A URL is more than just the the location of your website and doesn’t just provide the navigation around your pages. A well thought out URL structure can bring with it search engine optimisation benefits as well as offering benefits to your users.
Anatomy of a URL
Before diving into what makes a good URL it’s important that you understand how they are made up.
The image above illustrates the different parts of your URL. It is worth spending the time when launching a new site to plan the URL structure as getting it right will have a positive effect on your online presence.
What makes a good URL
Keep it clear and descriptive
Ideally the URL should describe the content of the page. If a user can look at a URL in isolation of it’s page and know accurately what the content might include, you know you have a good URL. Keep your URL descriptive and try to avoid using numbers or generic descriptions such as page1.html. URLs that contain words relevant to your site’s content are far more user friendly.
Keep it short
While you can have URLs up to 2000 characters in length, in reality you shouldn’t reach anything near this. A short URL is far more usable and is more likely to be written down and shared. Avoid the use of unnecessary folders when planning your site structure; it’s important to avoid deep nesting of subdirectories. Search engines won’t crawl pages that are buried deep in your site as frequently.
You also should avoid having too many words in your URL. Aside from making them look like spam to human visitors it is generally recognised that search engines will give less weight to individual words when they are part of a whole string within a URL.
Use your keywords
You probably take every advantage to use keywords where you can and in your URL is no exception. The URL to your page is shown in search results and words within the URL will appear in bold if they also appear in the user’s search query. Another benefit is that when users share your URL, for example pasting it into forums, you will gain good incoming links with your keyword in the link text. However avoid over use of keywords - you don’t want your URL to look like spam to potential visitors.
Separate with hyphens not underscores
Make sure to separate words with hyphens. Although search engines won’t penalise underscores dashes are preferable as each hyphened word is seen as an individual. Using punctuation also makes the URL a lot easier for your human visitors to read and understand.
Use lower case
As URLs are case sensitive don’t ever use uppercase letters in your structure. Users will normally stick to lowercase and adding in capitals can lead to confusion.
Avoid excessive dynamic parameters
Ideally you should use static URLs which are preferable for both users and search engines. Dynamic URLs containing multiple parameters can cause a problems for search engines and you may find that your site isn’t fully indexed. Whenever possible trim unnecessary parameters and avoid the use of things such as the use of session IDs in URLs.
Making sure your URLs are user and SEO friendly - Dot Tourism
Subdomains which will often create unnecessarily lengthy and complex URLs which users don’t always trust. You may also find that subdomains have the potential to be treated separately from the primary domain when it comes to passing link value. While this isn’t always the case advice tends to steer on the path of caution and recommend against their use.