Page URLs are one of the many signals Google and other search engines use when they index a page.
Thanks to modern Content Management Systems like WordPress, page URLs are also easy to control to give your URL SEO efforts maximum leverage.
Here are 3 SEO URL optimization tips you can implement right away on your own site to help your pages rank higher.
IMPORTANT: read this first
While you can change your page URLs anytime, the BEST time to implement the following tips is from the BEGINNING, meaning as your pages are being created.
If you are editing the URLs of existing pages, I HIGHLY recommend you FIRST install a plugin like Redirection (for WordPress) BEFORE you change any URLs.
When you change a URL, any link that has been shared online using the old URL WILL BREAK.
This means that visitors following old links you shared will be greeted with a 404 Error Page Not Found page on your website, which isn’t a good look.
Using a plugin like Redirection, you can create 301 redirects allowing the old URL to automatically redirect to the new URL.
Redirection also has a feature where it will automatically detect URL changes and create these 301 redirects on the fly for you, ensuring your old URLs will not break.
Ok, on to the tips!
Remove dates from URLs
By default WordPress inserts the post dates in URLs it creates. While this looks nice, it doesn’t help your SEO, especially if you’re writing evergreen content (which you should be).
In a nut shell, evergreen content is content that is always of interest to readers. It’s not specific to a certain time period and it doesn’t touch on current events.
These extra dates in the URL do 3 things that negatively impact your SEO:
- They tell search engines (and readers) that this piece of content is relevant to a specific time period
- They increase the length of the URL
- They push important keywords in the URL further back
Keep URLs short
As I mentioned in the second bullet point above, you want to keep your URLs short and to the point.
When search engines look at a URL, they apply weight to each word in the URL – the more words your URLs have, the less weight each word gets.
A note about length: you don’t need to go overboard here. If your URL is less than 50-60 characters, it’s good to go. But if you have URLs that are over 100+ characters, give it another look to shorten it.
While there is some debate on whether or not you should remove “stop” words in your URLs (words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘an’, ‘with’, etc), I tend to fall into the camp that says you should write for the user, so leave them in where it makes sense.
Google and other modern search engines are extremely sophisticated in what they’re able to understand – you don’t need to go out of your way to “dumb things down” for them.
Sometimes removing the stop words can change the meaning of the URL.
Consider the following URL example with and without stop words:
If one way reads better to you and to your users then stick with that. Users will search Google based how they speak naturally.
Use hyphens instead of underscores
While there is some debate on whether Google adequately interprets underscores in URLs these days, I prefer to fall back on what Google says in their own support forms about hyphens and underscores:
Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/76329?hl=en
While these URL optimization tips certainly do not cover not ALL of the URL optimizations you can perform, they are definitely a solid place to start when you’re crafting your website’s URLs to give you a leg up on your SEO.
Do you have any additional ‘go-to’ URL optimization tips you like to use when building your URLs? If so, drop them in the comments and let’s talk about it!