On Page Best Practice URLs
URLs are often the first thing that Google and your customers are going to see on your website. As a result, it is exceptionally important that these are structured effectively. In addition to this, an effective site hierarchy will begin with your URLs, helping to pass equity throughout your domain, whilst also ensuring that your site’s visitors are being directed to exactly where they need to be. Many sites end up with endless redirect routes, but this can be confusing for Google and tiresome for your visitors, which could result in them bouncing off of your page to find a site that is much more streamlined. Planning ahead is imperative when it comes to site URLs in order to ensure your site’s information architecture is simple to follow. There are a number of best practices that you should keep in mind.
Utilisation Of Keywords
Inserting your keywords within URLs can be extremely important, since they ensure that every page launched has a purpose as soon as you put it in motion. Otherwise, there is no point having the page in the first place. Essentially, you want to ensure that each area of your site is going to be found by the right people, as well as any crawlers. Incorporating relevant keywords within the URLs of each page will help to make sure that your visitors and crawlers know exactly what the page is about before they even land on the page. Even if you have multiple pages which feature similar keywords or one topic across a number of key pages, you should ensure that your URL is streamlined. It is imperative that you avoid ‘overkill’ and superfluous words within the URL.
Best Practice Example:
As you can see, this URL begins to look spammy. The best practice here would be:
Consider Future Purpose
One of the most difficult parts about building an effective and seamless site hierarchy is to ensure that your URLs are still going to provide a purpose in the future. This is particularly important for e-commerce sites, as similar products can come in at any stage, which can lead to conflicting paths and other site URL issues. There are a number of things to consider in order to ensure that your URL flows logically. You will need to take into account the domain, categories, sub-categories and products. It is vitally important that you have a forward-thinking structure which is laid out appropriately for the future use as well as current use.
XML sitemaps are one of the best ways to implement this, since they can help you better organise your website’s structure. In addition to this, implementing redirects for pages that are no longer operating is a great way of limiting the number of conflicting paths that are on your site. Although this may seem like a small change, this can have a serious impact on the way that the site operates. This will also help to improve other elements of the site such as speed and overall user experience.
There are a number of instances where websites will have duplicate URLs, with one in lower case, and one all in capitals (or occasionally using capitals). If you do not need the two URLs, then you should implement permanent redirects. However, if you do require both URLs, then inputting canonical tags which will mark the lower-case URL as the preferred version is best practice.
While hashes are ideal if you’re looking to direct users to a certain part of the page, if you are overusing these hashtags, it can make your URL structure confusing – particularly for crawlers. Limit the use of hashes by using other codes if necessary as this will help to keep the site easy to navigate and assist with keeping the sitemap simple.
Length Of URLs
Keeping your URLs as short as possible is important, as Google can truncate the URL if it is over 512 pixels. However, be aware that your URL always need to make sense, so only reduce the size of the URL (by removing words such as ‘and’ and ‘the’) as long as you do not lose the meaning of the URL.
Minimising Dynamic URL Strings
While some content management systems will automatically implement dynamic URL strings, they can be confusing and go against the best practice guidelines listed above. The ultimate aim of your URL structure is to have static URLs with a logical folder structure and descriptive keywords to aim crawlers and visitors on your site. While dynamic URLs can still be crawled just as effectively by Google, static URLs are more user-friendly. There are some instances where relative URLs may be used too. However, when it comes to SEO, it is much better to use absolute URLs as they are often what search engines prefer.
If you are implementing URL parameters, you should be careful with doing so, as you want to ensure that URLs with duplicate content are not growing as a result of these.
Use The Right Type Of Redirects
There are a number of different redirects you may want to implement, with the most common being:
- 301 Redirects (permanent redirects)
- 302 Redirects (temporary redirects)
- Meta Refresh (redirects executed on page level and not server level)
- Canonical tags (slightly different to a redirect, but directs all of the authority to one page, where two similar or duplicate pages are found on a site)
It is common practice to implement redirects on a site, however, ensuring that you follow best practices with these will ensure that your site maintains strong SEO value. It is important that these redirects are kept to their simplest form. This is due to redirect loops causing problems for the user and the site speed, as this can cause a slower website and difficulty for crawlers leading to a drop in SEO ranking.
There are several different best practices to consider when administrating a URL structure and site hierarchy. For more information regarding your site’s structure, get in touch with a member of our expert team on 0800 088 6000, today.