Are your website’s URLs neat and tidy, and do visitors even care? More importantly, goes Google care?
The answer is actually a bit convoluted, because saying yes to these questions isn’t the whole story.
For starters, the Chrome 68 update is moving toward completion in July 2018, which creates more transparency in website URL safety. (Go here if you’re completely lost about this update.)
After July, people are going to become little investigators when it comes to website URLs, and nothing screams “scam” like a random link that takes you to an internet black hole. Unfortunately, even when you have good intentions but complicated URLs, your customers might sense a black hole and go running. Plus, it turns out Google doesn’t appreciate nonsensical URLs either.
So, where do we draw the line when making URLs relevant and, above all, Google search-worthy?
Tips for URL SEO
- Ensure your URL is readable and relevant to the webpage’s content, but use as few words as possible to get your point across regarding the page’s content.
- Utilize relevant keywords in your URL to help with search engine crawls, but avoid keyword stuffing or you might get your website blacklisted by both your customer and by Google. The customer will wonder if they’ve landed on a legitimate site, and Google will just penalize you. This one is always a fine line!
- Limit yourself to 50 or 60 characters when possible, as this will make it easier to share pages and will decrease the likelihood that your URL will become truncated on sites that limit character limit.
- Avoid using punctuation or alternating between upper and lower case. In general, lower case is preferred, and punctuations don’t show up correctly anyway so you may as well leave them out.
- Add hyphens and underscores to break up words instead of adding spaces, and if this makes the URL too long then consider combining words or shortening the URL altogether.
- Limit the number of folders you use to make your site less intimidating. Take our URL (https://tcsdigitalmarketing.com/naples/seo/) as an example. SEO is a folder within the folder of Naples, which is a location we serve. The location is also a folder on our main site. With just a couple folders deep it’s not too intimidating, but if you get too crazy with your folders then people start to wonder how they’ll ever find their way out of your black hole.
- Remove stop words such as “that” and “and,” or alternatively you can download the Yoast plugin for WordPress sites which automatically remove stop words. Shoot us an email if you need help with Yoast!
- Avoid excessive use of dynamic parameters. Those are URLs that start off long and complicated and change when the site loads. They’re often used to track link clicks and are associated with making sales. They’re not a make or break situation, but good SEO leans toward static, unchanging links.
- Make sure there is one main URL that takes customers to your main front page. That means you’ll need to add a canonical tag when you have more than one URL. This may become a bigger issue after the chrome 68 update because websites might look like this (http://www.example.com) and like this (https://www.example.com). Notice the “s” which differentiates them, and yet both pages lead to the same place.
- Restrict 301 redirects when possible. Also note that when you have a 301 redirect, customers don’t see the first page that has now been redirected. However, when you add a canonical tag which makes multiple pages direct to a single page, then customers will still be able to see both URLs. This can get confusing for customers and Google.
Clearly some of these tips are SEO friendly while others are more customer friendly, but both lead to a sale so you shouldn’t knock it. As URLs become more scrutinized, then you’ll fair better if you give your website a look over.
Of course, while your URLs are easy to check out with a quick click, you can’t always know what’s hiding out in the digital sphere that could be creating a need for canonical tags, 301 redirects and more. Get in contact, and we can find any hidden URLs that might be wreaking SEO havoc thus helping you steer clear of the doomed internet black hole.