URLs are the addresses of your web pages.
If your URLs are confusing, cryptic or unclear, you aren’t helping consumers easily find your site and search engines to understand upfront what your pages are about.
That means potentially less traffic on your site and fewer chances of converting users.
In this section of the KAMG SEO Content Hub, you’ll learn about URLs and how you can create and structure them so that they are SEO and user-friendly.
What is a URL?
A URL or Uniform Resource Locator is commonly known as a web address. It is the specific location of an online resource like a web page.
The URL also specifies how to retrieve that resource by using a protocol, which can be HTTP, HTTPS or FTP.
https://example.com is a URL.
It is a text string that is created to substitute the numbers or IP addresses that allow computers to communicate with servers.
So instead of us typing impossible to memorise numbers to reach a website, we type a URL with easy to remember and understand text or words.
URLs also recognise the file structure of the given website.
So if your website structure or site map looks like this:
- Blog Category 1
- Blog 1.1
- Blog 1.2
- Blog Category 2
- Blog 2.1
- Blog Category 1
- Service 1
- Service 2
The URL that opens the page Service 1 should look somewhat like this:
The URL that opens the page Blog 1 should look somewhat like this:
What are the parts of a URL?
Here’s an image showing the parts of a URL.
If you click the link to the above example’s page, this is how the URL should look in your browser’s address bar:
Clicking on the address bar twice shows the protocol:
A URL is made up of:
- A protocol;
- A domain name with a top-level domain (TLD); and
- A path (including the specific subfolder structure in which a page is located).
A URL has the following basic format.
Here’s an example of a live URL in the same basic format as above.
Take note that a URL sometimes doesn’t have a path because it doesn’t need to. This is the case for homepages of websites, e.g. https://kasandz.com – it doesn’t lead you to any subfolder or subfile of the domain but only to the homepage.
Also, to display correctly without risk of errors in any browser, your URLs must be no longer than 2,083 characters.
The Parts of a URL Defined
The protocol specifies how a browser should retrieve information about a resource.
The web standard protocol is http:// or https:// (the s stands for secure).
The Domain Name
Your domain name or hostname is the human-readable name of the specific location of a resource (mostly, a website).
The Top-Level Domain
The TLD is a subcategory of websites.
While you’re probably familiar with .com, there are also others like .edu for educational sites and .gov for government sites.
Here are some examples of URLs using different TLDs.
There are also country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).
A ccTLD is an Internet top-level domain mainly used or reserved for a country, sovereign nation, or dependent territory identified with a country code.
Some examples of these are .uk for the UK and .au for Australia. Here’s a ccTLD world map from robslink.com.
URLs can also include specific folders and subfolders on a given website. You’ll find the path after the / that precedes the TLD.
Here’s an example of a URL with the path coloured purple.
Other Optional Parts
A URL can also have parameters such as click tracking or session IDs and anchors that enable users to jump to a certain point in the resource.
URL Optimum Format
When building your URLs, you can use keywords that relate to your pages’ content. This will help ensure that users and search engines can determine what your pages are about just by finding your URLs.
The following is the best way you can organise your URLs.
Such an optimisation provides a well-organised structure for your URLs. And with keywords in proper use, it provides excellent understandability for users and search engines.
How a URL is Displayed on Search Results
When a search engine user makes a search using a keyword, a list of web pages is displayed on the SERP. Each item is organised in a way that includes a page’s URL (shortened to its domain name and breadcrumb path), title and meta description.
The breadcrumb path is a shortened, summarised version of a page’s entire path, targeting the most accurate text that represents the content. Google generates this from your entire URL path.
So if your URL is https://kasandz.com/ecommerce-seo-services/search-engines-seo
Google will shorten the URL display on SERPs to
https://kasandz.com > search-engines-seo
The text above marked in orange is the breadcrumb path.
It looks like this in the actual SERP.
How URLs Impact SEO
There are three main benefits of URLs.
- Better Website User Experience
When you craft your URL properly, it provides users and Google with a simple, comprehensive overview of what your page is about.
