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How to Optimize URLs for Humans and Search Engines?


SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something that shouldn’t be ignored if you want to get great amount of search engine traffic. It includes a set of strategies that are implemented both onsite and off site in order to improve website’s visibility in search engines. When it comes to Onsite SEO (Popularly known as On-page SEO), URL optimization is one of the biggest factors which should not be missed.

Let’s get to know what actually the URL is?

URL which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, is an address to locate a resource available on the internet. It is in the form of human readable text that replaces IP addresses that computer systems use to communicate with server.

I mean actually the website’s actual links are in the form of numbers something like 192.68.52.1 and these are mapped to some text based URL to make it readable.

Basic URL structures:

http://www.example.com/category/sub-category/page-name

or 

http://www.example.com/category/page-name

or 

http://www.example.com/page-name

Let’s understand the elements of URL

http: It stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol and it is a stateless protocol and it is the most used data transfer protocol over world wide web. [http://]

P.S. Recently https has been implemented which is more secure than http.

www: It stands for World Wide Web and it is an information system of interlinked hypertext documents that are accessed via the Internet. It has also commonly become known simply as the Web. [www] (Source: Wikipedia)

Domain: It is the most important part of URL. It is actually the name of a website such as techtricksworld.com is the domain name for this blog.

Domain is subject to availability which means one domain can be used by only one owner. So as techtricksworld.com is a domain registered with my name already so no one else can register it. [example.com]

TLD: It stands for Top Level Domain which can be either .com, .net, .info, .in, .org, .us and so on. [.com]

Subdirectory: This is actually a folder in which files are stored on the server. Files are even can be placed directly on the root. It is not important have subdirectory always, you can have it or not as per your choice. [www.example.com/category/page-name]

File Name: File name is part of the URL which comes at the end and it actually locates the main file or page. [www.example.com/category/page-name]

Now you are having a better insight about what actually the URL is and what are the elements of it.

Now when it comes to optimization of URLs, you cannot change anything in the primary stuff http://www and it will always be same so the optimization can only be done for the elements come after these.

Here are the ways to optimize your site’s URL for search engines and Humans:

url optimization

1. www Vs non www

You can use any kind of URLs either with www or without www but make sure that your blog should always open on one address.

There are many website owners missed to fix this issue and due to this when you type www.exaple.com then site will open with www and if you type only example.com then it will open without www.

Don’t get confused!

This is called as canonical issue and Google consider both www.example.com and example.com as separate site thus duplicate content issue can arise. It needs to be fixed in a way that even you type with www or without www; site should always open with the address you have fixed for it. Suppose you have set as www.example.com then either you type in your browser with www or without www website will always open as www.example.com.

This is also an important part of URL optimization because canonical issue is really bad as per SEO guidelines.

2. Choose a good Domain

The first element comes after http://www is domain which needs to be selected wisely because it cannot be changed later. You should keep these things in mind while choosing the domain:

1. Try to choose small and memorable domain name.

2. In the past, domains based on keywords worked well such as com or buycheapphones.com (domains are just used for example) but after Google’s EMD (Exact Matched Domain) update, things gone changed and keyword domain lost its value. Thus the good practise is to use a brandable domain name which can be remembered easily. Even if you want to keep your domain on keyword base then use either LSI (Latest Semantic Indexing) words or put any one word from keywords. Don’t just make your keywords as domain.

3. Choose TLD as per your business. Suppose your business is local in India then choosing .in domains will have advantage. If you are getting a domain for any organisation, .org will be better. Though .com domains are most preferable ones. Thus, if you don’t have any specific requirements then choose .com domain without any second thought. [Just for the sake that .com domains are very common and easily remembered by people]

4. Try not to get a hyphenated domain because people cannot remember this kind of URL structure. Such as, com is better than tech-tricks-world.com

3. Permalink Optimization

Now, you have your blog/website main domain URL ready and you need SEO friendly internal page URLs.

I have mentioned earlier in this post about different URL structures which are as:

http://www.example.com/category/sub-category/page-name

or 

http://www.example.com/category/page-name

or 

http://www.example.com/page-name

You can select any kind of URLs out of them. You can have /category/subcategory/page-name or just /page-name

At times you start your WordPress blog with ugly or lengthy Permalink structure but later you come to know that it should be something better and shorter. In such case you need to change the permalink structure and you are done. Seems very simple but there arises problems of 404 errors, Old indexed URLs in Google when clicked goes to not found pages. Everything goes messed up! But don’t worry, I have written a post in which I have mentioned how to change permalink structure for an already established blog without loosing any traffic and SEO value. Read the post here >> http://goo.gl/6bVaVE 

When you are dealing with an e-commerce website then you should have categorized links such as /electronics/mobile-phones/nokia-asha because this makes sense for users and even its good from search engine’s view as they can index the links category wise.

But when you are having a simple blog or information website then you should not have this kind of link structure. You might have seen many blogs have link structure like example.com/12/2014/page-name or example.com/gadgets/mobiles/nokia-asha.

Both of the structures are fine but it’s better to replace them from these example.com/page-name or example.com/mobiles/nokia-asha.

Why I am suggesting these?

Because lesser URL depth is better for Search Engine point of view and even it makes URL shorter which is good and memorable. Longer URLs are not recommended.

A. Static Vs Dynamic URLs

The above mentioned URLs are static URLs which are the best for SEO purpose. They are human edited but Dynamic URLs are created by web servers and they get generated at the run time.

Static URL: http://www.example.com/url-optimization – SEO Friendly

Dynamic URL: http://www.example.com/abc.php?id=3&k=443 – Not SEO Friendly

Dynamic URLs are not SEO friendly thus they should be rewritten in order to make them SEO and human friendly.

Thus, always create Static URLs which are human readable and SEO friendly.

B. Hyphen Vs underscore

I have mentioned that avoid using hyphens in domain name but when you have to write permalinks i.e. www.example.com/page-name then you should use hyphens to separate words rather than using underscore.

www.example.com/buy-nokia-asha is good

www.example.com/buynokiaasha is not good as it doesn’t look readable.

www.example.com/buy_nokia_asha is not recommended

Why Hyphens not underscores?

This is because Google considers hyphens to be word separators but have not yet programmed their search bots to consider underscores as word separators. (Source: Woorank blog).

Thus, always use hyphens whenever it is indeed required for readability purpose but don’t overdo it.

Conclusion

This is what I have to share about URL optimization so that you can get the maximum knowledge about it because if you are lacking in this area, you are missing a lot in your site’s SEO.

I hope I am clear with what I have said in this post. Still if you find anything which looks to be unclear, please do ask your questions via comments and give me opportunity to respond to your queries.


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