URL and SEO: The Bold, The Beautiful, and The Ugly

By July 20, 2019 October 3rd, 2019 Website Advice

Almost 30 years ago, the World Wide Web was made publicly available. Since then, we’ve come a long way and learned quite a bit about how to navigate the endless sea that is the internet today. Thanks to automation tools and do-it-yourself website building applications, pretty much anyone can make a website about anything their heart desires.

However, “with great power comes great responsibility” as our web-spinning hero once said. In this article, WebRealSimple dives into URLs and SEO. We’ll cover the basics around creating a url and SEO best practices when doing so. We’re also going to showcase some of the wackiest URLs we’ve come across and why they aren’t doing their creators justice.

Best Practices for an SEO-Friendly URL

Your URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator) is just an acronym for your website address. Think of this as a “nickname” for your website, showing human users on the front-end what your site is called while indexing it for Google (or other search engines) to crawl on the back-end. Use these best practices for creating an SEO-friendly URL: 

Simple and Pointed. A successful URL should provide an easy to read “title” for search engines and human users to understand what your website is about. If you own an automotive shop, you want users to know that quickly and prompt them to click on or share the link. Most internet users are wary about clicking on a link that is too long or unclear about where the final destination may be. This is often a sign of spam or malicious sites.

An example of an SEO-friendly URL for humans and search-engines could read: https://www.supermikesautorepair.com. The example URL is telling both users that this website offers auto repair. It also includes a keyword in the URL which helps search engines offer it as a result when humans search for auto repair. It’s only 36 characters and doesn’t include any special characters, such as an underscore. Simple enough, right? *Disclaimer: We don’t know a Super Mike, or if he owns an auto repair shop.

Make it Matter. Using the example link above, did the URL elicit the desired results for a search about “auto repair?” A few of the criteria for an SEO-friendly URL is: keeping it short and to the point as mentioned before, directing users to a page on your site that has content relative to the title, (i.e. the home page should describe what your company does, preferably above the fold so it’s found quickly), and avoiding unnecessary characters like a hyphen or extra letters.

Use Great, High-Ranking Keywords. There is a plethora of keywords for every industry, but they don’t all produce the same results. Auto repair and automotive probably tell humans and search engines the same thing but one could be ranking higher based on user searches.

Super Mike made it clear in the URL that he has an auto repair shop. If he chose https://supermikesautomotive.com it has a keyword that is lower in relevance for a google search of: “auto repair” near me. That means it doesn’t show the user’s keyword in the URL, so they are less likely to click on it. There are free and paid resources out there to research keywords, like https://kwfinder.com/.

Stop Using Underscores. Google posted an addendum to their support console about why it’s important to use punctuation in your URLs. However, if punctuation is necessary they strongly recommend using hyphens (-) instead of those pesky underscores (_) in your URLs. Not only is it more of a nuisance to type, it’s also hindering Google’s crawlers when they attempt at indexing all the content on your site.

When should you use punctuation in your URLs? If you want to avoid being on a list of “Awkward Domain Names,” choose to hyphenate between words that could end up being misread. Most of us have seen the memes, but here’s a chuckle-worthy example: https://www.americanscrapmetal.com. Sure, it’s a secure site but at first glance, it doesn’t read as the webmaster intended. A scrap yard, or…? We’ll let you figure it out but it’s a good example of why you should properly utilize hyphens in your URLs.

Use Top Level Domains. Have you ever been tempted to clink on that .net link but decided the .com was more attractive? Us too. A top level domain, or TLD, isn’t one of the driving factors to becoming SEO-friendly, but it does help more than you may think. By increasing human trust, you also increase your traffic which positively impacts your SEO. We aren’t hating on the .net or .biz domains, but .com is the winner when it comes to choosing a top level domain.

If you want to keep increasing your traffic, improving your SEO, and building a consistently good relationship with search engines and human users, follow these steps when creating your SEO-friendly URL. In the next section, we’ll touch on what you should avoid.

The Bad Apples of the Internet

Have you ever wondered if a website is legitimate when glancing at their URL? Ever been confused about a website’s content based on their URL? If so, those folks may have been one of the bad apples of the internet.

Spammers or sites with malicious content hide in the ambiguous corners of the web. They rely on URLs that have multiple folders and oftentimes have keywords that are related to a user’s search. The latter helps them skirt past indexing spiders who crawl content for SEO latent URLs.

A quick way to avoid looking like one of those bad apples is to have an active SSL certificate on your site. In 2018, Google began rolling out a new protocol for webmasters to have the encryption on their domains. This would ensure the safety of its users and deter traffic to non-secure sites. By requiring sites to have an active SSL encryption or get flagged by Google as “not-secure,” most legitimate sites answered the call. To show users that a website is secure, their URL should begin with https:// instead of http://.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have a top level domain or you had to settle for a .biz or .net, remember that how your URL ends is not as important as how it begins. Be sure to have an active SSL certificate, allowing your site to be secure by Google’s standards. Offer a short and sweet URL that is still descriptive, preferably using a high ranking keyword that is relevant to the page’s content. https://supermikesautorepair.com looks a lot better than http://supermikesautomotive.net.

Which one would you click on?

Have you come across any wacky URLs lately? Be sure to share them with us!

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