How does URL length and structure affect SEO and rankings?

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How does URL length and structure affect SEO and rankings?

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Your URL length and structure can help your website get indexed and rank high on search engines.

The URL (uniform resource locator) is the browser address that people use to view your web pages. This can either be typed into a browser directly or is indexed by search engines ready to appear in search results when the right keywords are searched.

Left to their own devices, your content management system or web developer may default to a complex series of numbers and random words for convenience and speed. However you should resist this and ensure that the URL is adjusted so it is simple and readable by search engines and search engine users.

For example:

https://www.yourdomainname.com/?23faq-3.php

Should just be:

https://www.yourdomainname.com/faqs/ or https://www.yourdomainname.com/faqs.php

SEO expert Rand Fishkin stated the following (https://moz.com/blog/15-seo-best-practices-for-structuring-urls):

the easier a URL is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines.

Use that principle and you will help Google and other search engines understand your website content and place them in search results. The URL is also displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPS) so it can encourage people to click on your listing and visit your website.

Google URL structure

Here are some tips, tricks and busted myths to help you structure your URLs to improve SEO and rankings:

Advice from Google on URL structures

Google is clear that it prefers simple URL structures . Here is their advice from Search Console help:

“A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers). For example, if you’re searching for information about aviation, a URL like

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation

will help you decide whether to click that link. A URL like

http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1,

is much less appealing to users.”

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/76329?hl=en

In principle the URL should present a logical arrangement of site contents so they can be easily indexed.

Length of URL

There is some dispute about how the length of the URL influences indexing.

Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google John Meuller has said there’s effectively no limit:

“As far as I know, there’s no theoretical length limit, but we recommend keeping URLs shorter than 2000 characters to keep things manageable.”

However Rand Fishkin suggest the following rule of thumb:

Shorter URLs are, generally speaking, preferable. You don’t need to take this to the extreme, and if your URL is already less than 50-60 characters, don’t worry about it at all. But if you have URLs pushing 100+ characters, there’s probably an opportunity to rewrite them and gain value.

The issue isn’t the technical limits of Google and Bing, it’s more to do with making the URL usable and easy to share, copy and paste etc.

Sometimes a longer URL is unavoidable if you need additional keywords to identify or make it clear what the content is about.

This was the search result using Google UK in the West Midlands  for “fender squier stratocaster contemporary”

Google URL structure and display

One search result shows this URL

https://www.gear4music.com › … › Squier by Fender › Squier Stratocaster

However the actual URL is this (66 characters):

https://www.gear4music.com/Fender/Squier-Stratocaster/Contemporary

Google URL search results display

Google is appearing to cherry pick and sometimes rewrite the display URL to suit, often truncating the actual URL.

The hierarchy of the URL

Rand Fishkin suggests that the fewer folders the better.

We think that’s good advice but sometimes can’t be avoided if you have a very large and complex website.

Another SEO guru, Barry Adams (http://www.stateofdigital.com/urls-crawling-pagerank-fundamentals/) isn’t quite so explicit about folder quantity and suggests the hierarchy must be logical and reflect the structure of the website:

URLs should be human-readable. Moreover, they should be hierarchical and reflect a page’s place in the site’s overall structure. When you look at a URL like this, you see exactly where it fits in the overall structure of the site:

https://www.website.com/safety-boots/caterpillar/size12/

This page is the child of the Caterpillar page, which itself is the child of the Safety Boots page. Ideally, you should be able to take away any child page and end up on that page’s parent, like so:

  • https://www.website.com/safety-boots/caterpillar/ should result in the Caterpillar Safety Boots page.
  • https://www.website.com/safety-boots/ should give you the overall Safety Boots page.

Too often, URLs and content hierarchy are divorced from one another, and there is no parent-child relationship evident in a page’s URL. This is a mistake.

While there are many considerations, these principles are a good place to start as long as you keep usability and user experience in mind.

Here at Web Growth we can help you with the following:

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