URL Website Structure
URL Structure for your website is another very important aspect of on page SEO. The purpose of a proper URL structure can be best described in terms of files and folders on your computer. Take for example you have a folder of music on your computer (all legally downloaded of course, leave me alone US department of Justice) and you have 1000′s of songs all in one big folder called “My Music”. Having to scroll down the page, even if it’s alphabetically ordered would be a big pain. An even bigger pain would be if all of your music files were named like song1.mp3, song2.mp3 etc.
The logical conclusion to this problem would be to create sub folders and also name your mp3 files to something accurate. How you decide to name your folders is completely up to you. I’ll give you a couple examples:
- Alternative Rock
- Rock and Roll
- 1960′s Music
- 1970′s Music
- 1980′s Music
- 1990′s Music
- 2000′s Music
- Party Music
- Relaxing Music
- Driving Music
- Bedtime Music
- Soulful Music
The point being, different people might organize their music differently, and that’s completely fine. As long as it’s organized and there’s a rhyme to the reason (see what I did there!). When you’re organizing your website structure, as explained on the website architecture page, we go to great lengths to make sure that our website is organized properly. We also want to make sure that the URLs reflect this organization in a clean and straight forward way. Folders on your computer are like site.com/folders/ on your website. You want to make sure that they’re organized and structured.
There’s several benefits to having your URL’s structured properly. The first and foremost is the search engine optimization benefit. As described above, a folder with a bunch of files sitting in it doesn’t help search engines understand the content of your website. If you can label everything neatly, as search engines crawl your website they will have a better understanding of the context of your content. With that being said, there’s an added benefit of organization for your site visitors. If your site URL structure looks something like this:
If someone is on your ocean sounds page and thinks the ocean isn’t soothing, they can simple highlight and delete “/ocean-sounds-music/” off the end of the URL and they’re now at nature sounds music page. If your URLs were like this:
Unless someone had a deep understanding of the structure and database of your website, they’d be unable to easily manipulate your URL structure in order to end up in a different category.
Another important factor of your website URL structure is making sure the labels are complete. In terms of SEO, the parent category theme is NOT automatically adopted by child category. What I mean by this, by look at our example is:
Is not a page, in terms of URL structure ONLY, about music, it’s a page on a music website about bedtime. It’s important to label your folders with their full meaning:
The same goes for child categories, and grand child categories. Don’t assume that because the parent category has the term in it, that it automatically gets picked up by the child category.
Do’s and Do Not’s of URL Website Structure:
DO: Use dashes (-) instead of underscores (_). In addition to being told to do so by Google itself the other reason for doing this is that Google see’s hyphens as spaces, where underscores are characters.
DON’T: Remove the forward slash(es) from your directory structure. By removing the forward slashes from your directory structure, instead of having neatly nested child categories you’re making tons of main categories. music.com/bedtime-music-nature-sounds-music-ocean-sounds-music/ is NOT the same as music.com/bedtime-music/nature-sounds-music/ocean-sounds-music/. Go back to the example of sorting music into folders, if you made a ton of folders that were all located directly under My Music, it wouldn’t be any more useful than having all of the files located in the same folder.
DO: Put .htm at the end of the of your final pages. Whether your final page is an article (blog post) or a product, putting .htm on the end of them is signifying it’s the content, the meat of the website. Similar to files (.mp3) having extensions and being located within your folders. As a general rule of thumb, if a page has a sub page, you don’t want to add an extension to the end. Someone searching for “widget” is looking for a widget. Someone searching for “widgets” is looking for a list of widgets. In an ideal world, your best selling widget would come up for a search for “widget” while your widget category that lists multiple widgets would come up for a search for “widgets”. A list search vs a result search are two of the basic types of searches people enter in search engines, and helping search engines understand which pages of yours are results while which others are lists is an advantage you can add to your arsenal.
DON’T: Think that an important page needs to be outside of your URL structure and close to the root. All the time I have clients tell me that a page is far too important to put into a grandchild category on the site, it needs to be on the root. By doing this you’re disorganizing that very important page on your site and shooting yourself in the foot. Think in terms of the music example, if that song you’re looking for of waves crashing in on the pacific ocean is under My Music instead of the “Ocean Sounds Music” folder, is it really better off? Chances are people (read: search engines) would look for it where it belongs in terms of topics. Not where it belongs in terms of your priorities.