big role in your website’s relevancy.
But how do we optimize our URL for search engines? What should we do, and what should we avoid? And how do we optimize for a URL that already exists?
In this post, we’re going to cover all of that along with anything and everything else that has to do with URL optimization.
What is a URL?
A URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator) is a web address that identifies the location of a resource on the internet.
It is the unique identifier of a web page, image, video, or any other resource that can be accessed through the internet. URLs are essential for the functioning of the internet, as they provide a way to locate and access resources from anywhere in the world.
A URL consists of several parts, including:
- The protocol, which specifies the method used to retrieve the resource (ie. HTTP or HTTPS)
- The domain name, which identifies the web server that hosts the resource (ie. skycrawlerdigital.com)
- The path, which specifies the location of the resource on the server
- The query string, which contains additional parameters that can be used to modify the behavior of the resource
We use URLs to access pages on the internet. Every page has a URL of it’s own and by entering it into the address bar, we can access the page.
Anatomy of a Domain
In order to properly optimize your URL for SEO, understanding the anatomy of a domain is crucial. A domain is the main part of your website’s URL, and it consists of different elements that can impact your website’s search engine rankings.
What is a Top Level Domain (TLD)?
The top level domain (TLD) is the last part of your domain name, such as .com, .org, .net, .edu, etc. There are hundreds of TLDs available, and each has its own purpose. For example, .com is the most popular TLD and is generally used for commercial websites, while .org is used for non-profit organizations.
Does Your Top Level Domain Really Matter?
The short answer is no, your TLD does not directly impact your website’s search engine rankings.
However, it can indirectly affect your rankings in a few ways:
- Credibility: Some TLDs, such as .edu and .gov, are considered more credible and trustworthy by search engines and users.
- Localization: If you have a country-specific TLD, such as .co.uk or .ca, it can help you rank better in that country’s search results.
- Branding: Your TLD can also impact your branding and how users perceive your website. For example, many SAAS companies and cryptocurrency projects use .io for the domain of their website.
- Trust: Certain TLD’s are regularly abused by spammers. As a result, people are less likely to trust websites that use them. Avoid using TLDs highly associated with spam unless you have a very good reason to. According to Spamhaus, the TLD’s most associated with spam are .live, .degree, and .makeup.
In summary, understanding the anatomy of a domain is essential for optimizing your website’s URL for SEO. While your TLD may not be a direct ranking factor, it can indirectly impact your website’s credibility, localization, and branding.
How to Optimize Your URL
When it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, URLs play a crucial role. A well-crafted URL can help search engines understand what your page is about and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results. Here are some tips to optimize your URL for SEO:
Try Describing Your Content
Your URL should provide a clear and concise description of the content on your page. Avoid using generic or vague terms that don’t accurately describe your content. Instead, use specific and descriptive words that give users an idea of what to expect when they visit it.
Use Lowercase Letters
Using lowercase letters in your URL is not only easier to read, but it can also help with consistency and avoid confusion. Search engines treat uppercase and lowercase letters differently after the domain, so using lowercase letters can ensure that your URLs are consistent and easy to read. They can also make your longer URLs easier to remember
Including relevant keywords in your URL is extremely important. It tells search engines what your page is about, improving your chances of ranking higher in search results. However, don’t stuff your URL with too many keywords, as this can be seen as spammy and hurt your rankings.
Separate Words Using Hyphens
Separating words in your URL using hyphens can make it easier for users and search engines to read and understand. Avoid using underscores or spaces though, as these can cause issues with URL parsing.
Keep URLs as Short as Possible
Shorter URLs are not only easier to read and remember, but they also go a long way towards an authoritative website. This is part of the reason why single word domains are so valuable. Avoid using long and complex URLs that are difficult to read and remember.
