You can think of a URL like a fingerprint. Unless you’re Nancy Drew, either of the Hardy Boys or a real-life law enforcer, fingerprints are a downright annoyance. They smudge on things, especially clean surfaces, and if you happen to have anything dirty on your hands the problem compounds exponentially. However, to a fingerprint expert (holla Nancy & the Boys!), they’re endlessly fascinating. More to the point, they can tell you a lot about the person they belong too, which is particularly convenient if you’re attempting to catch a mass murderer or whoever stole the last teacake from the family fridge. The same could be said about URLs and that’s why it’s so important to learn how to optimise URLs for SEO.
For most people, URLs are just something you copy and paste into a search bar. But for SEO experts, they can provide a whole load of information, as they contain signals that help the search engines understand what a page is offering. Search engines look to URLs to determine the content of a page, its target demographic and what it can offer its audience. The search engine subsequently ranks the page based on its findings. URLS are an integral component of your SEO strategy. You want to use them wisely and make sure you’re leaving your fingerprints all over the internet. Leave no doubt that you were there. Yes, when it comes to SEO, you want to get caught – so leave as many sticky-fingered prints over the fridge handle as possible.
Here are four tips on how to optimise URLs for SEO:
- First of all, you’ve got to make sure that your URLs are readable. Search engines know people read URLs before clicking on them, so they prioritise ones that are legible. They search for words, not symbols, just like they search for words in your actual content. So don’t leave your URL as some mushed-up, automatically-generated gibberish! Customise them: describe in plain language what your audience is going to find on the page.
- Also, while you’re customising, do not use underscores! Go for hyphens, as the Google algorithm isn’t designed to read underscores. Oh, and stay away from capital letters. It ain’t a fan of those either!
- If your URL is your fingerprint then your target keywords serve as your signature. You want to include your target keyword in as many URLs as possible. Check out the URL of this post for an example – we wanted ‘how to optimise URLS for SEO as our Focus Keyword, so it’s in the title, the URL, the first paragraph – and this very sentence! You won’t be able to do it for every link, but try and get it in when you can.
- There’s also an important concept called canonical URLs (explained in waaaaay more detail in that link); although it sounds a little severe and holy, it’s actually just a tag you add on to your URL. Sometimes, dynamic pages can create duplicate content (they’re so dynamic they can multiply!). A canonical URL can help you specify to the search engines which URL is the definitive one. If you like to change up your site a lot, make sure to redirect any broken or unused URL with a 301 redirect. You really don’t want search engines to remove your lovingly-crafted, high-ranking web page from the search results charts because they’re working off your old URLs.
So there you have it; four top tips and tricks to help you spread your fingerprints all over the internet. When you’re planning your SEO strategy, don’t neglect your URLs. Keep them precise, keep them legible and most importantly, keep them relevant so that Nancy, Joe and Frank (don’t pretend you didn’t know the the Hardys’ first names) will be able to track you down without being late for dinner.