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What Are SEO-Friendly URLs? How To Structure Your Permalinks

As of today, it is the dream of webmasters and web owners to have SEO-Friendly URLs and permalinks on their websites. Especially, formatted for the correct search engine appearances in the meta box results. But, many of them often fail to achieve this. So, how do you even go about it? We’ve received many questions about optimizing WordPress SEO from users.

As well as the best strategy for creating a website URL/permalink structure. Questions range from whether you should have the category in your permalink structure to the length of your slugs and other elements. What we can say is that site structure is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy. Why? Because it shows SERPs which website posts and pages are most important.

This means, that you can influence which content will rank highest in the search engines with your site’s structure. And the good news is: You can start improving your website structure today! Perse, along with your title tag, link anchor text, and the content itself, search engines use your web page’s URL to understand what your overall website content is all about.

In fact, URLs are so important that the Google SEO Starter Guide dedicates an entire section to them. As you write more blog posts or add more product pages, your site gets cluttered. You need to organize it neatly to make sure that you, your visitors, and Google are able to find what they’re looking for. With this in mind, let’s learn how to create SEO-Friendly URLs.

Understanding The General SEO-Friendly URLs Meaning

Firstly, a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is an address for all the documents and other resources on the Internet. We can easily read the URL and know what is on the website. Secondly, it replaces the number used by a computer to talk to servers. Just like our home has an address a website on the internet also needs an address to help with easy location access.

The same goes when using some definitive and SEO-Friendly URLs strategy — one can easily find the website on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, and the like.  Therefore, what this means is that having URLs as friendly as possible is always a lucrative beneficial goal for webmasters. But, let’s first consider why they are the backbone of SEO.

If the URL is confusing and not clear then people will not take any interest in the website and the bounce rate will be high. The website will not even rank high in the search engine because Google also takes the URL into consideration. In addition, getting a good URL Structure can be a bit tricky but with proper planning and precaution, it is possible.

Even though there is no fixed formula to make a good URL Structure, there are, however, some rules following them. Obviously, ensuring we get the most out of our URL and set our site for future SEO success.

How SEO-Friendly URLs Can Benefit Your Website

You probably have blog posts or articles on your site that cover the same topic. At our agency, for example, we write a lot about SEO. We have multiple posts about website structure, each covering a different aspect. But, Google won’t know which of these is most important unless we ‘tell’ Google. A good approach is to order your content by importance to help Google.

Furthermore, if you don’t tell Google which posts are most important, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You’ll be competing with your own pages for a high ranking in Google. Luckily, the solution is rather simple: Let Google know which page you consider to be the most important. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure strategy.

To get more organic search and improve the search ranking we do On-Page SEO and other related website content optimization. It means making a change on the website and thereby making it more search engine friendly. In fact, this helps to improve the conversion rate and helps a web-based business get more organic traffic and even earn more profit.

One of the major things to focus on while doing on-page optimization is the URL structure of the website. Well as we say the first impression is the last impression. The same goes for the website the first impression of the website is the URL. Overall, a great URL structure has some benefits that any web-based business or webmaster needs to note such as follows:-

1. Ranking

Although URL plays a minor role in determining the rank of the page in the search engine and also the relevancy of the query. But using a keyword in the URL can also improve the page ranking. It is important to remember that while URL improves website visibility. URLs alone do not have a major impact on the rank of the page. Therefore, it will be a waste of time to create a URL simply to include keywords in them.

2. Linking 

When a proper URL is there then it can also help to serve as a link while sharing information on various social media channels and other platforms. We can easily copy and paste the link on various channels and can drive more traffic to the website from other channels.

3. Experience

If the design of the URL is correct then it is beneficial for both humans and search engines. They can easily understand what the landing page of the website is all about. As an example, a semantically accurate URL clearly shows the destination. This will provide the user to understand what is inside and the chances of a user clicking the link increase.

4. SERPs

The way your website is structured will give Google clues about where to find the most essential content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and what you’re selling. Using a bot called Googlebot, Google crawls websites by following internal and external links. By following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. In other words: Your site structure is like a guide to Google, and therefore very crucial.

5. Automation

The products you sell in your shop likely evolve over time. So does the content you’re writing. You probably add new product lines as old stock sells out. Or you write new articles that make old ones redundant. You don’t want Google to show outdated products or deleted blog posts, so you need to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your website.

The Simple Steps To Create SEO-Friendly URLs Using Permalinks

Your website structure is very important for your User Experience (UX). After all, when people can easily find their way to your website, they’ll have a better browsing experience. This will also increase your chances for people to convert: buy your products; subscribe to your newsletter or return for another visit. And Google likes sites that perform well too!

