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11 +1 Best Practices for URL Structure

SEOmoz blog has a helpful post with 11 Best Practices for URLs. They’re mainly written from an SEO perspective although make sense on other levels also.

  1. Describe Your Content
  2. Keep it Short
  3. Static is the Way & the Light
  4. Descriptives are Better than Numbers
  5. Keywords Never Hurt
  6. Subdomains Aren’t the Answer
  7. Fewer Folders
  8. Hyphens Separate Best
  9. Stick with Conventions
  10. Don’t be Case Sensitive
  11. Don’t Append Extraneous Data

I’d add one more.

12. Breaking the above practices doesn’t guarantee poor SEO results. While they will help there is hope if you break one or more of them. For example here at ProBlogger I use ‘archives’ (a non descriptive) and the date (numbers) in the URLs of my individual pages (both making the URL longer and breaking a couple of the other practices). While this is definitely not ideal I still do pretty well with SEO.

Most of the above practices are the type of things you need to think about when you’re setting up your blog. Changing your URL structure midstream can be a little tricky so unless it’s terribly bad and you’ve got other SEO factors working for you it might actually be best to keep the structure you’ve got.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. The main reason to use short URLs is to avoid the pseudo-directory problem in Google. You’ll get the pages indexed a lot faster shorter URLs, and that can make a difference.

    As a factor in rankings, the URL structure is probably number 100 out of 100.

  2. Nate K says:

    This is a good list to watch out for. Yes, its friendly for search engines to do the above – but it also makes it easier for people trying to locate content (guessable urls). So, its effective all the way around. And, with the array of technologies and frameworks available – there is no excuse to not create SEF urls.

    Using rewrites you can map your dynamic content to a static page – getting rid of the ugly and making things simple for everyone.

    I definitely agree that it shouldn’t be case sensitive either.

    Also, MANAGING your urls is a topic for another discussion – but you can have 2 entry points (block the bot to avoid duplicate content lookup) to make things easier and more descriptive for the user. Be sure to send google the right signals. For instance (and for ease of tracking), a url like:

    http://www.theklaibers.com/about-me

    is different from

    http://www.theklaibers.com/about-me/

    (also, they are different if present without the www – which shows 4 different versions of the same page). Managing your urls and what you tell browsers/search engines will help keep a clean, informative index (and friendly for your users, to boot).

  3. I went from using the standard yyyy/mm/dd/post_name/ format to just using /post_name/ a few months after starting my photoblog. I wrote a simple mod_rewrite rule that converts existing urls into the new format and it works really well. If you’re sure that your post_names are all unique it’s probably worth doing.
    If you’re not sure of uniqueness, then you’ll have to get your hands dirty mapping urls!

  4. I agree that not having keywords in URLs isn’t going to help your SEO much as far as the search engine bot is concerned. But having them draws the user’s attention, because most search engines display URL keywords in bold font.

    If you want to have just the post title in the URL (http://www.blogxyz.com/post-title), it shouldn’t be problematic having identical titles if you’re running WordPress as it is pretty good at dealing that. Other platforms may also handle this well, but I don’t know that.

  5. Victory says:

    I emailed Darren about this and maybe I sparked the idea for this post, but I though maybe I could hit up more poeple for ideas. I just recently started a blog at http://www.skateboarding-surfing.com my biggest concern is the hyphen – dash seperating the two words which are the two main subjects for my blog. I also own http://www.skateboardingsurfing.net and wonder if it would be better you use that domain rather than one with the dash. Also is there any problems with using .net vs .com ? Thanks to anyone who has any good ideas, Cheers

  6. craig says:

    Ok sorry this is totally off the topic but i think someone should say something, why is engadget allowed to have two sites that cover the same product, with exact same text which creates a duplicate in the search engines. I think this is extrememly greedy and unfair practice I thought that dulpicate content in search engines was a bad thing. Engadget all the time recently list the exact same entries and text on engadget and it’s engadgetmobile and engadethd sites.

    here is a example:
    of engadget and engadgethd , they do it all the time all the time i see engadget and engadgetmobile

    http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/26/hitachi-wooo10000-series-of-60-and-50-inch-plasmas/

    http://www.engadgethd.com/2006/09/26/hitachi-wooo10000-series-of-60-and-50-inch-plasmas/

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&rls=GGLG%2CGGLG%3A2006-16%2CGGLG%3Aen&q=Hitachi+Wooo10000+

    I can’t believe the aggornace and total greed of these people why are they allow to have two sites that cover the exact same content and product entries.

