Search Engine Friendly URLs

What is a URL? A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator. It’s what most people would call a web address. The URL for our website for instance is https://msbugslittlepretties.com. The URL for this blog is https://msbugslittlepretties.com/blog/.

Terrible URL infographic I knocked up in Paint 3D.

So what the hell is a search engine friendly URL and why should you care? Well before we think about whether our URL is search engine friendly we should first take a step back and ensure that our URL is user friendly. Lets take last weeks blog post for instance: Custom 404 Error Pages – Worth it? – The URL for this page is https://msbugslittlepretties.com/blog/custom-404-error-pages-worth-it/

As a user you can read the above URL and get some sort of idea what you are clicking on right? But what if the URL for that post was something like: https://msbugslittlepretties.com/wp.asp?postId=2348213978 ?

An average user would most likely have no idea what they are clicking on when confronted with this, as the URL gives no clue as to the content. The second URL is not as readable as it does not contain any keywords. So as you can imagine not only is it not readable for humans, search engine crawlers also cannot glean any information from that URL.

However how important keywords in a URL are to search ranking is something that is somewhat contested on the internet. I’ve found many an article talking about the importance of search engine friendly URLs for findability. I also found comments from Google employees themselves stating that keywords in a URL in terms of influence in ranking is negligible, with John Mueller (Search Advocate and Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) stating in 2016 that:

“I believe that’s a very small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’d really try to force. And it’s not something where I’d say it’s even worth your effort to kind of restructure your site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”

John Mueller, 2016

However in 2017 he stated on Twitter:

“Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO. Make URLs for users. Also, on mobile you usually don’t even see them”

John Mueller, 2017

With this in mind, there are many things about URLs and keeping them search engine friendly that are highly useful for UX as well as search engine rankings. Dates in URLs for example are a big one. If you want an article about the best restaurants in Vic Park and you write it in 2018 and have the URL as www.fakefoodwebsite.com.au/best-restaurants-vic-park-2018 what happens when you want to update the website in 2021? Do you have a seperate page at the URL www.fakefoodwebsite.com.au/best-restaurants-vic-park-2021? If you do that, you lose all your previous SEO rankings as it’s a fresh URL. You’d be better off not including a date and having www.fakefoodwebsite.com.au/best-restaurants-vic-park and updating that page every year. That way you don’t lose your ranking progress, and if you kept 2018 in the URL and updated the page every year anyway search engines will see the 2018 and think the page is not as relevant today.

There are lots of other things to read up about and far too many for a simple blog post so I suggest you do some more in depth reading on the topic yourself. But one important thing I take from my readings, is always think of the User first and findability will always follow.

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