Making URLs User And SEO Freindly

How can a URL effect my SEO?

Having a good URL structure is important for several reasons. Not only will it allow your users to move around your site easily, but you can also use it to help improve your websites SEO. Below is a list of problems that are usually overlooked when creating a website and URL structure.

URL Canonicalization

A canonical is an HTML tag that sites inside the head tag of a web page. By using a canonical on you web page you tell search engines, like Google and Bing, what a pages true URL is. This prevents duplicate content errors from showing up in Web Master Tools. we’ll use this page as an example. Below is a list of potential URLs that the web page can be accessed from.

www.freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design/
freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design/
www.freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design
freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design
www.freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design/?something

By not having the canonical set in the header of our web pages a search engine might read this page from multiple URL. This will result in duplicate content in Google Web Master Tools. Potential having a negative effect on your SEO.

There are a few things that will help fix this issue. As already mentioned one of them is canonicalization. This is when you add the following code to the web page’s head section. The canonical for the example web page given above looks like this;

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design/">

This tells search engines that the true URL of the web page is “http://www.freespiritdevelopment.co.uk/responsive-web-design/”.

Another way of solving this problem is by using server side code. This is using either PHP or mod_rewrite, in your htaccess file, to create 301 redirects from the incorrect versions of your URL.

To find out if your website is correctly canonicalizing web pages use a tool like Screaming Fog SEO Spider to check what web pages are available on your website.

The Last Bit

There is nothing pretty, or useful for that matter, about having a file extension at the end of your URLs. The best method is not to have on at all. Where this does not have an impact directly on your SEO, it may have an impact indirectly. This also goes for having a trailing slash on some web pages but not others. Users mat look at it a feel that it looks unprofessional. This could affect a direct effect on the actions that your users perform on your website.

Choosing  The Right Words

A URL should reflect on what your web page is about, or what it is trying to achieve. This not only allows the URL to be informative to your users but also allows you to add keywords into it. Another target your should aim to achieve is having your main keyword at the beginning of you URI, the bit of the URL after the domain name. Going from our previous example, this could look something like /responsive-web-design/. 

Something to avoid is the use of abbreviations. This is because usually people will not use an abbreviation of a word when using a search engine. A search engine may also look at it as a spelling mistake. Where a few spelling and grammar errors will not affect your SEO. Having lots may have an impact whether it be direct or indirect.

Stopwords should also be avoided as well. This is words like ‘each’, ‘which’ and ‘until’. This is because is don’t tell the user anything and it’s not going to have a positive impact on your SEO.

More examples of stop words can be found at Ranks NL, Stop Words.

Graphics By Sam Azgor