I’ve noticed that sometimes web developers and SEOs live in two parallel universes, each with its own center of gravity. While web developers basically care about crawlability, site speed, and other technical things, SEOs are mostly focused on what constitutes their sacred grail: website rankings and ROI.
1-What is an SEO-friendly URL structure?
First of all, let me start by saying that it is always better to call in an SEO manager early in the development stage, so that there is no need to make sometimes hard-to-implement tweaks afterwards.
From an SEO point of view, a site’s URL structure should be:
Straightforward: URLs with duplicate content should have canonical URLs specified for them; there should be no confusing redirects on the site, etc.
Meaningful: URL names should have keywords in them, not gibbering numbers and punctuation marks.
With emphasis on the right URLs: SEO-wise, not all URLs on a site are of equal importance as a rule. Some even should be concealed from the search engines. At the same time, it is important to check that the pages that ought to be accessible to the search engines are actually open for crawling and indexing.
2. Avoid dynamic and relative URLs
Depending on your content management system, the URLs it generates may be “pretty” like this one:
or “ugly” like this one:
Static URLs contain your keywords and are more user-friendly, since one can figure out what the page is about just by looking at the static URL’s name.
Besides, Google recommends using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URL names, since a phrase in which the words are connected using underscores is treated by Google as one single word, e.g. one_single_word is onesingleword to Google.
3. Create an XML Sitemap
It’s a list of your site’s URLs that you submit to the search engines. This serves two purposes:
This helps search engines find your site’s pages more easily;
Search engines can use the Sitemap as a reference when choosing canonical URLs on your site. The word “canonical” simply means “preferred” in this case. Picking a preferred (canonical) URL becomes necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on your site.
4. Close off irrelevant pages with robots.txt
There may be pages on your site that should be concealed from the search engines. These could be your “Terms and conditions” page, pages with sensitive information, etc. It’s better not to let these get indexed, since they usually don’t contain your target keywords and only dilute the semantic whole of your site.
The robotx.txt file contains instructions for the search engines as to what pages of your site should be ignored during the crawl. Such pages get a noindex attribute and do not show up in the search results.
Sometimes, however, unsavvy webmasters use noindex on the pages it should not be used. Hence, whenever you start doing SEO for a site, it is important to make sure that no pages that should be ranking in search have the noindex attribute.
5. Specify canonical URLs using a special tag
Another way to highlight canonical URLs on your site is by using the so-called canonical tag. In geek speek, it’s not the tag itself that is canonical, but the tag’s parameter, but we’ll just call it the canonical tag by metonymy.
Note: the canonical tag should be applied only with the purpose of helping search engines decide on your canonical ULR. For redirection of site pages, use redirects. And, for paginated content, it makes sense to employ rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags in most cases.