You’re essentially giving them a clear idea of what to expect when visitors go to the address. If Google knows what to expect then it can index your site correctly and thus improve the overall user experience for your visitors.
Below is an example of a search result for the keyword cat training.
In the URL section of the result snippet, you can see the domain name of the site and a breadcrumb path or a shortened, summarised version of the entire URL path.
The full URL for this search result is shown in the following image.
Notice that the URL uses path text that describes the content of the destination page. Your descriptive URL path is where Google will base its breadcrumb path display.
So when you write your URLs in such a way that they are descriptive and represent your content well, Google will be able to display a breadcrumb path that helps people and search engines understand your pages better. Better understanding by all parties can increase your chances of getting more clicks and organic traffic.
In the example above, the URL allows you to understand what you are getting into even if you don’t read the title of the search result. This is what we call a semantically accurate URL, i.e. one that accurately describes the destination page.
Here’s an example of a semantically inaccurate URL.
As it is riddled with code, you won’t have any idea if the page you are visiting is safe or legit.
With people nowadays more conscious about cyber security and privacy, you need to help them be secure that clicking your link won’t result in something bad for them. And you can do so by providing semantically accurate URLs.
- Ranking on SERPs
URLs are a minor ranking factor (as opposed to the major factor, content).
They are used by search engines to determine the relevance of a specific page or resource to a search query.
While a URL in itself does give weight to the overall domain authority (a search engine ranking score that predicts how likely a website is to rank on SERPs), keyword use in a URL can also be a ranking factor.
While using a keyword-rich URL can improve your site’s search visibility, URLs do not have a significant impact on a page’s ability to rank.
So, while it’s worth considering, it is not advisable to create otherwise useless URLs just to include a keyword in them.
When your URLs are well-written, they can be used as their own anchor text for linking. You can simply copy and paste them into posts on blogs, forums and social media.
There are some platforms like Facebook that leave shared links unformatted entirely. So if your URL is unoptimised and semantically inaccurate, it will look unkempt and annoying on posts on such a platform, and the chances of you getting clicks are decreased.
Easily readable and easy-to-understand URLs provide people with a good idea of what page they are opening when they click the link.
Here’s an example of a link using a semantically inaccurate URL as its anchor text shared on Facebook. Notice how you can’t guess where it leads to based on the URL.
But in this example of a semantically-accurate URL anchor text link, you have an idea that you will be directed to an SEO Service page when you click it.
Best SEO Practices for URLs
When your URLs are SEO-friendly, you make it simple for search engines and people to understand and find your content.
And of course, the more your content is digested, the more traffic and potential conversions you get.
Here’s how you can build your URLs so that they are simple to understand for users and search engines.
- It is critical to keep URLs as simple, relevant, compelling, and accurate as possible. Doing so, you make it easy for both people and Google to understand them (a prerequisite to ranking well).
Although URLs can be made up of ID numbers and codes, it is best to use words that people can understand.
|✓ Do This
|✕ Don’t Do This
- URLs should be descriptive but exact. A user or search engine should have a good idea of what to expect on the page based solely on your URL.
|✓ Do This
|✕ Don’t Do This
- Use hyphens to separate words when necessary for readability. You should not use underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words in your URLs.
|✓ Do This
|✕ Don’t Do This
- You should use only lowercase letters for your URLs. Uppercase letters can cause duplicate page issues in some cases.
For example, this could be interpreted as two distinct URLs, potentially resulting in duplicate content issues.
|✓ Do This
|✕ Don’t Do This
- If possible, avoid using URL para
- meters entirely. These URL elements can cause tracking and duplicate content issues.
If parameters must be used (for example, UTM codes), use them sparingly.
Understandability and Organisation are Key to Creating Excellent URLs
Before even considering what might work better for SEO, ensure that you create your URLs with human understanding in mind.
Doing so, you will naturally ensure SEO-friendliness when designing your URLs.
But of course, there are more technical things that you can do to improve your SEO.
And that’s what you’ll learn in the next section of the KAMG SEO Content Hub, about Technical SEO.