If you're trying to reach new customers online, one of the most critical objectives for your website is to increase organic traffic. While generating this kind of traffic isn't challenging, it does require constant optimization and attention to best practices. You need to fine-tune every website page or blog post to ensure it has the best possible chance to rank.
However, this constant content pruning and adjusting can be overwhelming. It's easy to forget the smaller aspects of SEO that seem insignificant, but over time, can severely impact whether or not you bring in that valuable website traffic. One of the most important, yet commonly overlooked aspects of SEO are your URLs, which together, build the backbone of your entire site.
The Secret of SEO Friendly URLs
I've always had an interest in ants, and how little-by-little, they build incredibly impressive structures. Every little bit of dirt, wood, or material matters, even though each bit is minuscule. It builds up into something structurally sound.
I like to think of creating URLs in the same way. One poorly written URL doesn't seem like a big deal, but over time, a lot of poorly written URLs accumulate. Before long, it's impacting your SEO because the consistency and structure aren't there.
That's why we pay close attention to every URL we create and have an internal linking strategy to keep our entire team on the same page. When it comes to creating these SEO friendly URLs, there are a few simple steps you can incorporate into your processes.
#1. Choose Your Domain Strategically
For now, people trust the traditional "dot com" over dot-biz or dot-co. Around 77.6% of 25-34-year-olds trust dot-com because of the familiarity over other extensions and because of this, companies typically comply with the preference. Nearly 87.4% of startups who got Series A funding chose a dot-com domain, rather than taking a risk with dot-io or dot-co.
"New TLDs will eventually be as common as traditional domain endings, so getting one now is a chance to be on the leading edge of the trend before they’re taken. On the flip side, there may still be a few people who are unfamiliar with new endings and who default to typing in “.com.” - Google Domains
Need proof? Startups like Hinge.co, Brit.co, Postach.io, and Card.io use new domains creatively to avoid the stigma that can come with not using a dot-com. It's possible to use an alternative and still create the perfect site domain.
#2. Security Impacts Your Ranking
HTTPS is becoming more relevant, and now, it's even a ranking signal for Google. Why? Because Google is prioritizing sites that are less prone to attacks to protect web visitors. Visitors are also becoming savvier about online security, and know they may be at risk when they visit a website that's still using HTTP.
"HTTPS helps as much today as it will tomorrow. The lock icon on your browser that indicates a site uses HTTPS may be minuscule, but the protection it affords is significant."- Mike Shem, Engineering Lead at Qualys
Without HTTPS, any data that passes across a connection is insecure. That means personal data, financial data, and more. To keep your URLs SEO friendly, switching over to HTTPS should happen sooner, rather than later. You can get an SSL certificate from Go Daddy, Comodo, and more.
#3. Natural Links Breed Trust
When writing a URL, you want to use natural language and keep it short. Google will scan your URL to assess what the subject matter is, so you want to make the URL easy to understand. To avoid confusion, avoid stop-words such as "you," "and," etc., cut out unnecessary words, don't be repetitive, and don't use special characters like an ampersand.
"Use simplicity, novelty, and memorability. Avoid inserting hyphens, numbers, or anything else that makes it sound unnatural and complicated." - Denis Pinsky, Contributor for Forbes
You want it to be easy for Google to interpret what the content is about by using straight-forward language (although this alone won't make or break whether you rank.) Alexa has an excellent guide on writing a natural, yet SEO friendly URLs for your website.
#4. Context Counts
While your URL isn't a huge ranking factor, it's useful for your reader. Readers will take a glance and assume what the content of the article by your URL, so it should provide context. You should use your focus keyword within the URL, and keep it as short as possible.
"Every time you launch a page on your domain, it should have a purpose. Whether transactional, informational, or administrative, its reason for existence should be clear at the outset."- SEJ
You may want to create a URL strategy or set nomenclature for your website URLs to ensure consistency throughout your blog posts and pages. This way, whenever anyone on your time creates a URL, it's similar in style to the existing URLs on your site. It also prevents needing to go back and edit URLs later, which puts you at risk of breaking external and internal links.
#5. Longer URLs Dilute Keywords
Keyword stuffing applies to URLs, too. If you use too many keywords, words, and symbols, your URL will be less impactful, not more. As a result, your target keyword won't be as prevalent, and it will impact the potency of your link.
Think of it as lemonade. The best lemonade uses an even ratio of simple ingredients, such as water, ice, lemons, and sugar. If you start adding extra sugar or lime juice to jazz it up, it takes away from the simplicity and dilutes the flavor. It's the same as the "ingredients" of your URL.
"Too many keywords in the URL will make the weight of each individual keywords diluted." - Salil Jha, Quora Contributor, and Entrepreneur
The recommended length for a URL is somewhere around 50 – 60 characters. You can use hyphens but stick to only one or two folders. Even if you plan on using a URL shortener, you want to keep your actual URL as short as possible for Google.
#6. Google Needs A Roadmap
To rank your website content, Google needs to crawl your site. If it's difficult, all of your hard work will go to waste, and your pages and posts won't rank. That's why it's essential to create an internal linking structure to organize your website architecture early on.
"A crawlable link structure—one that lets the crawlers browse the pathways of a website—is vital to them finding all of the pages on a website."- MOZ.com
When you start with a plan, all of your posts and pages will fall under an organized hierarchy from the beginning.
Here's how we create an internal linking structure that sends the right signals to Google:
- Build your site architecture on a few carefully chosen keywords, which can become your anchor pages.
- As you create content, continue to link to your anchor pages.
- Link to the same articles and use the anchor text repeatedly.
- Visually map out your primary keywords and figure out how they relate to your site’s various pages.
If you neglect to establish this type of structure, you'll only have to go back and make changes later, disrupting the flow of your site and stalling your ability to rank pages, sooner.
Optimizing Your Way To More Organic Traffic
If you can master the SEO friendly URL, you're on your way to getting more organic traffic. However, a few tweaks to your website pages and blog post links won't keep the visitors coming. You need an all-encompassing strategy to increase your organic website traffic, which requires on-site optimization, content optimization, content promotion, and more.
Overall, there are a lot of things to orchestrate if you want to establish long-term traffic trends. We wrote an entire guide to improve your online traffic, with twelve tactics that help us sustain month-over-month growth. Learn how to send the right SEO signals to Google and finally master organic traffic with this free download, The Ultimate Guide to Increasing Organic Website Traffic.