Writing URLs the right way

When it comes to URL structure, the name of the game is clarity. Search engines (as well as users) appreciate being able to grasp what a page is about just by looking at the URL. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Trim the fat

Keep URLs as precise as possible. Blog post titles can often make this difficult to achieve, but if the URL is made up of a string of words like /things-to-do-in-chicago-for-new-years-eve, people and search bots will at least be able to grasp the contents of the page. Plus, that particular URL contains keywords that will boost its ability to rank.

Be descriptive

Keywords, as briefly mentioned above, belong in URLs. If the content you create is directly related to the terms for which you’re attempting to rank, it only makes sense that a particular page’s URL summarizes the contents. It’s pretty common to incorporate the page’s title into the address. For example, our SEO Audit Checklist page has a URL ending with /seo-audit-checklist. Simple, direct, and descriptive. Everyone wins.

Nix the subdomains

Since writing this post, Matt Cutts (Head of webspam at Google) has announced that Google no longer perceives subdomains (blog.example.com/) and subdirectories (example.com/blog/). Which route you choose to organize your site structure can be based on personal preference and convenience. Here’s a video:


Hyphens vs. Underscores

Should we use hyphens or underscores? This was once a topic worth discussing, but today it’s pretty clear that hyphens are the preferred method for separating words in a URL. Matt Cutts explains in the video below why Google, in particular, favors the hyphen strategy. While this isn’t a huge factor when it comes to ranking, it is still worth keeping in mind as you create new pages.

Case sensitivity

Most sites opt for lowercase letters in URLs because the address is case sensitive; having lowercase letters across the board keeps things simple. On the flip side, creating URLs that are mixes of both upper and lowercase can potentially cause navigational difficulties or duplicate content. We recommend adding 301-redirects to uppercase-infused URLs, thus guiding users to the address you want them to visit. Facebook, for example, redirects users to www.facebook.com if someone should happen to type Facebook.com. Try it. While they may not carry as much authoritative weight as title tags, proper URL practices can certainly aid a site’s ability to rank. Sites that are built with SEO in mind are at a major advantage because their URLs are easy to crawl and understand from the start a not to mention they avoid the hassle of having to correct chaotic, confusing URLs later.