    Craig

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    Craig – not sure. I guess it’s a risk they are taking. EngadgetHD is new and doesnt even have a page rank yet so I guess time will tell how google treats it.

  8. Stephen W. says:

    As a professional in the SEO industry, I can say with confidence that there are a lot of guidelines to proper search engine optimization, approximately 10% of which can truly make or break you (and most of which are simply aimed at avoiding black hat techniques). The rest, like URL optimization, are really more like icing on the cake. Generally speaking, the more guidelines you follow, the more search engine success you’ll enjoy, but you don’t need to feel like every detail is absolutely vital.

    Speaking to your question, Victory, conventional wisdom is that dashes are used to delimit breaks between words for search engines, so http://www.skateboarding-surfing.com is probably the best way to go from a purely SEO standpoint. I would recommend picking up http://www.skateboardingsurfing.com as well and having it 301 redirect to the main URL. This way, users can type in the intuitive URL to arrive at your page and there’s no concern over typo squatters. With regard to .net versus .com, there really isn’t a lot of difference. Just be sure to avoid shadier roots (e.g. .info) and you should be fine.

  9. Aha, one more reason to remove the post date from the URL. The other reason is to avoid sending a “stale” signal on older posts, as Darren mentioned a few weeks ago.

    Thanks to Donncha for the tip on dealing with the aftermath of broken links.

  10. Victory says:

    Thanks Stephen i’ll keep everything the way it is and keep bloggin away!
    Cheers!

  11. harikari says:

    Thanks for the great information, I agree totally and have tried to incorporate these tips into my blog. I am, however, surprised by the URL for the original source at the SEOmoz blog.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blogdetail.php?ID=1422

    I count at least 3 tips not followed here.

    So, how important are these tips when they are not even followed by a site offering SEO services?

  12. Thanks for pointing out the article Darren, this is the type of info us newbies want to know. Since you mentioned that if we break one or more rules doesn’t mean poor rankings, I believe that if we try to comply with most of these seo practices, it is going to help us getting better rankings in the long run when we try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

  13. Mitch says:

    I’ve just recently started to consume SEO podcasts and websites. While I’m sure that some of the recommendations made by “SEO Specialists” are based on experience, observation, and testing, I can’t help but think of the SEO community as an ancient culture arguing over why the sun comes up every morning. The truth is, unless you work for Google or one of the other search engines, there is no way for you to absolutely know what does or does not contribute to rankings (except for the info the search engines give out themselves). While you can test your hypotheses by manipulating your site and observing the results, these kinds of tests are not reliable, because you have no control variables. In other words, the Internet is constantly changing, and your “SEO optimizations” are nothing compared to the millions of new links, content changes, and “SEO optimizations” of other sites throughout the http://WWW….But like any good cynic, I’m of course going to implement as many of these SEO recommendations as I can find…lol.

Trackbacks

  1. 12 best practices for URL Structures…

    An article showing the do and don’t of url structures…

  2. [...] As Darren observes, you can probably miss one or two of these and still rank well in the search engines. However, when you’re building a new site you need to get as many things right out of the box as possible, and url structures are fairly easy to get right (once you know what to do). [...]

  3. [...] As Darren observes, you can miss one or two of these and still rank well. However, when you’re building a new site you need to get as many things right out of the box as possible, and URL structures are fairly easy to get right. [...]

  4. [...] There’s an ongoing debate on whether Google gives any weight to keywords found in the URL. Some people believe that it does, while others don’t. I have always believed that URL keywords are important, and hence you’ll notice that this site uses the post title as the URL for this post. [...]

  5. [...] When it comes to URL structure, blog software may provide you with different formats. My Hong Kong life blog provides a descriptive URL while this blog uses a shorter URL. Both descriptions are described by Problogger. [...]

  6. [...] 12 best Practices for URL structure  at Problogger [...]