Website URL Structure – 18 Best Practices For Maximum SEO Benefits

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In the world of website architecture, there are a few best practices that can help your site rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) and provide a better user experience.

When creating a website, there are many things to consider in order to make sure that it is effective from both a user and search engine standpoint. In this article, we will discuss URL structure and some best practices that you can use on your site to improve your SEO.

First and foremost, it is important to understand the benefits of using a well-structured URL.

From an SEO standpoint, well-structured URLs can help you rank higher because they are easier for search engine crawlers to index and understand. In addition, they can also help human users understand where they are on your site.

For instance, if your site is like many e-commerce sites that list products on various shopping categories, you could structure your URLs in this way:

http://www.example.com/makeup/lipstick

This URL is easy for both users and crawlers to understand because it tells the reader where they are on the website (in this case, the “makeup” section, and within that, the “lipstick” subsection) and it is also easy for a crawler to index.

In contrast, if your website had URLs structured like this:

http://www.example.com/?pid=123&sid=456

This URL would be difficult for both users and crawlers to understand. It is not immediately clear what the page is about, and it would be difficult for a crawler to index all of the content on the page.

From a user standpoint, well-structured URLs can also help them remember where they’ve been on your site.

For instance, if the URL for a news website was structured like this:

http://www.example.com/abcdef/1234/5678

Then it would be very difficult to remember where you were on that site using just the URL itself. However, if the URLs for that same site were structured like this:

http://www.example.com/news/cryptocurrency-regulation

Then it would be much easier to remember where you were on that site using just the URL itself.

URL structure is the foundation of a website’s architecture and can have a big impact on how well it performs in search engines.

Now that we’ve covered some of the overall benefits of creating a well-structured URL, let’s look at some best practices that you can use.

1. Descriptive URLs

It is extremely essential to have descriptive, readable URLs that describe the content of every page. While it’s not necessary to include every single detail on a URL, as this might make the file path too long and complicated, it is still better to include keywords for SEO optimization.

TIP: Keep URLs short and simple. The shorter the URL, the better since users may be discouraged to click on a link if the URL is too long. A shorter URL will also work better for search engine results pages (SERPs).

2. Avoid URL redirection

Redirecting pages is a common practice that helps keep a site running smoothly when page URLs change or content has to be moved, but it is not recommended for SEO purposes.

URL structure - 301 redirect
301 URL Redirect

Redirecting pages can actually hurt a site’s search engine ranking since it can confuse search engines about the page’s content and cause them to rank the redirected page lower than the original page.

TIP: If you need to move or change content on your website, use 301 redirects to send users and search engines to the new page, rather than using a URL redirect. This will help ensure that your site’s ranking is not negatively affected.

3. Naming files and folders

When creating file names and folder names for your website, it is important to use keyword-rich titles that will help improve your site’s SEO. However, it is also important to keep file and folder names short and simple to avoid confusion.

TIP: When naming files and folders, use hyphens (-) between words instead of spaces so that the words will be treated as one keyword by search engines.

4. Use subdirectories wisely

Subdirectories can be a great way to organize your website’s files and folders, but it is important to use them wisely.

Subdirectories should only be used when they contain content that is related to the main directory. For example, if you have a website about dogs, you might create a subdirectory for “breeds” under the “dogs” directory. However, you would not want to create a subdirectory for “animals” under the “dogs” directory because it makes no sense to real users.

TIP: If you have multiple related directories, use subdirectories so that users can easily navigate to them without having to input any additional information in the URL path.

5. Breadcrumbs navigational paths

Breadcrumbs, or site outlines, are navigational paths that show users and search engines what content they’re currently viewing and how it fits into the structure of the website.

Breadcrumb Navigation
Breadcrumb Navigation

Use breadcrumbs to make it easy for both users and search engine spiders to navigate your site by placing keywords at the beginning of each outline link.

TIP: When possible, try to include a breadcrumb that will help search engines discover the keywords or phrases that are most relevant to your page.

6. Keywords in URL

When forming a URL structure for a website it is essential to have relevant keywords in the URLs. Not only this will help the user in understanding the context of the link, but it also has SEO advantages from a Search Engine point of view.

Keywords in URL
Keywords in URL

TIP: Try and use the primary keyword for the page as the first word in the URL, followed by any relevant modifiers.

For example, if you are writing an article about dogs, the URL for that page could be “www.example.com/dogs/german-shepherd-dogs”.

7. Punctuated URLs

It is also important to use proper punctuations in the URLs to avoid long strings of characters that are difficult for humans to read.