So, it’s good to make sure that your website structure is reflected in the navigation of your website. In reality, Category Archives are the most important and basic Landing Pages of any given website. Your category archives are essential for SEO. In fact, this goes, especially for eCommerce websites, they can be more important than individual pages and posts.

Those archives should be the first result in the search engines; they’re landing pages. They should therefore also provide the best User Experience (UX) as well as a responsive layout outlook on all devices. The more likely your individual pages are to expire, the more this is true. If your site is a shop and your products change, your categories are more important.

If your site is a job listing site where jobs expire, your categories are more important. Otherwise, you’d be optimizing pages that are going to be gone a few weeks/months later. Below are more consideration factors for SEO-friendly URLs.

1. Domain Name Selection

Using a top-level domain name can help, it will not directly impact ranking but will improve and build trust among customers. As a matter of fact, that implies the top-level domains “.com” domain rather than “.biz,” “.pro,” “.tel,” etc. Although it is not realistic to be able to land your brand name with a “.com” domain (there were over 124 million “.com” domains in 2016).

Having said that, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re choosing a domain in the future. It is advisable to use subdomains for the content rather than using subfolders. Once you have your domain ready, the next thing to focus on is the arrangement of overall website permalinks. In that case, we encourage webmasters to utilize the ”post permalinks” rule only.

This means, that you should avoid including dates in your permalinks. Back in the day, a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress automatically included dates in the URLs of a website. This is less common in this day and age. But, we still see a lot of people using dates in their URLs. And it’s a very bad idea. There are two reasons why this is not advised.

First off, dates make your URLs longer — you can strip down the URL characters from 43 to around 32 characters only and have a 25.5% overall difference. Secondly, dates make it harder to update your content. For example, let’s say you published a list of the best iPhone apps for 2019. In January 2020, if you want to update that page, the URL has “2019” in it.

2. Keywords Inclusion In URLs

The keyword means the term that the user uses to search for content. Keywords on a page should be relevant to what people are searching for so they have a better chance of finding your content among the results. Including the keyword in the URL is a good idea as it will help to improve the ranking of the page.

It is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click. When there is no anchor text then the URL acts as an anchor text. Equally important, it also helps the user understand what they are clicking on the page that is relevant to what they are searching for. In other words, your URL should contain a keyword that you want to rank for.

Preferably, it should be that page’s target keyword. Why? When you include a keyword in your URL, that keyword tells Google: “This page is about that keyword”. In fact, Google themselves states that: “URLs with words that are relevant to your website’s content and URL structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your website.”

3. Avoid Using Stuffed Keywords

In the same fashion, it is also important to remember to never stuff a URL with too many keywords one or two keywords in a URL is enough. Also, one should not repeat the keywords unnecessarily. Repetition is pointless because Google will in no way reward you for using a keyword that appears more than once. Equally, it makes the content look spammy.

It also reduces the creditability in the eyes of search users. By avoiding the use of stuffed keywords in your URL permalinks — making the website URL super short — a SERP like Google can easily figure out the topic of that page. That’s probably why a certain ranking factors study found a strong correlation between short URLs and higher Google rankings.

It’s also advisable that you try to edit or remove your old content. Lots of shops sell a different collection of products (clothes, shoes, etc.) every season. And when the season is done, the item pages are removed. This is a great practice if you don’t expect to sell the same product again. But, what about all the links that point to the deleted product page?

Well, as you know, links to your page are valuable for your SEO! That’s why you should redirect the URL to the right and existing website link. This way, you still benefit from the links, even though the page doesn’t exist anymore.

4. SEO-Friendly URLs Length

Having a URL Structure of less than 50-60 characters is a good practice and nothing to worry about but a URL with 100+ characters is not a very good idea. Although having a long URL is not an issue with search engines and they can easily process it although it hampers users’ experience. Shorter URLs are easy to copy and paste, share on social media, and embed.

The shorter the better. A graph shows that Google’s ranking declines when the length of the URL increases. Also, try to use hyphens as “word separators” in your URL. The reason why hyphens are so important is that they’re the standard way of separating words in a URL. That’s why Google states that people should avoid using underscores or spaces in their URLs.

Instead, they recommend hyphens. So, your URLs should be short and sweet at all times. That’s because long URLs confuse SERPs such as Google, Bing, Yandex, and other search engines. Also, short URLs don’t just help that individual page rank better. Using short URLs across your entire website can help Google find and crawl all of your pages as quickly as possible.

