SEO friendly URLs

SEO friendly URLs

September 23rd, 2015 – 34 Comments

The subject is up for much discussion: SEO friendly URLs. Should or shouldn’t I include the category? Should the URL be as short as possible or is there room for extra’s? Should it be stuffed with keywords or not?

In this post, I’ll explain our take on SEO friendly URLs and try to elaborate a bit on why we think that is the best option for that link. First, let me tell you that a SEO friendly URL differs per type of website. In this article, I’ll discuss a few to show the differences. There are a few ground rules, but I strongly encourage you to keep the visitor in mind when setting up your URL structure.

Ground rules for SEO friendly URLs

No matter what kind of website you have, there are a couple of ground rules that apply to all websites.

  • The main thing to keep in mind is that your URLs should be focused. Strip your URLs of stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of  verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
  • The length of your URL isn’t really a factor in this. We do recommend to keep your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are most probably more focused. Keep in mind to use a logical structure in your URL, as Google bolds the keyword used in search, even in the URL:URL focus on the keywords
    This snippet also shows that length isn’t that much of an issue: Google will show what they think is important for that visitor. Keep in mind that meta titles and descriptions are cut off at 512 pixels, and so is your URL – as you can see above.
  • Don’t use underscores, as these connect the words and make them into one. Dashes are preferred.

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These are the ground rules for SEO friendly URLs. The best SEO friendly URL differs per type of website. Pick your type of site to jump to the information that applies to your website:

SEO friendly URLs for your company website

If your website holds information about your company and/or services and that is basically it, no matter how many pages you have, I’d go with the shortest URL possible.

http://example.com/contact/
http://example.com/about-us/

SEO friendly URLs for your webshop

If your website is a webshop, there are two ways to go about:

http://example.com/product-name/
http://example.com/category-name/product-name/

Some content management systems (like Magento) create both. In that case, use rel=”canonical” to point Google to the one you want to appear in Google.

The question remains what URL structure to use. In this case, SEO friendly URLs should also be helpful URLs for your visitor. If your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, by all means include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will remind the visitor where there are in your website:

http://example.com/birds/crane
http://example.com/equipment/crane

See what I mean? Decide for yourself if your categories add that value to the product and URL. If so, it’s also better for SEO to include the category, as category and product are very much related.

SEO friendly URLs for your blog or news site

If your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URL. Let’s go over these separately:

  • http://example.com/post-title/
    If your site as a whole has a strong coherence, you could consider focusing on the post title and the post title only to create an SEO friendly URL. The coherence will indicate the main topic of your website to Google, so no need to add that in the URL.
  • http://example.com/category-name/post-title/
    If your website is a news website and you’re writing about different topics, adding the topic (for instance as a category name), will make even more clear what the page is about. It’s a bit similar as explained above at SEO friendly URLs for your webshop.
  • http://example.com/mm/dd/yyyy/post-title/
    If your website features daily news and the news is related to a date, be sure to include that date in the URL as well. If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the date in the URL will already show if the page is about this year’s iPhone or not. My recommendation: only use the date in the URL if the date matters.
  • http://example.com/post-title/three-digit-ID/
    Google News’ technical guidelines clearly state: “To make sure we only crawl new articles, please make sure your URLs are unique with at least 3 digits, and are permanent.” If for some reason you don’t want to include the date in the URL of your news article, you could add an ID for the post as well to get this covered. Keep in mind that Google News is only for news that matters to the world, which doesn’t apply to most company news ;-)

TL;DR

There is no one way to create the best SEO friendly URL. It depends on the type of website you have. Especially with a blog or news site, there are multiple options. The main thing is to keep your URLs focused. Besides that, make sure to include all information that’s important to make clear what the page is about.

Read more: ‘ rel=canonical • What it is and how (not) to use it ’ »


34 Responses to SEO friendly URLs

  1. Android mobile price
    By Android mobile price on 6 October, 2015

    Really you are true writer of how to make SEO friendly URL to increase traffic. I have learn so many things from this blog that i am totally fan of it. I recently started a blog and hope your step will help me. Thank You

  2. Aivar
    By Aivar on 3 October, 2015

    Good article, thnx!

