The complete guide to building and structuring your URL correctly
One thing is for sure – there is a lot of information out there that can seem confusing about the correct structure of URLs.
Honestly, this is a pretty multi-dimensional concept with a lot of puzzle pieces.
And while proper URL structure isn't exactly the most important part of your efforts SEO (Search Engine Optimization), however, serves as an outstanding way to gain a possible advantage over your competition in the search engine rankings.
However, don't focus so much on one specific component of SEO, such as URL structure, that you forget to consider full-level SEO.
To help you along your SEO journey, we've put together a comprehensive guide to serve as a resource for all your URL structuring needs.
So what exactly does a "correct" URL mean?
The term "correct" refers to SEO-enhanced URL structure that is optimized for search engines to both promote PageRank (page authority) and improve user experience.
As you probably already know, keeping user experience at the forefront is probably the most important of all business endeavors.
It is not enough to optimize our content and URLs without also providing a great user experience and useful, unique content that will attract the reader and attract content promotion.
Step 1: Keep it simple and consistent
Think of search engines as those stable, consistent and responsible individuals in life.
They don't like too much excitement or change and no surprises.
They are actually looking for readability, stability and consistency.
URLs are fundamentally classified into two basic types:
addresses Dynamic URLs they change and include parameters. addresses Static URLs remain the same as long as no changes are made to the HTML.
They are consistent – and when it comes to URL structure, consistency is key for ranking purposes.
As a result, it's always good to tend to choose static URLs over dynamic URLs with parameters. So always opt for static, readable URLs like this:
Instead of the dynamic ones:
Another important factor to keep in mind when it comes to keeping things simple is URL length.
Use short URLs (the shorter the better) as they tend to rank higher on the first page of Google.
Shorter URLs improve the user experience, build trust in the web browser and are optimized for sharing on social media networks.
The recommended character length is listed at maximum 2,083 characters – and that's a number generous.
Keep them short and simple, making them easy to remember.
Step 2: Keep your URL well organized
It's important to keep your URL structure organized in the most widely accepted format.
Most of the time, standing out can be a good thing (except in SEO cases).
So if you want to grab attention by shaking things up, make sure you do it with page content, not URL structures.
In general, directories, categories, and subfolders are much better to use than subdomains when it comes to structuring URLs, fundamentally.
This is because subdomains share authority. Search engines tend to classify subdomains as their own independent entities, which is not so beneficial for SEO purposes.
Directories, categories, and subfolders are useful for aesthetic reasons, which is why it's best to keep a clean and organized structure when it comes to URL formatting.
So you have your home page, which would look like this:
Then, ideally, you'll have the categories and subcategories organized neatly from there.
Here's an example of how it should look:
Product (liquid lipstick)
And so on, with the rest of the categories. This creates a simple and visually pleasing image, improving the user experience.
In terms of search engines, this structure shows current relevance, saying search engine Google what each page is about as well as what it refers to.
This shows search engines that your website has depth and substance, which establishes credibility and value.
While the home page has the most authority, using directories / categories / levels does not affect your page gold.
Another important note about organizing URL structures has to do with global websites.
If you have a multiregional or multilanguage website, you'll want to place relevant language markers in the URL sequence.
This improves the user experience and tells people that everything they search for in that specific directory will be in the same language.
Here are some examples:
In this example, / en / indicates that the website is written in English, and / fr / indicates that the content is written in French.
Step 3: Use the right keywords
Proper keyword research is the first step to ensuring that your URL is structured in a search engine optimized way.
Once you have your list of keywords, it's important not to overdo it in your URL structure.
The recommended number of keywords in a URL is 1-2 at most.
So stuffing your URL with a bunch of keywords won't get you better search engine rankings.
In fact, according to Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, you should keep the keywords you use in your URL relatively close to, or exactly the same as, those used in your page title.
This helps search engines determine the relevance of your content.
Also, adding these keywords to your description will help your page stand out during search engine indexing.
For example, if you search for "negotiate a lease", keywords (and closely related words) that are included in a website's meta description will be bolded and therefore stand out.