Use Static URLs
URL’s can be static or Dynamic. A Static URL never changes, while a Dynamic URL constantly changes depending on how people are accessing the content. For example, many e-commerce sites use Dynamic URLs for checkout pages. If you were to try entering the Dynamic URL of a checkout page after the transaction has been completed, you’ll likely get a different looking page.
You should be using Static URLs whenever possible. Static URLs help search engines understand the content on your page better and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results. They’re also easier to read and remember than dynamic URLs.
Avoid Subdomains, Use Subroots Instead
Using Subdomains can dilute the authority of your main domain, making it harder to optimize your URL and see results. This is because Google considers subdomains to be separate sites of their own. Instead, use subroots to organize your content and keep your URLs consistent.
If parts of your website are already on subdomains, don’t worry. You can still rank with subdomains, it just takes more time.
Limit Folders in URL Structure
Limiting the number of folders in your URL structure can make it easier for users and search engines to read and understand. Avoid using too many folders, as this can make your URLs long and complex.
If you’re on WordPress, this is something to keep an eye for. WordPress automatically put posts into folders of their own and if you don’t set it up properly, you’ll have each new post end up with a URL that looks like “site.com/2024/01/22/category/subcategory/weeklypost”
Block Unsafe URLs with Robots.txt
Robots.txt is the file Google’s bots read when crawling your website. Blocking unsafe URLs with robots.txt can help protect your website from malicious bots and improve your website’s security. Make sure to regularly check your robots.txt file to ensure that it’s up-to-date and blocking any unsafe URLs.
Canonicalize Your URLs
Canonicalizing is a part of optimizing your URL that is as important as it is overlooked.
Canonicalization in SEO is when you choose the URL that is most representative of a certain piece of content. This is done by simply reserving the most representative keywords of that content for that URL and not using them anywhere else.
Make sure you’re canonicalizing all your URLs to avoid issues with duplicate content and improve your website’s SEO. When internally linking to your URL, make sure to use the canonical tag to indicate the preferred version of your URL. This is done by adding rel=”canonical” to the HTML of the link.
A mistake related to canonicalization we see a lot at our SEO agency happens in the URL of ‘About Us’ pages. For some reason, a lot of business owners tend to add the primary keyword of their homepage to the URL. So if the site was a Landscaping business, the About us page would usually be something like site.com/About-Us-Landscaping. Don’t do this.
Don’t Forget 301 Redirect for Broken URLs
If you have broken URLs on your website, make sure to get rid of them. What you can do while you work on taking them down is use a 301 redirect to redirect users and search engines to the correct URL. This can also help avoid issues with duplicate content.
By following these tips, you can optimize your URL for SEO and improve your website’s chances of ranking higher in search results.
Everything you need to know about URL Slugs
What is a URL slug?
A URL slug, also known as a website slug, is the part of the URL that appears after the domain name and identifies a specific page on a website. It is the user-friendly version of the page’s URL that is easy to read and understand.
URL slugs are important for both users and search engines. For users, a well-crafted URL slug can provide a clear indication of what the page is about before they even click on it. For search engines, a descriptive URL slug can help them understand the content of the page and index it accordingly.
URL Slug Example
Let’s take an example of a URL slug:
In this example, the domain name is www.example.com, and the URL slug is /blog/what-is-a-url-slug. Here, the URL slug provides a clear indication that the page is a blog post about URL slugs.
It is important to note that URL slugs should be unique for each page on a website and should not contain any special characters or spaces. Instead, they should be separated by hyphens (-) to make them more readable and SEO-friendly.
In the next section, we will discuss how to optimize your URL slug for SEO.
URL Slug Best Practices
When it comes to optimizing your URL slug for SEO, there are a few best practices you should follow to ensure your page ranks well in search engine results pages (SERPs). Here are some tips to help you create SEO-friendly URL slugs.
Keep Things Simple
Your URL slug should be simple and easy to read. Avoid using special characters, symbols, or numbers that could confuse search engines or users. Instead, use hyphens to separate words in your URL slug.
