How to Build Better URLs in Six Simple Steps

by Brian Lentz

Have you ever clicked on a link and been confused on where you wound up? — what exactly does that “z!2xlm” mean in http://wesite.com/lmnop/z!2xlm/gtmhadalittlelamb?

If so, you probably just left the website to find a better-organized one with a better URL.

Building a perfect URL structure may not be a huge SEO ranking factor, but the user experience is. Before we break down specific best practices of creating an URL, we must understand the parts of an URL. For example:

https://willthebrownseverbegood.com/players/baker-mayfield

  • Protocol. This declares to Google how your website should be communicating with a webserver. The two most common protocols are Hypertext Transfer Protocol, HTTP, and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, HTTPS.
  • Domain Name. This is a unique identifier to your website and will be specific to you and your website only.
  • Path. This displays the path the users need to take to find any given web page on your website.

With the main search engine sites becoming smarter and smarter, the URL structure is not the most important ranking factor anymore. With that being said, user experience is at an all-time high for a ranking factor, and a sloppy URL structure can hurt that. Use these six tips to help build a great URL structure:  

Focus on User Experience

url names should include chapters

User Experience is one of the most important factors when it comes to your online marketing efforts. When creating a new website, treat your URL like it is a book with chapters and pages. We want the domain name to be the name of the book and the paths to be chapters and pages.

With the example from above, “players” is the chapter (a parent page) and Baker Mayfield is the page (a child page). Using this format, users will be able to easily navigate your website and help you overall user experience.

Use Canonicals

When you are creating the same pages with different URLs for posting purposes, make sure you are canonicalizing them. When you use the process of canonicalizing, this will help Google know which page to not only crawl but also to index into their SERP. This will take away any type of confusion to Google, which is always a good thing to do.

Use Focus Keywords

focus keywords for better urls

Using the focused keyword in the URL is still a great idea for two reasons. The first reason is that when a keyword is in the URL, it shows up on the SERP. Secondly, when your URL’s are getting copied and pasted onto other webpages without an anchor text, the URL serves as its own anchor text.

Be Careful with Capitalization

When creating new pages into your website, make sure that you are using lower case letters when possible. If you were to search for https://willthebrownseverbegood.com/Players/Baker-Mayfield, this will not take you to the URL from our example above. My rule is to never use capitalization because it will be less confusing to your users.

Shorter is Better

shorter is better for urls

When it comes to the length of the URL, I try to stay around 50-69 characters long. This is not going to affect your rankings on the search engines, but it’s a guideline to help with usability and user experience.

Use HTTPS

There are many reasons to use HTTPS for your website’s protocol that include protecting the integrity of your website, provides protection to your users, provides security to your users, and a majority of websites are switching to HTTPS. Not only for those factors, but in 2014, Google has also been giving a ranking boost to HTTPS websites since they are a securer and safer destination for the users.

If you follow these quick 6 tips about URL structure, not only will you create an organized site, but you may see a small increase in your rankings. Never underestimate the power of user experience.

About the Author: Brian Lentz is a Digital Marketing Specialist that has been part of the ChoiceLocal team for 2 years. He has a strong focus on search engine optimization but loves every aspect of digital marketing. In his free time, he enjoys being active, playing video games and playing intramural sports.