When it comes to using keywords in your domain name, Cutts says that choosing a domain name that has the keyword in it can be beneficial, but “…it's definitely possible to be successful without keywords in it. your field"
Cutts also points out that keyword domains are far from necessary, and that branding can play a bigger role than keywords when it comes to success.
Think sites like Spotify, Reddit, AirBnb and Facebook. They don't use any keywords, but they are extremely popular and really successful, being visually interesting and easy to remember.
Also, a word to the wise: In 2012, Google released an update that devalued domains that use exact keywords.
So if you're relying on a domain containing 1 or 2 main keywords to help you rank better, you could be in for a very nasty surprise.
Another factor that does not contribute much to PageRank is the position of keywords in the URL structure.
Contrary to what some people might think, keyword placement in your URL structure has very little influence on your search engine ranking. Here do you have a link to a video that might help you understand better.
Cutts stated that it can help a little, but not to the point where you should rely on it alone or resort to overusing keywords.
All in all, it's more important to focus on the quality of the content you have to offer and avoid keyword stuffing at all costs so your site doesn't look spammy.
Step 4: Make everything look trustworthy to users
It all comes down to trust.
Google puts its users and user experience at the center of attention. Always.
As such, your website will be ranked based on several things, including the length of time since it was first indexed, the type of content you publish, and the security features you use.
Some important security and trust factors you should consider when structuring your URLs are described below.
Each of these will help you build your site's credibility, which will also help you improve your rankings.
HTTP vs. HTTPS
This one is pretty simple and straight forward.
The "S" in HTTPS stands for safety/security. All communications between your browser and that site are encrypted and secure.
This is the standard for all websites where financial information is exchanged, such as online banking and e-commerce.
HTTPS should be included in the URL because all information sent over a standard HTTP connection is done in plain text.
This presents a significant security issue. If a hacker "breaks" into your connection and you enter sensitive information such as your home address, bank details, email address, etc., they can easily steal it.
TLD (en: top level domain) means "top level domain" and is in the last part of the URL after that dot.
When it comes to TLDs, ".com" is the most reliable option to use.
Another type of TLD is gTLD, which stands for "generic top-level domain".
These types of TLDs can be geo-targeted in Google Search Console and include suffixes such as:
- .edu (educational)
- .org (organization)
- .gov (government)
Next, rTLDs (regional top-level domains) are comparable to top-level domains such as ".com" or ".org", but are region-specific.
And last, but certainly not least, are the generic top-level country code domains (gccTLDs). The list of gccTLDs changes frequently, but at the time of writing it included suffixes such as:
- .ro (Romania)
- .be (Belgium)
- .de (Deutschland- Germany)
Choosing the right TLDs establishes authority and trust from the end user's perspective, making your site more likely to get traffic and visibility.
While your TLD doesn't directly influence your ranking itself, it does indirectly through the traffic it generates – a factor that can have a direct and significant impact on your ranking.
Before we get into the details of canonical URLs, we first need to define what they are.
A canonical URL is a preferred URL that acts as the main address for a web page.
These are important because they help facilitate better credibility by providing trust by preventing duplicate content.
Hence, they are effective in increasing your search engine authority value.
Here is a good example of how it works.
Let's say a person creates a post about the best places to have dinner in the city, in Bucharest, and posts it on the main page of his blog. Its URL would look something like this:
Now let's say he wants to rank this post because he has a lot of blog posts on a lot of different topics and he wants to keep his site organized.
So go ahead and file this post under the "Food" category.
After it does that, it creates a completely separate URL for the same post that looks something like this:
Now, it has two URLs, both pointing to the same exact page:
URL # 1: www.exemlu.com/cel-mai-bun-restaurant-Bucuresti
URL # 2: www.exemlu.com/mancare/cel-mai-bun-restaurant-Bucuresti
This is not recommended.
Google sees this as duplicate content on the same website because there are two separate links that have the same content.
So it devalues both.
Wondering how you should structure your URLs to fix the problem?
You must set up a canonical or "favorite" URL.
