It’s perhaps an aspect of your web site that you haven’t really given much thought to – the web address! After all, does the address really matter? Surely it’s the content of the page that’s really important to your users?
Generally speaking, you’d be right, in terms of what your users might be looking for. But often, users use Search Engines to find information on the World Wide Web, and Search Engines have multiple methods for indexing and comparing your web sites to other web sites.
To help those Search Engines index your web site, and to help you compete with other site owners, you can partake in Search Engine Optimisation to make your pages more accessible to the search bots.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation, more commonly referred to as simply SEO, is a broad term that refers to the idea of making all aspects of a web page crawlable by any given search engine, such as Google or Bing.
Not to be confused with spamming techniques, SEO is an ever-demanding task for web site owners vying for that top spot. There are many SEO methods to talk about, but one SEO technique that sometimes gets looked over is having a meaningful web address (URL).
How a Search Engine uses a Web address
Search Engines can use the URL to help make decisions about what the content of a web page is about. If you include particular keywords in your URL that accurately represent the content of the web page, a Search Engine can notice this and apply that to how it ranks your pages.
If your web page was in a box, think of the URL as part of the outer labelling of the item inside. It won’t describe everything that’s contained within the box, but it’ll certainly give some hints.
If the Search Engine thinks those hints are accurate, then that could be beneficial to your rankings. However, don’t think of this as an invitation to stuff keywords in to your URL’s, you have to be particular, and honest.
Search Engine Friendly URL’s
A Search Engine Friendly URL, sometimes referred to as simply a “friendly URL” or “Clean URL”, is a web address that can be understood and deciphered easier by search engines, as well as everyday users, compared to a URL that is filled with meaningless names, ID numbers, query string and referral links.
It’s a URL that search engines can easily examine, and easily pick out the meaning and structure of any given web page. As an added bonus, those same “friendly URL’s” are digestible by users who are looking for your content.
URL vs. friendly URL
While browsing the web you’ve probably come across all sorts of URL’s, many of which are made up of query strings that make no sense, or generically named, and offer little meaning to the human eye, such as:
When you and I look at that, it’s unlikely to have much meaning, and while it’s easy to think that a Search Engine could decipher such URL’s easily, remember that Search Engines aren’t perfect, and could easily look over all of that information as useless.
What does a friendly URL look like?
A clean URL doesn’t have to contain query strings, and instead can be set out in a more structured manor, similar to how you may be used to seeing folder structure on your PC or how you see your Freeola Web Folders when you log in, for example, some clean URLs are listen below:
Notice how the web addresses are different from the previous examples. After the domain name, we can easily see that a structure exists within the URL’s, and that a particular product page is associated with the type of product it is (such as a book or a DVD) or an event is associated with a particular form of entertainment (music) or venue, while also being associated with the upcoming year of 2013.
Easier to digest
With a URL structure above, not only can we as people see that the web page is likely about a particular thing, so to are the Search Engines able to help themselves associate such information. This information could be helpful to you and your users when it comes to indexing your pages in the SERP’s.
Don’t think “short”, think “meaningful”
A few years ago, people accessed web pages differently compared to today. They would often type in the web address manually in to their web browsers address bar, as so it was considered a very good idea to have a small URL that was quick to type and easy to remember.
With the majority of people now navigating to web pages through search engines, links and bookmarks, it’s less of an issue to insure a small compact URL, and instead focus on adding a little extra meaning to those web addresses of yours.
Especially considering that people who desire the use of a short URL tend to use Short URL services.
Your web address is case-sensitive
It’s easy to miss, but web addresses are case-sensitive, in that an address that has matching words but using different case will be considered two different URLs. For example, the two addresses below might seem like they would take you to the same place, the page about Freeola Broadband, but the second one with the capital B doesn’t, because it’s a different address to the actual broadband page:
freeola.com/broadband/ (correct web address)
freeola.com/Broadband/ (incorrect address, this page doesn’t exist)
Because of this, when creating your URLs, it’s best to stick with a singular case. Lower case seems to have been declared the winner here, so sticking with this should steer you clear of any duplication problems.
Web Addresses are often included in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS)
When people use search engines, the results pages usually include the web address (or part of it) underneath the title of the web page. The only time this isn’t the case currently is when Google replaces the URL with navigational breadcrumbs.
By having a clean, readable URL, users can gauge if the web site is more likely to be about the information they are looking for. Search engines often highlight any search terms in bold, and this includes the URL if any search terms match.
If your web site was using the URL “our-price.com/dvds/the-dark-knight-rises.php” and someone searched for “dark knight rises dvd” you would find a large part of your URL highlighted in bold, which could increase the likelihood of your link being clicked.
A clean URL can help with links to your Web Page
When other web sites link to you, that’s usually a good thing. But they don’t always link to you in the best possible way. While it would be ideal if each link had well thought out anchor text, it’s not something you can usually control.
Sometimes, links to your site are just the URL itself – no anchor text, just the clickable URL. In these circumstances, a clean URL will provide search engines with some of your keywords as the anchor text, because you’ve already included those keywords in the URL.
If Google was scanning a page and saw “if you want tickets just go to this web site: www.tickets-please.co.uk/2013/music/lady-gaga.htm” it would follow the link and associate “lady”, “gaga”, “music” and “2013” with that link, whereas if the site simply had “if you want tickets just go to this web site: www.example.com/554864.htm ” then Google would only follow the link, and perhaps not make any direct keyword association.
Search Engine Friendly URL’s are only one SEO tip of many
Having a Search Engine Friendly URL is not the only thing web site owners need to concentrate on when trying to optimise their sites for search engine and consumer use, but it is one that should be considered when creating your web pages.
Each web page has it’s own URL, and that URL shouldn’t be wasted, as it’s a stepping stone towards good site usability and structure, for Search Engines and for users, in a very competitive market.