You've got a website. It's doing pretty well on Google , people are sharing it on Facebook , and your articles are getting linked to by other blogs. You've worked hard to build your brand, present your content in the best possible light, get others interested in it too - but you don't have any leads coming in from Google .
You're putting out all the right signals for search engines to find you easily, but it's just not happening. What is going wrong? Is there some fatal flaw in how your website's set up?
Well... maybe. First of all, let's make sure of what we mean when we say "URL structure". The URL structure of a page tells us where that page exists on the Internet. Every website has a URL structure - if it didn't, then the page on that site would not be accessible to search engines or human visitors.
The simplest way of looking at this is by considering how you type in a URL into your browser. For example, let's say you wanted to go to Google . All you'd have to do is type " www.google.com " into the address bar of your browser, and voila! You'll arrive at Google's homepage (after all, there's only one place where Google lives on the Internet). But wait... what about when we want to visit Google Maps? We can't simply add ".com" onto the end of our destination; we'd arrive somewhere else entirely (in fact, I've just tried it... but maybe you've got more patience than me).
This is because Google has many different products that all live at different places on the Internet. We can visit all of these via their individual URLs:
· www.google.com (for their main website)
· www.images.google.com (for search results showing pictures and images)
· maps.google.com (for Google Maps and Street view )
But how do we know, for example, that we should type "maps" into the address bar to arrive at Google Maps? Well, we know this because there's a link to the map page from the homepage - as well as various links to the map page from other sections of Google Maps itself. This is just one example of how you can find out where things live on the Internet - there are others that we'll explore later in the article.
What if I told you that proper URL structure was essential, not only for search engines (to properly understand what your site is about), but also for people who want to link to your content, too? Well... it is!
So what do I need to think about when structuring my URLs?
The three most important factors you should consider when constructing your site's URL structure are: 1) ease of use; 2) readability; and 3) relevance. Let's take a look at each of these in turn.
Ease of use - how easy is it for both humans and search engines to work out where the page lives on the Internet? As I've already mentioned, Google has many different products which all live at different places on the Internet. People who are familiar with Google will know what they are, but for new visitors or any others who might want to link to these pages, it can be confusing having so many different URLs pointing at one place . Look out for URLs that contain nonsense words (such as "maps"), numbers instead of words (for example "4" instead of "Four") or URL extensions that you don't recognise ("maps.google.com"). All these factors make a URL harder to read and understand, making it more difficult for people to get there.
Readability - are your URLs easy to read both by humans and search engines? Remember how you typed the URL "maps.google.com" into your browser to arrive at Google Maps? This is because the URL itself tells you where the page lives on the Internet - it's clearly readable. However, what would have happened if I'd just told you to type in "4" into the address bar instead of telling you that this was Google Maps? You wouldn't have had a clue where this page lived on the Internet! This example demonstrates how important it is for your URLs to be readable. If they aren't, then people simply won't know which page on your site they need to visit in order to find a certain piece of content.
Relevance - is your site about one subject? Or is it about many different things? If you have a single-subject site, then your URLs should be relevant to the page they're pointing at in order to make them as descriptive as possible. In this way, search engines can more easily understand what each page on your website is about, which in turn helps your rankings . For example, if I had a slide show plugin for WordPress , my URLs might look like this:
However, what would happen if I was selling loads of different things all from the same website? Would these URLs make sense?
In this instance, it would be more understandable if I separated each product into its own section on the website - that way, I can have a number of more descriptive URLs pointing at each one:
Better yet, why not make your site sitemap compatible by having a separate URL for every single page on your website ? Google loves this! The only problem... how are you going to keep track of all the different URLs you'll need to set up?
If this sounds daunting, don't worry. There are plenty of plugins for WordPress that can help you manage your sitemap while keeping things organised on your end. A great plugin that I've used is WP Sitemap . It comes with a number of really handy features including:
Exclude pages or posts by ID, category, custom field data... whatever!
Randomise the order in which pages appear on your sitemap so search engines can see everything on your site.
Create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google so people can find your site more easily. You know what they say - content is king , but links are queen .
Depending on the niche you're in, a sitemap can make it a lot easier for search engines to crawl your website and bring extra traffic your way. It all depends on what you want to achieve through SEO, but it's definitely something well worth considering if you want to further improve your rankings.
So there we have it - my complete guide to structuring URLs correctly! In this article, I've covered why having a structured URL structure is important for both humans and search engines, plus I've given plenty of tips about how to go about setting up proper URLs so you can drive more traffic back to your website.
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