Once you've done that, whether someone searches for the post and finds it on the main page or through the "Food" category, in their web browser it appears a one url address.
Now your site will not be penalized for duplicate content and downgraded by search engines.
Also, avoid these big pitfalls:
There are various universal pitfalls to avoid when considering URL structure. A few of the significant ones that stand out uniformly to the detriment of your website's ranking and value are:
- Linking words
- Special characters
- Parameters/dynamic URLs
Avoid "link words" as much as possible in your URL structure.
Linking words are words like "an", "of", "and" etc.
Here is an example so you can understand better:
The first URL is good. The second is not.
Avoid special characters, such as question marks, apostrophes, exclamation points, and asterisks, when creating URL structures.
The hyphen is the standard and preferred method of separating words or keywords in the URL structure.
Using any other character will cause indexing problems with search engines.
Avoid parameters and dynamic URLs, which are the result of searches in a scripted database on websites.
Search engines have a preference for indexing single pages.
When they see parameters and access dynamic URLs, they remove parts of the URL after a specific variable or special character.
Search engines don't like special characters. These are not SEO friendly.
Here's an example of three separate dynamic URLs linking three separate pages:
When search engines see them, they pick a specific conflict variable (eg the question mark) and then truncate the rest of the URL for indexing.
This presents quite a problem, as the end result becomes:
Now, all of a sudden, three separate URLs, leading to three separate pages, are all truncating to the same exact URL.
This cannot be indexed.
If along the way you decide to change dynamic addresses to static ones, it is quite possible that those pages will lose their original authority on search engines.
Learning the fundamentals of URL structuring is important if you've decided to get serious about SEO.
As a refresher, here are the 4 key steps:
- Step 1: Keep it simple and consistent
- Step 2: Keep it organized
- Step 3: Use the right keywords
- Step 4: Make it trustworthy
And of course, avoid the big pitfalls at all costs. Otherwise, you can destroy your PageRank of that page.
A few things to avoid that are uniformly agreed upon are:
- Linking words
- Special characters
- Parameters / Dynamic URLs
Not only do they negatively impact the user experience, but they also devalue your site when it comes to search engine rankings.
Yes, that seems like a lot.
But no one said it would be easy.
It's not enough to make sure your URLs are optimized and structured in the best way possible.
But in a game where everything matters, it's just one of many ways you can contribute to your success and legitimately increase your PageRank and value.
So start implementing these steps today and you'll be well on your way to improving your site's authority and subsequently your Google search rankings.
Frequently asked questions and answers
What is a URL?
URL is an acronym for "Uniform Resource Locator" and is a reference (an address) to a resource on the Internet. In its most common form, a URL begins with "https://" or "https://" sometimes followed by "www" and then the site name.
What types of URLs are the most secure?
A URL that starts with "https://" indicates that you are on a secure and safe site. This means that if you enter personal information on that site, it will be encrypted before it is transmitted. Encrypted information cannot be easily stolen or intercepted.
What does TLD mean?
TLD stands for "Top Level Domain" and is the last part of a domain name. Top-level domains are managed by the IANA- "Internet Assigned Numbers Authority" (the authority for assigning names and numbers in the Internet). They are of three types:
- national domains (ccTLD – country code TLD): used by countries or dependent territories. They are two letters long, for example .ro for Romania.
- Generic domains (gTLD – generic top-level domain): used (at least theoretically) by certain categories of organizations (eg .com for commercial organizations). It has three or more letters. Almost all gTLDs are available regardless of country, with the exception of .gov and .mil domains, which for historical reasons are only used by governments and the military respectively.
- infrastructure domains: .arpa is currently the only such domain.
What are the pitfalls to avoid in structuring a URL?
It is important to avoid such pitfalls connecting words, special characters/diacritics and parameters/dynamic URLs. Linking words are words like "of", "an", "and". Special characters can be question marks, asterisks, and exclamation points, and parameters or dynamic URLs are the result of searches in a database running on the script.
What is the difference between static and dynamic URLs?
Dynamic URLs change and include parameters. Static URLs remain the same, and are often preferred over dynamic ones.