URL Structure - Basic SEO Best Practice
When you visit a website, the URL is the first bit of identifying information that you'll see. In fact, you'll see it before you even hit enter and make a request to a webserver. So does your browser, and so does Google.
As a result, it's important to know what you're doing when sculpting your own URLs. Not sure where to start? That's what we're here for!
Your URLs are strongly indicative of a few things:
- What the page is about
- Where the page sits within the broader context of the site
- What kind of page it is (i.e. Is it a top-level, primary page, with lots of subpages that break the subject down into more detail? Or is it a sub-sub-page that is nested a few folders deep?)
To be precise, we're not talking about your site’s navigation menu or user journey – but the actual web addresses of each page. A page can be buried deep in your website visually, but have a top level URL location.
Does it matter?
Anecdotally, we’ve seen clients do very well simply by giving their URLs a little attention (such as removing unneeded elements from their URLs - like a superfluous “/store/” from their shop pages). By very well, we're-talking-50%-upswings-in-conversion-rate-well. Hard for us to guarantee, obviously - your mileage may vary - but in general it's something we'd recommend.
We'd also recommend having a bit of a think about your site’s URL structure when planning a new site or a redesign. Use this as a prime opportunity to think about grouping and dividing up your information. It’s also a great starting point for thinking about each page as having an express subject or purpose.
URLs are the first port of call when it comes to optimising your pages for search terms. Given how little space there is in a URL, any words that are included tend to be a big indicator as to what that page is about.
Conversely, cryptic, ‘unpretty’ or ‘unfriendly’ URLs tend not to give you any advantages – they are not readable, they don't signpost relevance and they don't give any indication of the page’s position in the site. Pretty useless, really!
What influences it / what’s the solution?
Some guiding principles for planning your URLs
- List all the pages you need on your website and try to categorise them like a directory tree, with pages about specific things nested within parent pages that talk about the topic more generally.
- Try and use one page per topic: if you’ve got lots of pages with not much on, you’re spreading it too thin
- if you’ve got loads on a page, you probably need to break it up into child pages.
- Try and tie one or two search terms to each page
- You should try to keep the URLs as short as you can
- You should avoid the same page being housed at two different URLs at all costs. If you absolutely cannot structure around it, use a rel=canonical tag
This is as much an art as a science, so if you’ve got a pet SEO or any kind of vaguely sinister reptilian friend that you can check your work with, that’s recommended.