TIP: Short URLs are generally easier to read, so avoid using punctuation or special characters whenever possible.

Example:

http://www.example.com/dog-food-store-nyc

Is far superior to simply listing:

http://www.example.com/dogfoodstoreinnyc

It is also important to note that hyphens (“-“) are preferred to underscores as Google sees words separated by hyphens as individual words which are very useful for capturing multiple search terms.

8. Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Forming keyword-rich URLs is definitely an important part of the SEO process but at the same time, we have to keep in mind not to repeat the keywords in the URLs in order to avoid penalties related to keyword stuffing.

TIP: Try to use a keyword or phrase only once in the URL and place it as close to the beginning of the URL as possible.

So avoid this:

http://www.example.com/dogfood-dog-food-dogfoodstore-dog-food-store

The above URL structure is most likely to get the site penalized by the search engines and also it will confuse the users by making it difficult for them to read the URL and trust it as it looks very spammy.

So, one should always avoid keyword stuffing at any instance and use descriptive URLs like the blow:

http://www.example.com/dog-food-store

9. Length of the URL

Recent research shows that short URLs within Google SERPs get clicked twice as often as long ones.

TIP: Keep your URLs as short as possible to make them more user-friendly and also easier to remember.

So by sticking to short URLs you get both better rankings and better click-through.

It is generally accepted that if there are more than 5 words in your URL, search engines like Google give less weight to those words and do not give you as much credit.

So don’t have:

http://www.example.com/cheap-organic-dog-food-for-your-loyal-dog-who-loves-his-food-more-than-you

Just stick to:

http://www.example.com/organic-dog-food

This also helps in avoiding being seen as Spam in front of search engines and users.

10. Check Your Spelling

It is a very basic point, but you need to ensure that your URLs have the correct spelling. If a consumer comes across a link to your website that looks like this:

http://www.example.com/bog-food

They may not trust it, even if the link is to a webpage about dog food.

This is especially important when it comes to local businesses or brands that often use a combination of letters and numbers in their brand name.

11. Logical Site Hierarchy

This means that your site should be organized in a way that seems logical to users. The more logical structure of the website makes it easier for search engines to understand what page links are related to and how important each page is.

Site Hierarchy example by Neil Patel
Site Hierarchy example by Neil Patel

TIP: Try and use folders to group related pages together, and keep the number of levels in the hierarchy to a minimum.

This will help the user as well as the search engine bots index your website.

A well-structured website is one that uses descriptive URLs, has a logical site hierarchy, and avoids keyword stuffing. By following these simple tips, you can create URLs that are both user- and search engine-friendly.

12. Avoid Capitalizations

Even slight changes to URL formatting, such as adding capitalization can result in a splitting of Pagerank and Link values.

Example: www.example.com/Music/ vs. www.example.com/music/

This is because of the way that Google assigns PageRank values. If two links contain identical text, but one is all lowercase and the other has at least one capital letter, the latter will be assigned a slightly higher PageRank value.

It will also cause a split in PageRank, URL confusion and duplicate URL issue.

13. Stick To Lowercase

Unlike domain names, URLs ARE CASE SENSITIVE! Therefore any randomly added uppercase character can cause havoc for users especially when users are trying to manually enter a URL into a browser address bar.

Forcing the user to go back and correct a mistake can be very frustrating, and it may cause them to give up on trying to visit your website.

In addition, search engines see all uppercase URLs as different pages, which can result in multiple versions of the same page being indexed, and this will confuse the search engines.

So, it is always best to stick to lowercase URLs to avoid any possible confusion.

14. Appended Parameters (Dynamic URLs)

Multiple parameters, can cause problems for Search Engines, create URL confusion by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content. As a result, spiders may consume much more bandwidth than necessary, or maybe unable to completely index all the content on your site.

If you are using dynamic URLs on your website, try and use only a single parameter whenever possible. This will help the spiders crawl your website more easily, and it will also reduce the chances of duplicate content being indexed.

When using dynamic URLs always try and use no more than 2 or 3 parameters.

Users may also become confused when they see so many different URLs that point to the same content, which will negatively affect the user experience on your site.

15. Avoid Using Underscores

URLs with underscores are not seen as hyperlinks by some search engines. Therefore it is best to avoid using them and stick to hyphens for breaking up keywords and phrases instead.

TIP: Hyphenating your URLs will also help the user determine where the end of one word and the start of another begins, which can be helpful when scanning a list of search results or category listings.

