Why do URLs matter for SEO?
Not all webmasters and SEOs understand the value of websites' URLs, with some seeing them as arbitrary text strings with no impact on search engine rankings.
While it is true that these 3-part identifiers — localhost, example.com/page1 and https://www.example.com/page2 — are not assigned any algorithmically-calculated weight or order by Googlebot, they have multiple impacts on your website's ability to rank well in the search results. In this article we explain why these unique identifiers can be so important from a technical perspective and outline seven reasons why you should take a more strategic view of URLs on your site:
structure plays a big role in how your site appears in the search results and URLs can impact this. The order in which keywords appear and the number of times certain terms and phrases (known as 'keywords') are repeated both influence how highly Google will rank a page. Search engines work out what words to show on-page by analysing pages' content, so it's important to keep this content as targeted as possible to improve click-through rates (CTR) from organic search listings. This is why it's important that you have a sensible URL structure – if the title element of an HTML document being shared cannot be found within its URL, then there is no anchor text with which Google can match a query typed into a browser.
href="https://www.example.com/page1" alt="example page"
href="https://www.example.com/page2" alt="example page 2"
In this example we've used two different URLs for the same page, but with one small difference: "page1" and "page2". Google will use just one of these permalinks to link to a document in its search results, usually that which has most value according to the website's internal linking structure.
Many webmasters don't consider that if a user clicks through on a URL from an external website (e.g., your homepage), they may be sent to a completely different page on your site than if they had gone directly there themselves. This is because dynamic URLs are often created with specific content in mind, which might not be duplicated elsewhere.
In the example above, visitors clicking through to "page2" from an external site will see one piece of content, while those who visit "page2" directly will see another completely different page (their ID). For this reason you should try to ensure that users coming via a search engine can navigate your site as efficiently as possible because this makes for a much better user experience – particularly if they end up on their expected destination quickly without having to click around at random.
In this example, users coming from an external website will see the same content as if they had clicked directly to "page4". If these pages are expected to rank well in Google results, then it's important that you consider what keywords you use in your URL structure and how these might impact search engine rankings for particular queries.
It is much better practice to make sure your page URLs are sensible, making it clear what content be found on them without keyword stuffing if they are to rank well for a given search term. This is even more true in 2018, where Google has been increasingly weighing CTR signals when ranking pages in its results. These URLs look untidy and make the content difficult to identify from an end user perspective, but also can impact your page's visibility in search engine rankings.
In this example we have made the title of the blog post clear within its URL so you know exactly what you will find if you click through from a SERP or other website, without having to visit the page and scan the content for keywords. This is a much better search engine result, both for user experience and SEO purposes, because users can see what's on offer before clicking through and CTR will improve due to the improved page title.
URLs matter when it comes to your SEO efforts because they determine how well your webpages can rank in Google (and other search engines) based on their link value. The more relevant the URL is to its corresponding webpage's content, the easier it will be for Google to identify particular pieces of information as being related and link them together within one document (or group of documents). This means that if you're telling Google what each page is about via its URL, then stands a much better chance of ranking than if it does not fully understand what that page contains.
URLs can also impact how well individual webpages rank in Google's results because the more natural looking the URL, the better CTR will be on SERPs (and therefore rankings). This ties in with both the content of your webpage and its relevancy to its corresponding URL. As mentioned earlier, URLs are often used within various websites' internal linking structures so it's important to make sure they are easy for users to understand when scanning through search engine results pages. If they cannot instantly identify what information is contained on each result due to complicated or keyword stuffed URLs, then users will simply click through to another webpage that appears easier to find via search engine result listing.
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