    I’m trying to decide which URLs are better for my webshop, still didn’t figure it our :)
    http://www.site.com/rabbit-buildings/modern-rabbit-buildings/rabbit-building-eva-xl
    or
    http://www.site.com/rabbit-buildings/modern/eva-xl
    or something in between
    http://www.site.com/rabbit-buildings/modern-rabbit-buildings/eva-xl

    I like the shortest version, but my top competitors with very good rankings use the longest version – that’s the problem.
    And I see one competitor with shortest version actually ranking not so good!
    Yes, I understand that there are many other factors in this game, of course ;)

    I hope that someone with good practical experience in webshop seo can share his/her experience about this :)
    So, which variant is better?

  3. aakashpatel
    By aakashpatel on 30 September, 2015

    very and effective article.
    Difference between short URL and long URL is clear and as new blogger we understand that how to make Seo friendly Url for blog.
    Thanks for publishing it.

  4. Luiz
    By Luiz on 30 September, 2015

    Hi Michiel

    Good article. I have a question: i used to use hubspot cms blog and now we’re migrate to WP. The blog urls are by default domain.com/blog/year/month/name-of-post and in our new WP the settings are different.
    The old posts ( about 70) we’ll change manually the url to keep the same old url already indexed by google.
    But, what a bout the NEW ones, from now ? Its a problem to use those short urls exemples, despite the old ones are in other way?

  5. Steve Miller
    By Steve Miller on 29 September, 2015

    Great post. Yoast SEO does tell you when your URLs are too long (it mentions that your slug is too long), so that can be helpful. I have been able to grow my visitors by 5 times in 2 months by really focusing on SEO, so it definitely helps. Here is how I do it:

    http://www.weretiredearly.com/Blog/2015/09/28/wordpress-seo-tips-for-google/

    Thanks for the great article.

  6. Starck Sean
    By Starck Sean on 29 September, 2015

    Thanks & very good post about SEO frindly url. But These are some old tricks of making SEO frindly. I am on search and i really found good tricks to make SEO frindly url which easy to to achive good ranking of url in search engine result page.

  7. Robin Jennings
    By Robin Jennings on 29 September, 2015

    Hi Simon, If you are setting up a new eCommerce store or migrating one. It is really worth setting up a small shop testing various permalink structures with 50 odd products and then when you’re happy with it, expand to the full shop.

    URLs on eCommerce stores can become very bloated and very incorrect quickly if you have a large amount of categories, tags, product categories, search product by ages, niches etc.

    • Simon
      By Simon on 1 October, 2015

      Hi Robin,

      Thank you for the advice :)

      Simon

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 29 September, 2015

      Agreed, as some shop solutions create a gazillion URLs for no particular reason ;)

  8. Panha
    By Panha on 27 September, 2015

    Hello Mr. Michiel, is this a good article?
    Please explain to me more.
    Thanks

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 29 September, 2015

      No idea what you mean, Panha. Please elaborate.

  9. Simon
    By Simon on 25 September, 2015

    Hi,

    We are in the midst of moving our e-commerce store onto WooCommerce. I noticed that the standard url structure for WooCommerce has either a shop/product or a category/category-name/sub-category. Should I figure out a way to remove the extra word “SHOP” and “CATEGORY” from the beginning of the URL or leave it as is. Also, should I include the category before the product under the shop structure i.e shop/product-category/product. Or leave it as shop/product.

    here is how it is currently set:
    /category/presentation/presentation-miniatures/

    then when you select a prodcut it switches to
    /shop/fryer-mini-6cm/

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Simon

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 29 September, 2015

      You shouldn’t just change an existing URL, that’s probably most important. Regardless of what is better for SEO, changing a URL and redirecting all the old ones should only be done after careful consideration. Most of the comments above argue about what is best, your question is about if you should change it. I wouldn’t. First focus on all the other optimization you can do and only as a cherry on the cake, you could consider changing the URL. But that is really a whole different story.

      • Simon
        By Simon on 1 October, 2015

        Thanks Michiel,

        Appreciate your feedback. So i suppose the question i have to ask is as i was based on E-shop platform before and now moving across to Woocommerce they both have different url structures. i was going to move onto the standard woo-commerce URL structure and set up a 301 redirect table bouncing our old url’s to the new ones. Is that the right approach or should i try and make the new woo-commerce url’s match the old ones?

