Domain names and URLs are two of the most basic concepts behind SEO. But even today, many webmasters do not understand their importance.
SEO goes way beyond domain names and URL structure, but you should always consider these factors in order to make it as easy as possible for the search engines to rank your site.
Here is what you need to know to ensure you are not losing out in the search engines through making simple mistakes.
Domain Name Tips
There is some good general advice to follow about domain names. This includes keeping your main domain short, ideally no more than 15 characters, as this makes it easier to remember.
Also, stick to common top-level domains (TLDs) like .com and .org. rather than less-common TLDs like .info because these could suggest spam. In addition, avoid hyphens if possible because these can also suggest spam.
If you can get your main keyword into your domain, that’s a plus. But this is not hugely important, and you may simply use your company name instead.
Moz has some good advice on domain names that is well worth a read if you want some more information on this topic.
Use Keywords in Your URLs
This has long been a basic SEO practice, and it is still relevant today—though it is not such an important ranking factor as it once was.
Using keywords in the URL, as recommended in this article at HubSpot, shows to humans that the content is related to what they are looking for. This can be useful when URLs are shared online, especially on social media. In addition, URLs are often used as the anchor text, so it helps to have keywords in them.
URLs also show in search results, and many people will consider the URL when deciding whether to click on it.
But this doesn’t mean you need to include too many keywords in your URLs. The old problem of keyword stuffing should be avoided because it won’t help your SEO, and it could even put people off clicking on the page. So don’t overdo it, but do try to get one keyword in if it makes sense to do so.
Make URLs Easy to Read
URLs will be better for search engines if they are easy to read. That means using real words rather than random letters and numbers. This makes the URLs more accessible to users and easier to understand, which encourages people to click on them.
Match URLs with Titles
The URL of each page does not need to match the title exactly, but you should make an effort to reflect it. Again, this comes down to user friendliness. If someone sees a URL that suggests a particular type of content, you will deliver on the promise by using very similar words in the title.
Keep them Short & Simple
URLs should be short and simple. While longer URLs will not be penalized, keeping them shorter has certain benefits.
Google will not rank pages higher for having shorter URLs, but the user experience is affected. It is much easier to work with shorter URLs when copying and sharing them, so keep them to about 40 characters if possible. You don’t have to change your URLs if they are slightly longer, but keep it in mind from now on.
Don’t worry about stop words like ‘but,’ ‘the,’ or ‘and’ because they will only make your URL longer. But keep them in if it makes sense to do so, such as if it makes the URL more readable.
Avoid Strange Characters
URLs with strange characters should be avoided. Search engines can have difficulty crawling websites where the URLs contain a lot of characters like $, @, &, etc, so avoid these if you can. Stick to dashes and underscores to separate words, both of which are fine.
This is something that you should mention to your web designer if they are involved in creating new pages for your site. If you hire a company like Utah Web Design, talk about URLs and any issues you are concerned about to ensure you are both on the same page.
Follow Best Practices for URLs and SEO
It is well worth optimizing your URLs to get more from your SEO. Although URLs are not going to play a huge role in determining the success of your SEO because so many other factors are more important, they can still influence your rankings. So keep these general tips in mind each time you create a URL and take advantage of all the benefits with very little effort.
Steven Hansen is the CEO of Salt Lake City based Utah Website Design, an operating division of Wiworks, Inc. Mr. Hansen acquired this Web Development and SEO agency in 1997. For the past 18-years this talented team of programmers, online marketers and SEO strategists have built a large following of local, regional and national clients. Mr. Hansen resides in Utah, surrounded by his large family which includes 9-children and 18-grandchildren (and counting).