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Tips for Creating a Search Engine Friendly URL

In this article I will explain about the structure and various elements of a URL and how we can create a structure that will help search engines to understand the URL in your web pages and hopefully will help you rank well in Google search results.

According to a document published by Joomla on its website, Search engine friendly (SEF), human-readable or clean URLs are URLs that make sense to both humans and search engines because they explain the path to the particular page they point to (2015:https://docs.joomla.org/Search_Engine_Friendly_URLs).

If you create your website yourself using a custom website builder like wix.com. or WordPress and do not know how to customise your URL, the system automatically assigns URLs for your pages like the one below. I have a client who registered her domain through my website but for financial reasons she decided to design her website using wix.com. Here are the two pages of her URL:

  1. http://www.lorrainekember.com.au/#!abouttheauthor/c1vf6

This page is about the author. As you can see wix automatically assigned the URL. The above URL does not make sense to us humans and search engines because it does not explain to us or search engines about that particular page. The page is about the author of the book so to make it readable and make sense to us and search engines and of course to help search engine ranking, you will need a search engine friendly URL for this page. If we reconstruct this URL, it will look like this – http://www.lorrainekember.com.au/about/lorrain-kember.html. Now it makes sense that the page is about the author Lorrain Kember.

  1. http://www.lorrainekember.com.au/#!bookshop/ctw8

The second URL is not a search engine friendly URL either because it does not make sense to us humans and the search engines. The page is about the book that the author sells on her website. The title of the book is “Lean On Me” so the best URL for this page is: http://www.lorrainekember.com.au/store/lean-on-me.html. If you search Lorrain Kember in Google, her website comes up on the first page, but if you search for the title of the book “Lean On Me”, Google gives you nothing, even on the tenth page.

What is a URL?

If you are a web designer like me, you probably know about URL. But if you are not computer literate or internet literate then URL is a strange word for you. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator – it is an address or resource on the Internet. In simple terms, it is the web address that you type in your browser window that begins with http or https followed by the URL like this; http://www.desena.com.au/webdesign-packages/bronze-web-design-packages.html. Let’s have a look at what the elements are in this URL!

  • The URL starts with http (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) an application used for World Wide Web. You can either type the URL in the browser with or without www – e.g. http://desena.com.au.
  • After the http is the domain name; www.desena.com.au. The domain name is your address on the World Wide Web. You could include keywords in a domain name but it is not necessary. If you want to learn more about the domain name, please read my article about how to register a domain name – http://www.adesena.com/how-to-register-domain-name/
  • The text after the domain name (webdesign-packages) is a subfolder or subdirectory on my website. All images and pages about web design packages are stored in this subfolder.
  • The last text (bronze-web-design-packages) is the actual page. This is the page about the Bronze Web Design Package. I have four packages; Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Here are the search engine friendly URLs:
  1. http://www.desena.com.au/webdesign-packages/bronze-web-design-packages.html
  2. http://www.desena.com.au/webdesign-packages/silver-web-design-packages.html
  3. http://www.desena.com.au/webdesign-packages/gold-web-design-packages.html
  4. http://www.desena.com.au/webdesign-packages/platinum-web-design-packages.html

If you use keywords for your subfolder names (e.g. webdesign-packages), it is much better than using generic names (.e g. packages). It will help people who navigate to your website as well as help search engines to index your website correctly.

Hyphen vs Underscore for SEO URLs

Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs. (Keep a simple URL structure: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/76329?hl=en).

Search engines, and Google in particular, treat hyphens and underscores differently. From the above examples, we can see that green-dress is two separate words; green and dress whereas greendress is one word. When you type keywords in the search box, you normally type the words with spaces like green dress, not greendress, so use hyphens in your URLs as they are much better than underscores. If you type greendress in Google search, Google will ask your – Did you mean green dress? This is because greendress is grammatically wrong.

As Google recommends the use of hyphens rather than underscores for URLs, if you currently have URLs with underscores in your inner pages on your website, you should change it to hyphens to help your ranking in Google and other search engines.

So if you design your website yourself using a custom website builder like wix.com or wordpress, make sure you use search engine friendly URLs in your pages.

  • Name all folders and subfolders using proper keywords for that folder
  • Name all pages using keywords for that page
  • Use hyphens for all URLs and do not use underscores for URLs
  • If you use a custom website builder to design your website, you should read their instructions on how to create search engine friendly URLs or ask customer support.

I hope you enjoy reading this article.