Google has an extensive list of ranking signals for website with varying degrees of importance. Just because some areas are lower down in terms of ranking power, that doesn’t mean it should not still tick the SEO boxes. Url’s are not the biggest signal for rankings but must have prominence, especially when combined with a user experience angle.
A url is a major part of the first impression visitors will have of your site and brand. Clean, shareable urls can increase click throughs and even the virality of your most relevant content.
A url, is a clear indication of your sites hierarchy to Google, and the search engine has now started adapting its use of url’s further. By identifying a sites hierarchy it is using this as a breadcrumb to show in SERP’s. To reduce clutter, especially on mobile screens, Google has replaced url’s beneath the page title with breadcrumbs.
The image below taken from the webmaster blog, shows the before and after for these search results.
A nicely formatted url can give both visitors and search engines a strong idea of what will be on the resulting page once the click happens. So adapting url’s can encourage new visitors to your website.
As part of your SEO strategy, it is always imperative to have nicely formatted url’s. But due to the lower ranking signal, giving too much time to readdressing missed opportunities to support keyword research could be a wasted endeavour.
If your page titles are adept at correctly informing the visitor of the pages content then this can be replicated in the url as a rule of thumb. Just remember to remove unnecessary words and try to reduce length.
A lot of brands and websites are keen to ride the wave of social media and get visitors sharing their content across the internet. It is a great way to get free traffic from content you have already created, so encouraging visitors to share by integrating the right tools is something I would highly recommend.
But, when sharing, visitors need link-friendly url’s that offer those that see the link some information about where they will visit upon clicking.
IMDB: Shows no information to the reader about the page
GQ: Not only gives the page title but also what type of page it is (Gallery)
Like many websites, you may have both a http and https version of url’s. Google is putting greater weight to sites with secure https so your focus should be on this. But, what happens if you have backlinks pointing to your older http links?
Use a 301 redirect to send all traffic to the https version. This along with stating https as your main preference in Search Console should resolve any issues.
Best Practices For URL’s
Word Delimiters – Use hyphens to separate words in the url.
URL Length – Keep urls concise and relevant, after 512 pixels Google will truncate.
Hashes – These are an intuitive way to send a visitor to particular content on a page. But if possible, refrain from using or create a custom url.
Parameters – Use of url parameters can often provide issues with duplicate content and tracking. Only implement when absolutely necessary.
Lowercase Text – Introduce the same format for all urls. This means writing all urls in lowercase, as having a mix of upper and lower case can often create problems again with duplicate content.
Static – This is highly recommended over using dynamic which can prove troublesome with regards to SEO