What is an URL
An URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is a subset of the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that specifies where an identified resource is available and the mechanism for retrieving it.URLs describe a site and page to visitors and search engines. Thus, keeping them relevant, compelling and accurate are key to ranking well.
Keywords in the URL – SEO Best Practice
The URL of a web document should ideally be as descriptive and brief as possible. If, for example, a site’s structure has several levels of files and navigation, the URL should reflect this with folders and subfolders. Individual pages’ URLs should also be descriptive without being overly lengthy, so that a visitor who sees only the URL could have a good idea of what to expect on the page.
Keywords in the URL Example: Comparison of URLs for a Canon Powershot SD400 Camera
1. Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007TJ5OG/102-8372974-4064145?v=glance&n=502394&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&n=3031001&s=photo&v=glance
2. Canon.com – http://consumer.usa.canon.com/ir/controller?act=ModelDetailAct&fcategoryid=145&modelid=11158
3. DPReview.com – http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonsd400/
With both example 1 and 2, a user has virtually no idea what the URL might point to. With example 3 it is easy to surmise that a review of a Canon SD400 is the likely topic of the page.
Keep URLs limited to as few dynamic parameters as possible3>
In addition to the issues of brevity and clarity, it’s also important to keep URLs limited to as few dynamic parameters as possible. A dynamic parameter is a part of the URL that provides data to a database so the proper records can be retrieved, i.e. n=3031001, v=glance, categoryid=145, etc.
Note that in both the Amazon and Canon URLs, the dynamic parameters number 3 or more. In an ideal site, there should never be more than two. Search engineer representatives have confirmed on numerous occasions that URLs with more than 2 dynamic parameters may not be spidered unless they are perceived as significantly important (i.e. have many, many links pointing to them).
The Three Primary Benefits of keywords in the URL
URLs have 3 primary benefits:
A well crafted URL should semantically make sense. The DPReview URL above is a good example of a semantically accurate URL. (This of course assumes that the page actually is about what is described) It is easy to tell the subject of the URL just by examining its URL. This is helpful to both humans and search engines.
The other benefit of having a semantically correct URL, is that webmasters are more likely to get search engine referred traffic due to the keywords in the URL. These, like title tags, are used for determining relevancy and computing rankings.
Well written URLs have the additional benefit of serving as their own anchor text when copied and pasted as links in forums, blogs, or other online venues. In the DPReview example, a search engine might see the URL http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonsd400/ and give ranking credit to the page for terms in the URL like dpreview, reviews, canon, sd, 400.
Placing keywords in URL as part of your SEO campaign
Choosing the most relevant keywords in your URLs can be an important part of your Search Engine Optimisation strategy. This is because search engine crawlers will read the keywords that you have included in the URL to decide if the content is relevant to your customersâ€™ search terms. The more words that you can include in the URL address that match the ones that your customers are typing into search engines the better your results will be. We have included tips in the SEO Junkies blog before on the importance of including keywords in your URLs. However, it is also important to recognise the value of the order and position of these keywords within the URL.
Help your SEO strategy by strategically positioning keywords in the URL
Positioning keywords further forward in the URL will make a difference to your search engine optimisation campaignâ€™s ranking results. The location of the keywords in the URL can influence the performance of your site in the search engine rankings. For example, site.com/keyword would perform better than site.com/365/738/subfolder/keyword. This is because the search engine robots put more importance on words that appear earlier in the URL text. So not only is it important to include your keywords in your URL, but also to ensure that you include them as early as possible in the URL address so that the search engines give them maximum importance when assessing your siteâ€™s relevancy to your customerâ€™s search terms.
Keyword positioning matters to SEO
This prioritising of the keywords that appear in your URLs is similar to the practice of making sure that your keywords appear as close to the top of your written content as possible. Search engines will prioritise the relevancy of words appearing in the earlier part of the text. This principle also applies to URL addresses and this is an example of a strategy that will make your SEO campaign considerably more effective.