16. Canonicalization of URLs

Canonicalization is the process of picking the best URL when there are several choices, and it usually refers to home pages. Canonical URL tag is part of the HTML header on any webpage, inside <head>…</head> section. It tells the search engine which is the preferred URL when there are several versions of the same page.

The canonical tag looks like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”preferred-url”>

OR

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/” />

If you have multiple versions of your home page, you can use the canonical tag to indicate to the search engines which is the preferred version.

You can also use the canonical tag to indicate the preferred version of a page when there are several similar pages on your website.

By using the canonical tag, you can help the search engines index your content more accurately, and it will also help to avoid duplicate content penalties.

In addition, the canonical tag can be used to prevent users from being redirected to lower quality, user-generated content pages.

So, whenever you have a page that is automatically created by a script or a 3rd party plugin, always give it a permanent URL using the canonical tag. This will help avoid any confusion with the search engines and also provide your visitors with more accurate content than what they may find on user-generated content pages.

17. Session IDs

This is even worse than dynamic URLs. Avoid using session IDs for information that you would like to be indexed by spiders.

Session IDs are usually created dynamically, and since they will not be crawled by search engines, URLs with session IDs may never be indexed.

Try and use permanent URLs instead for pages that you want to appear in the SERPs.

Session ID’s appended to a URL can produce spider loops and cause the search engines to slowly crawl a site, abandon sections of a site entirely, or even the site itself.

Try disabling cookies and changing the User-Agent to Googlebot / Slurp / MSNBot and see if session ids appear in the URL. SEOZY recommends storing Session IDs in a cookie rather than appending the ID to URLs.

18. Directory Structure

Search Engines measure the importance of a page’s subject matter in part by its proximity to the Home page. Often, content residing more than 3 directories deep is considered of low value and will have difficulty ranking well for their topic.

For example,

http://www.example.com/category1/sub-category2/page3

is given low value by search engines because of its placement in the directory structure and will be difficult to rank for a particular topic, whereas

http://www.example.com/high-value-directory1 / lower value directory 2/ page3

is given a higher value.

Flat Directory Structure

A flat directory structure is one in which all pages are located in the root directory or one level down from the root. This type of structure is easy for the search engine spiders to crawl and often results in better indexing.

A good example of a website with a flat directory structure is the Google homepage. All pages are located in the root directory and can be easily accessed from any other page on the site.

E-commerce websites, on the other hand, often have a deep directory structure with pages located many levels down from the root. This can make it difficult for search engine spiders to crawl and index all of the content.

If you are using a CMS like WordPress, be sure to use a plugin that will create a flat directory structure for your website. This will make it easier for the search engine spiders to crawl and index all of your content.

Flat directory structure example URLs:

http://www.example.com/

http://www.example.com/page1/

http://www.example.com/page2/

http://www.example.com/page3/

Deep directory structure example URLs:

http://www.example.com/dir1/dir2/dir3/page1

http://www.example.com/category1/?sortby=price&limit=50&page=2

http://www.example.com/category1/?sortby=price&limit=50

The best practice is to keep all pages one level down from the root, as this will make it easy for the spiders to crawl and index your content.

Silo Directory Structure

Many large websites use a “Silo” directory structure. This is often seen on e-commerce sites that have thousands of products.

One example of a silo structure would be to group all products by their category so every product in the Clothing section of the site could be listed under one URL, while all products in the Electronics section would be listed under a different URL.

Example:

http://www.example.com/clothing/womens-clothing/sports-bra-black

http://www.example.com/electronics/laptops/acer-aspire-one

The Silo Directory Structure is effective for eCommerce websites because it helps to organize the content and makes it easy for the user to find what they are looking for. and also improves your chances of ranking for certain product keywords.

The best way to decide which type of directory structure would work for your website is to perform keyword research using free tools like Google Keyword Tool. This will help you determine the keywords that have the highest search volume in relation to your site. Once you have this data, you can structure your website accordingly.

The type of directory structure that you choose for your website can have a significant impact on your SEO efforts. A flat directory structure is often the best way to go, as it is easy for the search engine spiders to crawl and index all

In the case of a website having many categories and verticals, we recommend having a silo directory structure over a flat directory structure. On the other hand, if it’s only about a particular niche like a blog on SEO topics, then we can follow the flat directory structure.

Conclusion:

The URL structure of a website is an important aspect that one must take into account for better Search Engine Optimization.

The above-listed URL structure best practices should pave a way for a better understanding of website architecture and its effects on SEO.

However, as stated before, it is best to consult with a professional SEO services company to get personalized recommendations for your website.

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