A well-structured SEO friendly URL looks concise and clean, provides a better user experience, is easier to share, and is optimized for search engines. While it is not a major ranking factor, URL structure can help a page show higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and impact the decision-making of searchers.
To write URL structures that are optimized to support SEO efforts and help pages rank and get clicks, follow these tips and best practices.
What Is URL Structure?
A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a webpage address. Part of the URL structure is made up of a domain name and/or subdomain name such as:
The other part of a URL is made up of text that specifies a unique page or post. This is sometimes referred to as a permalink. In the example, this text is in bold.
A page’s URL is visible and used in web browsers. But it is most often noticed and visible when shared on social media or displayed on a list of search engine results.
While most content management systems automatically create a URL when a new page or post is created, you can edit the permalink portion of the text to optimize it for search engines and users.
There are SEO best practices for the domain and subdomain portion of a URL, but this post will look at the second half of the link to explain how to write a URL structure for SEO.
How to Find Keywords for an SEO Friendly URL
Before you can write an SEO friendly URL that is optimized for searchers and search engines, you need to identify the keyword for the page. Every webpage that you hope will rank in SERPs should have a target keyword, as this is the primary term that search engines will use to categorize and identify the page.
As you create a page of content for your website, identify the best keywords by selecting a term that:
- Is closely tied to your topic or industry
- Has a high search popularity (People are searching for the term.)
- Has a low competition in search (It is possible for your website to rank for the term.)
To identify keywords that fit this criterion, use Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool. Enter a phrase that is related to your topic or industry.
Use the report to identify SEO keywords that are related to your topic, popular with audiences, and within your competition range.
To see which keywords are within your competition range, compare your site’s competitive power score to the competition score of a keyword. A competitive power score is a number assigned to your website, which indicates its ability to compete in search. A competition score is a number assigned to a keyword that indicates how difficult it is to rank for the term.
In the keyword difficulty report, you can see your site’s competitive power score.
You can also see the competition score for each keyword.
By comparing the scores, you can qualify low-competition keywords that fit your site’s ranking abilities. If a keyword has a competition score lower than your site’s competition score, you can compete to rank for the term.
In the screenshot, the site has a competitive power score of 70, which means it has an ability to compete for terms that have a competition score of 70 or less. The Keyword Difficulty Tool highlights these keywords by placing a bolt icon next to the term.
To further qualify a keyword to use in an SEO friendly URL, consider the term’s popularity score. The popularity score indicates how popular the search term is with users. The higher the score, the more people are searching for the term.
Once you find keywords that fit your competition range during this phase of keyword discovery, further qualify the terms by finding phrases that have a high popularity score.
You can filter your search results to see only keywords that fit your criteria based on popularity, competition, and other factors, such as specific phrasing and relevancy to your topic. You can also choose to exclude keywords that are already working for your site (so you don’t expend resources trying to rank for terms you already rank for).
This report helps you find keywords that will guide your content creation process and form the foundation of your new webpages and posts.
How to Create an SEO Friendly URL in 6 Steps
Once you choose a keyword for a page and write the content, use the following SEO URL tips to create an optimized permalink before you hit publish.
1. Use the keyword in the URL. Include the exact keyword in the permalink portion of the URL. In this example, you can see how the keyword “work and travel” is included.
2. Don’t include special characters. Special characters and symbols can create problems in URLs and cause links to break, so don’t use unsafe characters while writing an SEO friendly URL. For your reference, check characters on this list by Perishable Press. In the example, you can see how “&” was used in the page title but not in the URL to fit this best practice.
3. Connect the URL to the page title. Match the title of the page and the URL structure as closely as you can. While it doesn’t need to be the same, you want the reader to understand that the two are connected. In the example below, the page title and URL are not exactly matched, but they are closely related so users can see the connection.
4. Cut out unnecessary words. A short SEO URL length is better than a long URL. Long URLs don’t create problems with search engines, but they do take away from user experience as shorter URLs look better and are easier to share on social media. So keep your URL length to less 100 characters and cut out words around the keyword that aren’t needed for clarity.
5. Avoid automated numeric labels. Some content management systems generate URLs that include numeric and awkward labeling, which can appear messy or confusing. Whenever possible, avoid these labels and only use words and phrases that readers will understand and recognize.
6. Leave out stop words if you want. “Stop words” are common words that search engines often filter or ignore (such as “and,” “but,” “the,” etc.). Stop words can be removed from URLs to shorten them. Or they can be left in to add clarity whenever needed. Use whichever method leads to a cleaner-looking URL.
A well-structured URL based on keywords looks better when shared on social media, appears more professional on search engine results pages, and improves a page’s ranking abilities. So don’t always rely on the automated URLs that a CMS generates when you create a new page or post.
Use these best practices to create a custom SEO friendly URL that will help your page stand out and attract more attention from users and search engines.
For help finding the best keywords for your pages, posts, and URLs, check out Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool by signing up for a free 14-day trial of our Advanced Plan.