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On-Page SEO Basics: URLs

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On-Page SEO Basics: URLs

Luke Harsel
On-Page SEO Basics: URLs

This article will talk about the SEO best practices for URLs. You will learn what a URL is, the best practices for category structure, and how to improve click through rate from search results.

What is a URL?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and acts as the location of a web document. Enter a URL in the address bar of your browser and it will take you to your desired webpage.

To look closely, you can break URLs down into multiple parts. For example, the URL below represents a webpage on SEMrush that has four basic parts.

parts-of-a-url

Protocol is the system used to transfer text and information across the web, and the most common forms are HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) and HTTPS (HTTP secure).

Domain name is the name of the website, such as eBay, Expedia, or SEMrush.

Top-level domain (TLD) refers to the text following the “dot” in the URL, such as .com, .gov, or .org. Top-level domains classify the domain as a type (educational, commercial, governmental) or by geographic location such as .uk, .au, .ru, etc. Authoritative TLDs such as .gov and .edu in a website’s backlink profile can positively impact SEO.

The path is the text following the TLD that indicates a specific location (usually a subfolder, category or landing page) on the website where the page is located.

This post from Matt Cutts goes deeper into URL parameters, second-level domains (SLDs), and ports if you want to learn more.

URLs in SERPs

URLs appear in search engine results below the title and above the description. For this reason, you should make your URLs clean and readable to encourage more clicks.

3c910c1feb288fdfeb43de005b6a7d5a.pngURLs will appear below the page title in the search results

Longer, confusing URL strings can be unattractive and distracting to potential website visitors and discourage clicks.

URLs are also the location of all of your inbound links, which search engines crawl to identify the most important pages of your website.

How to make your URLs work for SEO:

There are plenty of ways to improve your URLs for SEO. Usually, the best way to plan out effective URLs is to keep in mind the big picture of your website. The structure of your site folders and categories will eventually influence your future URLs.

1. Plan your categories based on search

To make your URLs appeal more to searchers, they should be named with your keywords in mind. This means asking yourself important questions about the main categories on your website. When judging your categories, you should ask yourself:

  • Are they directly correlating to your business’ products/services?
  • Do they relate to popular searches?
  • What phrases are people using to search for your competitor’s services?

If you know how people search for your services, you can structure your categories and URLs to target common search language accordingly.

2. Keep it simple

With URLs, the simpler the better. This starts with simple categories but continues with deeper pages on your site. Simple often times means short, and shorter URLs are easier to read and potentially less confusing. If you can read the URL out loud, then it's probably simple enough for strangers to read quickly and understand. 

According to Brian Dean and John Lincoln, SEO friendly URLs should have 1-2 target keywords and 1-2 folders. Anything more can become confusing or hard to read. Therefore, you should create folders should with descriptive names and avoid “dynamic URLs,” or URLs with long strings of numbers at the end, whenever possible. 

The easier to read, the better.

So, let’s sum things up.

SEO-friendly URLs will:

  1. Include your keyword

  2. Be descriptive and meaningful

  3. Easy to read

  4. Use relevant categories/subfolders

  5. Contain around 3 to 5 words if possible

Helpful Online Tools for Checking your URLs

So, to check if the URLs on your website are working or not, use the following online tools.

  • SEMrush SEO Ideas – This SEMrush Project tool checks if you have a keyword in your title and meta tag and offers suggestions if you don’t. Just enter a target keyword and this tool provides you with a detailed list of actionable, tailor-made optimization tips for each page of your website.

  • SEOmofo  – This SERP view generator lets you enter your URL, title and description to manage the number of symbols and preview your article’s appearance on SERP. This can be helpful as you test out your ideas for category pages.

For more similar tips, check out our on-page SEO checklist.

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I write articles on the SEMrush Knowledge Base and blog to show people how the tools on SEMrush can make it easier to participate in digital marketing. When I'm not at work I like to write music and spend time in nature.
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Comments

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Very Nice article
Nirmal Kumar
That was useful. I just want to share one more useful tip. If you have already published a blog post with a URL, it's better not to change it. Changing that has caused me a lot of SEO issues, a lot of 404 errors, led my Ahrefs rank to go down, my traffic decreased etc.

So, if you have already set the URL, it's better not to change it.
Luke Harsel
Nirmal Kumar
Thanks Nirmal! That's a great point to keep in mind as well.
Kantipath News
Very good and informative definition which can help to new web developer.
kantipath
Luke Harsel
Kantipath News
Thank you Kantipath! Glad you found the information helpful.
Golam Qauser
Hi Luke Harsel, Thank you so much for sharing On page seo tips and tricks.
Luke Harsel
Golam Qauser
You're welcome! Thank you for reading.