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SEO Tips: URL Best Practices 2011 Update
Thursday, December 02, 2010
As we move into 2011, it is important to remind webmasters and site owners of the importance of URL structure.  While recent discussions suggest that Google may be paying less attention to keywords in URLs, my experience is definitely showing otherwise.  Over the past twelve to eighteen months, I have actually seen keyword placement in URLs to have somewhat of a significant impact on sites that place well in Google's search results.  A search friendly URL and more importantly user friendly URL can go a long way with your optimization efforts.  I have discussed URL best practices in the past but felt that it was time to update and provide some reminders about URL best practices.

Having search engine friendly URLs can provide a great lift in placement within the search engine results.  A search engine friendly URL is one that is static (i.e. with no dynamic parameters), is short and contains relevant keywords to the page.

Proper URL structure is one of those items that can have a great impact on your site rankings in the long run. Conversely terrible URL structure can have an immediate negative impact on your search engine visibility.  The folks over at SEOmoz have put together a number of fantastic posts on seo-friendly URLs complete with a great visual that we have produced below:

 URL Best Practices:  2011 Update
  1. Plan your site hierarchy carefully.  Avoid burying your content deep within your site. Use fewer folders. Try to keep your important site content less than three or four folders deep. If you don't treat your content as important why would you expect the search engines to?   Acceptable: http://www.your-site.com/pages/content/products.  Ideal:  http://www.your-site.com/products

  2. Describe Your Content - to promote the theme of your site, where possible try to ensure that your URLs accurately reflect the page content.  If you have a page on widgets, make sure that the URL is reflective of that.  A well optimized URL for this page may look something like: 

  3. Shorter URLs are better than longer ones for usability as they are more easily remembered.  URLs such as http://www/your-site.com/products/red-widgets will be easier to remember than say http://www.your-site.com/pages/content/products/redwidgets
  4. Avoid use of numbers as opposed to using descriptive keywords. The exception may be incorporating the date into URL. Of course with blogs and archived data, many URLs tend to contain a number sequence reflective of a defined time period.  There are exceptions to this practice.  For example, if you have a page about 5 prong widgets, a well optimized URL might look like:  http://www.your-site.com/products/5-pring-widgets (in this case we have used both numbers and descriptive keywords)

  5. Use hyphens as word separators - You can use underscores ("_") or hyphens ("-") but hyphens tend to look better and are preferred by many (search engines prefer the use of a hyphen over an underscore.)  http://www.your-site.com/products/red-widgets is preferred over http://www.your-site/products/redwidgets or http://www.your-site.com/products/red_widgets

  6. Static URLs tend to be shorter and more effective than dynamic URLs. Search engines have been pretty forward in saying that they prefer static URLs.  Example of Dynamic URL:  http://www.your-site.com/products/red_widgets/123?/N-abc-999900721

  7. Sub-domains can be effective if you have the supporting content and a strong "theme" to back them up.  Example:  delivery.widgets.com/red-widgets

  8. Be consistent with naming conventions - this just makes sense does it not?

  9. If you change a URL, be sure to always use permanent 301 redirection – where possible avoid changing the names of URLs frequently.  If you need to change the file name of the URL, be sure to redirect the old page/URL to the new page URL via a 301 redirect.  Avoid using a 302 as they will not help transfer link popularity.  Remember that anytime you change the name of a URL you affect SEO components such as:
      • Interlinking between that page and other site pages
      • External links pointing to the old page
      • Potential existing search engine rankings for the existing (old) page
      • Google PageRank of the existing (old) page
Google has also communicated URL best practices through their Webmaster Tools blog. 

Google's Tips for Optimized URL Structure
    • Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers). For example, if you're searching for information about aviation, a URL like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation will help you decide whether to click that link. A URL like http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1, is much less appealing to users.
    • Consider using a robots.txt file to block Googlebot's access to problematic URLs. Typically, you should consider blocking dynamic URLs, such as URLs that generate search results, or URLs that can create infinite spaces, such as calendars. Using regular expressions in your robots.txt file can allow you to easily block large numbers of URLs.
    • Wherever possible, avoid the use of session IDs in URLs. Consider using cookies instead. Check Google's Webmaster Guidelines for additional information.
    • Whenever possible, shorten URLs by trimming unnecessary parameters.
    • If your site has an infinite calendar, add a nofollow attribute to links to dynamically created future calendar pages.
    • Check your site for broken relative links.
    • Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, December 02, 2010  
  • At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Thanks for sharing about this new SEO tips. Will be interested if you write anymore on SEO cos I’m sure I still have heaps to learn. Thanks for sharing with us. Please more suggetion...

  • At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Jonathan said…


    A useful reminder. What are your views on using dates within blog URLs? They can look messy but do they help to organise content?

  • At 5:22 AM, Blogger king toqeer said…

    Great post! it is so interesting point , that forum marketing is not really suited for niche sites,
    Thanks !

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