URLs are crucial building blocks within any website. The URLs that your website uses enables users to move from one page to another, and helps to organize your site’s content into organized sections. URLs also remain important for on-site search engine optimization. Changes to URL structure can significantly impact your SEO performance, and URL content should not only mesh with information architecture and website organization, but they should also include important keywords that relate to specific pages. Whether you’re considering changing URL structure or considering a redesign, here are several areas to consider.
Generally speaking, the shorter the URL the better. Not only does it become easier for the user if the URL remains somewhat memorable and understandable, but it also should feature helpful keywords that provide a relevant description of what’s on the page without extraneous syntax or words. Keeping URL structures shorter also prevents them from being cut off if a user tries to copy and paste the URL, for example if they want to email it to a friend.
The URL structure should include descriptive keywords for several reasons. First, if the page is present in search engine result pages (SERPs) search engines often bold keywords that match a user’s query, thereby accentuating the search result and improving click-through. Additionally, concise keyword-rich URLs are also easier to work with since you can find specific pages easier, as opposed to pages that have URLs filled with unhelpful, irrelevant numbers or letters that don’t correlate to the content.
URLs may include uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or both. As a result, mixing these elements together can create unnecessary confusion. The general good practice is to use lowercase letters throughout the URLs and stick with them. If old pages are discovered that use uppercase letters apply a 301 redirect to point old pages to the appropriate new page with lowercase letters.
While debate may continue, search engines do not officially have preferences for hyphens versus underscores when it comes to separating words in URLs. Generally speaking a hyphen is considered more user-friendly, and therefore seem to be preferred by most SEOs. Stick with either of these and avoid other characters that may hinder SEO.
One of the most important factors is also one of the easiest to diverge from. Consistency in your naming conversions will help to eliminate confusion between those working on the website, but most importantly consistency will help users understand how content on your website is organized.