        Thanks again,
        Simon

        • Michiel Heijmans
          By Michiel Heijmans on 1 October, 2015

          You might want to hang on to the old structure for now. That way, Google won’t have any trouble keeping track of all the pages, as they already know URL structure and don’t have to get used to a new one along with the change of site.

  10. Iris Dorreboom
    By Iris Dorreboom on 25 September, 2015

    Hi Michiel,
    Thanks for this post. One question – what if you have a company website AND a blog? We will, in the near future.
    Thanks for your insights.
    Best,
    Iris

  11. Claire Greenhow
    By Claire Greenhow on 24 September, 2015

    The last SEO company I used told me I needed to include the date in the URL but having read this post, I am not sure it is necessary for my blog as it doesn’t feature daily news, just regular posts.

  12. Fabian Dech
    By Fabian Dech on 24 September, 2015

    We recently setup our clients’ website having tons of blogposts.
    We set up the permalinks for the blogposts like this:

    A. – http://www.example.com/blogpost/

    My colleague who does our analytics came to me and asked if it wasn’t better to let the slug to be like:

    B. – http://www.example.com/categorie/blogpost/

    I couldn’t give him a right answer.

    Which permalink is better for SEO? And why?

    The reason he really asked me because he wasn’t able to easily group and pages/posts in Google Analytics.
    He said he could only do it when the “categorie” was in the slug.

    Hoping for an answer.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 29 September, 2015

      I’d focus on the /blogpost/ to be honest, without /categorie/. Tons of blogposts usually also means tons of categories, which means loss of focus. But I can be wrong in this specific case. I would require more information about the website to give a solid answer. By the way, this would also be something that is addressed in a site review – that is obviously tailored to your specific website. Could be something to consider.

  13. Zevi Sternlicht
    By Zevi Sternlicht on 24 September, 2015

    Great post, one caveat to mention is that when browsing in Google analytics and you want to see all your product pages in one go, it’s useful to have a URL structure like this: domain.com/products/product-name.HTML

    Then you can filter down in the pages to see all the product pages and compare their performance.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 24 September, 2015

      Don’t agree, Zevi. That means you are not building your URL with SEO in mind, but just for your own convenience. I’d rather see product groups works together, which would rather mean using categories and checking per category. There are other ways to filter, right ;)

      • Joseph K
        By Joseph K on 27 September, 2015

        Michiel,

        For something like a product, it boils down to performance. It’s easier for a CMS to compute the location of:

        example.com/shop/my-product

        vs.

        example.com/my-product

        Reason being.. the database gets so large, so if you’re able to help the database narrow down to only those posts within “/shop/” you’ll get a faster performance. Otherwise without the slug “/shop/” you’re searching all the content pages, blog posts, media, etc. etc.

        • Michiel Heijmans
          By Michiel Heijmans on 29 September, 2015

          Shop is already A LOT better than ‘products’ which tells you absolutely nothing. Could be a simple listing, right. So in terms of use and IMHO for seo, shop != products.

  14. cadeyrn
    By cadeyrn on 24 September, 2015

    Hi,

    thank you for the article. What do you recommend for a news blog with different (but related, because it’s about multiple products of one organisation) topics and daily news (~ one article per day)? Date + category + post name or is that too much?

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 24 September, 2015

      Is the news really date related as well? In that case, include the date. Not sure you need to include the category in that case. Depends on the site :)

  15. Ahmed Elgameel
    By Ahmed Elgameel on 24 September, 2015

    Thanks a lot for this great comment, But I really dob’t know which is better long or small URLs, as some times my post URL is a little bit long.

  16. Purushottam Kadam
    By Purushottam Kadam on 23 September, 2015

    great this is what I am searching for
    interesting things to learn about URL structures for SEO

  17. Marie
    By Marie on 23 September, 2015

    Thank you for an interesting post. What about the domain name? Would e.g. Yoastseo.com be a lot better than Yoast.com?

    To me it seems logical that the domain name should tell what the website is about, but maybe a good website structure is enough.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 24 September, 2015

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for your question. I’d use the URL for branding instead of keywords, like Joost explains in this post.

  18. Arthur Wilson
    By Arthur Wilson on 23 September, 2015

    Good point regarding the length or the URL and the focus of the topic/content.

    Reckon a lot of people mistake that info to mean Google prefers shorter URLs, which as you mentioned isn’t really the case.


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