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How to Structure Search Engine-Friendly URLs

By Bryan McCaffrey

structure search engine friendly URLs

First off, what is URL structuring? URL Structuring refers to the way your website displays links to users and search engines, and is very easily overlooked or neglected if you are new to website development.

Let me give you an example of a bad URL vs a good URL:

BAD: www.example.com/tires/cat2/prod_11.html
GOOD: www.example.com/tires/all-season/as7700.html

What does the first URL tell you about the page? Not much. It’s obviously about tires, but we have no idea what “cat2” or “prod_11” are. This style of URL structuring was very common in the early days of the internet. You shouldn’t see much of this anymore, but they still do exist.

How about the second URL? We can easily see that this is a page for an all-season style tire, with the model name AS7700, without even visiting the page. Pretty easy!

URL Structuring and SEO

Search Engine Optimization is not about one big “home run” that will magically get you on the first page, but lots of small, usually simple steps. URL structuring is just one of them.

Generally if its hard for people to read or understand your sites URLs, search engine robots will have a hard time as well. Your URLs should be clear, concise, and instantly recognizable as far as what information is on them.

Basic URL structuring tips:

  • Use dashes (-) to separate words in URLs. Avoid using underscores (_) — A URL of “history-of-automobiles.html” is better than “historyofautomobiles.html”. This is the search engine recommended way to separate words in URLs (Google, for instance).
  • Use relevant categories, page and post names — For instance: www.example.com/tires/all-season/as7700.html
  • Avoid complex URLs that point to the same page — Search generated URLs with too many filters can create an excess amount of links
  • Use static instead of dynamic URLs — Compare this dynamic link (www.example.com/products.php?cat=allseason&title=as7700) to this static link (www.example.com/products/all-season/as7700/)
  • http://example.com or www.example.com — You may not know it, but search engines treat these uniquely. Pick which you want to use, and set up a 301 redirect for the other.

Steps to take after restructuring your URLs:

  • Set up 301 redirects — To avoid search engine bots from getting 404 errors, set up redirects on all your old URLs to the updated ones.
  • Update your XML sitemap and resubmit — Updating your sitemap and submitting to search engines tells them something has changed and they should crawl it again. This can help your changes be indexed faster.
  • Update internal links (if needed) — You can’t control outside links, but you sure can control the ones on your site. Why not fix them?