Take Out the Extra Words in the Page Part of the URL Slug
When creating your URL slug, remove any extra words that don’t add value to the page. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about “The Best Ways to Clean Your House,” your URL slug should be something like “best-ways-clean-house” instead of “the-best-ways-to-clean-your-house.”
Include Relevant Keywords
Include one or two relevant keywords in your URL slug to help search engines understand what your page is about. Try to include the main keywords of your page as much as possible, as URLs carry a lot of SEO weight. This should actually be standard practice for optimizing your URL. However, don’t stuff your URL slug with too many keywords as this could hurt your ability to rank.
Make It Reader-Friendly
Your URL slug should be easy to read and understand for both search engines and users. For best practice, write URL slugs like you’re expecting the reader to type it in themselves to access your page. Use lowercase letters, avoid using underscores, and keep your URL slug short and sweet.
Don’t Use Slugs That Already Belong to Other Pages
Make sure your URL slug is unique and doesn’t belong to any other pages on your website. If you use the same URL slug for multiple pages, this will lead to duplicate content issues. Search engines won’t know which page to rank in the SERPs and you’ll see your two pages fighting back and forth.
Come Up with a System for Naming Slugs
Develop a system for naming your URL slugs. This will help you stay organized and consistent, making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website. For example, you could use your page title as the basis for your URL slug or use a specific category name in your URL slug.
By following these best practices, you can create SEO-friendly URL slugs that will help your pages rank higher in search engine results pages.
How to Optimize a URL That Already Exists
Optimizing a URL that already exists can provide special challenges. If it’s been around for a while, chances are it’s already developed some authority and backlinks you can lose if you’re not careful. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your existing URLs:
1. Analyze the backlink profile of your Existing URLs
The first step to optimizing your existing URLs is to analyze the backlink profile. Use a tool like Google Analytics, Semrush, Ahrefs, or SEranking to get a full list of websites linking to the existing URL. Once you have this information, you know who to reach out to in the later steps.
2. Keep the URL Short and Simple
When optimizing your existing URLs, try to keep them short and simple. Avoid using long, complicated URLs that are difficult for users to remember. Instead, use simple, descriptive URLs that accurately reflect the content of the page.
3. Include Your Target Keyword in the URL
Including your target keyword in the URL can help improve your website’s SEO. Make sure to include your target keyword in the URL, but don’t stuff it with too many keywords. Keep it natural and relevant to the content of the page.
4. Use Hyphens to Separate Words
When creating your URLs, use hyphens to separate words. This makes it easier for search engines to read and understand the content of your page. Avoid using underscores or other characters to separate words, as these can cause confusion for search engines.
5. Update Your Internal Links
Once you’ve optimized your existing URLs, make sure to update your internal links. This ensures that all links on your website are pointing to the correct, optimized URLs. It also avoids your site from running into issues with Google over broken links.
6. Reach out to all your backlinks with the new URL
After optimizing your existing URLs, you want to make sure that they’re still receiving the inbound links you worked hard to get. Reach out to all of the websites that were linking to the old URL, and provide them with the new one. They’ll be happy you notified them.
7. Add a 301 Redirect to your new URL
This is an extra step, but can help save you a ton of lost traffic while you sort out the new URL. While you’re still transitioning the old URL to the new one, add a 301 redirect so that anyone who visits the page can still find the content they’re looking for.
By following these steps, you can optimize your existing URLs and improve your website’s SEO. Remember to keep your URLs short and simple, include your target keyword, use hyphens to separate words, and update your internal links.
We hope you found this guide on optimizing your URL useful.
The URL of a webpage is considered one of the Big 3 in On-Page SEO, and it’s extremely important that it’s optimized for anyone that might visit it.
If you have any questions about optimizing your URL, or if you would like to have one of us make sure you’re doing it right, feel free to contact us here and we’ll be happy to help.
Good luck with your rankings!