Friday, August 5, 2016

SEO 101: How to Optimize URLs

SEO is both a creative and technical venture. When creating any given page, content is the first priority, but the best content is worthless without technical optimization.

Any piece of content--every single page--benefits from SEO technical know-how.

In the past, we've spoken about two essential elements for any page: title tags and meta descriptions.

Today we will speak about perhaps the most elemental aspect of any page: the URL.

A page's URL (uniform resource locator) is it's web address. The address for the home page of this blog is A URL, naturally, is displayed in your browser's address bar. A fully-optimized page must include a coherent, simple URL that can easily be identified by humans and search engines alike.

The following is an example of a URL from a page about URLs and Title Tags:

This URL follows a few crucial SEO best practices, but it fails to nail the optimization. When you're optimizing your own URLs, follow three simple rules:

1. Create a Reader-Friendly URL

Just like your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions, a URL should be easy-to-read for humans and search engines alike.

A good URL will read much like a good title tag: clear, precise, and to the point. If possible, avoid extra words that do not necessarily add to the description. In the example above, the URL could easily dispense with "that."

The URL image below, from HubSpot, reveals the difference between a wordy and precise URL.

"How to optimize URLS for search" is much more to the point than "How to optimize your URLs for search quick tip."

A readable URL also dispenses with variables that add nothing to the description. Check out the bottom link below from Moz's URL Readability Scale. The red link at the bottom includes excessive variables.

2. Use Keywords in Your URL

The precise use of keywords in your URL will let both readers and search engines understand precisely what your page is about.

Shockingly, the top URL above, from New Media Campaigns, does not follow this simple rule. "A few words that can make your break your SEO" does not really speak to the point of the article, URLs.

A URL with appropriate keywords will speak better to the search engines as well as humans. And for humans, especially, the URL might just be as important as Title Tags and Meta Descriptions. As Moz notes in its article about URLs:

"Keywords in the URL show up in search results, and research has shown that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click."

The fact that New Media Campaigns seemingly misses this essential element in its own URL for an article about URLs shows how deceptively tricky SEO can be. To truly optimize each and every page, we must be efficient and diligent about each and every aspect of optimization.

3. Use-Hyphens-to-Separate-Words

A good URL uses hyphens to separate each word. In all the good examples above, the URLs increase readability with hyphens. Without hyphens, a line of text can read as jumbled, even if it includes precise keywords.

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