5. Using Categories And Tags

We often encounter sites with category and tag structures that are completely unmanaged. Even large news sites can suffer from over usage of tags and categories. Tags and categories are both examples of a taxonomy system. When used correctly, a good taxonomy system can boost your site’s SEO. The opposite is also true: when used wrong, it’ll break things.

Well-organized URL subfolders help users to understand where they are on a website. They also help SERPs organize site pages into distinct sections. In fact, Google States that: “The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.”

That said, you don’t need to use a lot of folders. As a matter of fact, using a ton of folders makes your navigation more complicated, not simpler. Likewise, back in the day, we’d let WordPress turn our blog post titles into a URL. But, why is this a problem today? Well, first of all, just like with dates, this tends to create longer website URLs than you actually need.

Second, it makes changing your content much harder. That’s why we recommend only using your target keyword (plus a word or two) in your website URL and permalinks.

6. Utilizing The Website Landing Pages 

Yes, Of course! Landing pages are vital to SEO-friendly URLs. To enumerate, in digital marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for the purposes of a marketing or advertising campaign. Not forgetting, it’s where a visitor “lands” when they have clicked on a Google AdWords ad or similar.

Landing pages are designed with a single focused objective – known as a Call To Action (CTA) to be precise – so as to help the user initiate further actions. This simplicity is what makes landing pages the best option for increasing the conversion rates of your Google AdWords campaigns and lowering your cost of acquiring a lead or sale as well as increasing your traffic.

To fully understand the difference between a landing page, and the other pages on your website, such as your homepage, it’s important to consider the differences between organic search traffic and paid search traffic too. For instance, when asking the question, “What Is A Landing Page?” you need to understand that they are designed for paid traffic like Google Adwords.

7. Taxonomy Archives For SEO-Friendly URLs 

Even though it’s clear that taxonomy archives are very important, they usually don’t get the love they deserve. To make your category pages awesome, just add a bit of introductory content focused on the topic of that category. Add links to that introductory content pointing to the best articles or products in that category.

This will go a long way in making sure that when a user lands on such a page, he or she doesn’t bounce. A good archive page works as a hub and should make me want to read more, not less of your site. But, this does mean that every category and tag page needs to have some custom-written text. That’s not hard, but it can be a lot of work. Nobody said it was to be easy.

As an example, the Yoast SEO Plugin helps you with optimizing your category pages. For one thing, it analyzes your category page content. For instance, if there’s enough content on it. Moreover, it allows you to change the social details for category pages and provides you with a snippet preview with a clear picture of the end results.

8. Avoid Duplicate Tags And Categories

A related issue we often see is websites that have duplicate tags and categories. When you have a category “bathing suits”, you shouldn’t have a tag “bathing suits” too. If you do, which one should Google rank first? The same goes for single or plural; an article shouldn’t be in the categories “shirt” and “shirts”. A post shouldn’t have the tag “WP plugin” and “WP plugins.”

One of those shouldn’t exist. Pick single or plural and stick with it for all your category and tag terms. By the same token, it’s also good to note that Dynamic URL Parameters (like UTM tracking) have also their rightful place. But, from a pure SEO standpoint, these URLs can cause problems. Specifically, dynamic URLs can hurt your SEO because of a few driving forces.

Consider the following examples:
  • Like with dates, URL parameters make your URLs longer.
    https://josephmuciraexclusives.com/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=fb_campaign
  • They are usually so long that they get cut off in the search results. Not good for SEO and ranking algorithms.
  • If the different versions of your URL get indexed, these can cause duplicate content issues with Google.
  • Dynamic URLs are ugly and confusing to users… which can hurt your organic CTR.

It’s also, important to realize, that subfolders are much more SEO-friendly than subdomains. That’s because Google can consider a subdomain as a completely separate website. Still, when you move that section to a subfolder, Google knows that it’s part of your main website. Thus, it becomes easy for such a SERP to crawl, index, and rank the URL quite fast and easily.

9. Consider Breadcrumb Archives

Generally, your website Breadcrumbs Navigation plays an important role in this type of setup. Each individual item should link back to the nearest category. Simply put, this shows Google the structure of your site, but it also enforces the authority of the category page for the topic. Having the URL structure reflect the category can greatly help.

That’s if the topic of your category adds value to the product or post. But beware: don’t change your URL structure if you have an existing site. The “cost” of redirecting all those URLs outweighs the benefits of changing the structure. It’s far wiser to just use the breadcrumbs functionality that, for instance, the Yoast SEO plugin offers. You can also AIOSEO for the same.

