As Internet marketing professionals, we are constantly inundated with information, tips, tricks, and generally speaking, noise. Beginner SEOs get overwhelmed by advanced tactics, and it’s easy to miss some of the basics. I’d like to quickly run over an important element of your SEO strategy that is frequently missed – proper URL structure.
This seems to be a commonly misunderstood and overlooked facet of SEO strategy. You’ll commonly see what I like to refer as “dirty” URLs, such as domain.com/cgi-bin/11532215, when there’s no reason why the URL can’t have proper structure – such as domain.com/product-category/product-name. It’s something that can really help improve the performance of your site in the eyes of users, as well as the search engines.
There are a few elements of URL structure at play here:
1) Your domain name
2) Your site’s architecture
3) Your individual page names
I’ll go over each.
The Domain Name
In the early days of the web, when the search engine’s algorithms were arguably more prehistoric, exact-match domains were all the rage. Buying the domain name ‘cdplayers.com’ meant that you were probably highly ranked in the SERPs for the keyword “cd players”. Exact-match domains can still help, but it’s not a sure-fire way to get to the top of the SERPs.
The key here is to choose a domain name that is at least somewhat relevant to what you’re offering. If you’re selling cars, ‘cdplayers.com’ probably isn’t the most relevant domain for you.
The search engines are putting less emphasis on the actual URL, and more on the content within the URL. Makes sense, right? Every company that sells CD players can’t have the domain ‘cdplayers.com’ – but companies can set themselves apart by creating a quality, relevant, and meaningful experience for their users.
Site Architecture and Page Names
Here’s where things can get a little difficult. Regarding site architecture, it’s important that the pages on your site are categorized properly. This not only proves beneficial to your SEO strategy, but to your site’s usability, as well.
For example, my company is a web design agency. We offer web design, web development, Internet marketing, web hosting and support services. Our site’s architecture is simply based off our company’s offerings, which is a great way to go about structuring your site.
Now, if you’re looking to us for marketing services, you can find our main marketing page at www.iexposure.com/market – and it gets more specific from there. Looking for SEO services? It’s located at /market/search-engine-optimization. Looking for paid search marketing? It’s at /market/paid-search-marketing. Structuring your site in this way makes it easy for your visitors (as well as the search engines) to understand what each section or page is about.
A great way to go about revamping your site’s architecture is to simply write a list of your pages, and visualize how they could be classified. Depending on your industry or niche, there might be more than a few ways to go about this. If your company has hotels across the U.S., then it might make sense to organize by states, and then by city (i.e. /minnesota/minneapolis). If your company sells B2B products, then it might make sense to break down by application (i.e. /applications/industrial).
Regardless of which architectural method you choose, it’s important to test the usability of your site, as the user experience is key. Have employees, friends, or family members test your site, and ask for honest feedback. Keep an eye on your position in the SERPs to see how these changes affect your ranking position. Keep a close eye on analytics, and see if your deeper pages are getting more attention.
Hopefully this post provided you with some solid, actionable advice regarding the URL structure of a site. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below.
Scott Dodge is a Search Engine Marketer at Internet Exposure, a Minneapolis web design agency that offers web design, web development, Internet marketing, and web hosting services.
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