You should also consider the strategy of enticing others to click on and share. Not forgetting, organic click-through rate is a VERY important search engine ranking factor right now. And, your website URL is a big part of whether or not someone chooses to click on your site in the search results. After all, people use your URL to figure out where a link is going to take them.

Whereby, if your URL looks like just numbers and letters, most people will have no clue what page they’re gonna end up on. As a result, this makes them much less likely to click on the specific link. This isn’t limited to Google’s search results. Ugly URLs are less likely to get clicked on and shared on social media and online communities (like Reddit).

10. Ground Rules For SEO-Friendly URLs Focus

It’s important to remember that site structure is part of a bigger, ongoing process. Your site will grow and therefore, the structure will require maintenance. Improving and maintaining the structure of a site should be a core aspect of every SEO strategy. It’s a very actionable part of SEO because it’s something you can control and improve rather quickly.

To begin with, as Web Tech Experts, we recommend using a simple and clear permalink structure straight from your WordPress dashboard. Ending your URL with the post name is the preferred method and optionally you can prefix the post name with the category. Eventually, this is something that results in one of the two most common website permalink structures.

These permalinks are:
/%postname%/

And with the category prefixed:

/%category%/%postname%/

For an added bonus, we recommend adding your main keyword somewhere in the post’s name. When checking out the snippet preview in an SEO plugin like Yoast, you’ll see your keyword emphasized in the URL if it’s been detected in your slug. If you decide to use categories in your permalink structure, make sure that you only select one category per post.

No matter what kind of website you have, there are a couple of ground rules that apply to all websites. Below, you’ll find some of these ground rules to help better your site with SEO-friendly URLs. Always remember, the best SEO-friendly URLs differ per type of website. Having said that, let’s pick your type of website(s) to jump to the information that best applies to you.

It can either be company websites, online shops, blogs or news sites, and the like.  That said, if you would like to consider our general elaborate points, you can just follow the leads below. They’ll come in handy in your next URL structuring plan.

(i). Your URLs keyphrase focus

The main thing to keep in mind is that your URLs should be focused. Strip your URLs of function words like a, of, the, etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.

(ii). Your website URLs version

The length of your URL isn’t really a factor in this. We do recommend keeping your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are most probably more focused. Bear in mind, that if you use breadcrumbs on your site, as we do, these could appear instead of the full URL.

(iii). The length of your URLs

Length isn’t that much of an issue: Google will show what they think is important for that visitor. Keep in mind, that meta titles and descriptions are cut off at 512 pixels, and so is your URL. However, don’t use underscores, as these connect the words and make them into one. Dashes are preferred.

Before we forget, it’s also very important that you stick with lower cases instead of capital cases when constructing your website URL permalinks. But, this isn’t a huge deal because most modern servers treat capital and lowercase letters in URLs the same. However, some don’t! For example, some servers will treat these website URLs in capital cases as different links.

Takeaway Thoughts:

As can be seen, if you want to rank high, you need to have a site structure that makes sense to Google and its users. You can read many posts about the likes of Site Structure on our affiliate’s website (Yoast.com) to gather more insights. For instance, their Ultimate Guide helps you to best organize your website’s content so as to start ranking high on search results.

And if you’re struggling with creating a proper website structure, their Site Structure Training should also be your new best friend! After all, it will teach you how to optimize every aspect of your website’s structure. Wondering if it’ll fit your needs? You should also get a free trial today to see how Yoast can help optimize your overall website for SEO and ranking.

Overall, permalink structures won’t differ much from website to website if done correctly. We advise that you make sure your permalink structure is properly set before avidly writing posts. If you do decide to change your overall website permalink structure over time, make sure you properly redirect users from the old website URL structure to the new one.

All in all, we hope you have gathered enough information in regard to the topic we have discussed above. Particularly, on how to achieve the best SEO-friendly URLs on your website. You can always Contact Us if you’ll need more support from our experts.

Other More Related Resource References:
  1. Landing Pages And Organic Vs. Paid Search Traffic
  2. Tags & Categories | WordPress SEO Master Best Practices
  3. Site Taxonomy SEO | Categories, Tags & Archives Audit Tips
  4. Website Page Experience Is Now The New SERP Ranking Factor
  5. Custom Post Type Design | Turn Your Weblog UI Into Powerful CMS
  6. What Does Hashtag In URL Parameter Mean? How It Influences SEO

That’s it! The perfect guide to get started with SEO-Friendly URLs and create website URLs optimized for SEO — they often tend to be short and keyword-rich. What’s more, these are URLs that are designed to meet the needs of users and searchers. That said, if you think that there is something else that we can add to this guide, kindly let us know in our comments section.

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