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Optimizing URL Addresses for People and Machines

How do people and computer devices search for your business products or services? It starts with keywords in a search engine. Then the computer machines of the world digitally speak to each other and spit out suggested websites. Optimizing your URL address could improve your chances of a person selecting your website.

So if you’re the lucky business, the person will click on your URL address and connect to the website. But what if, you recently moved a product, or renamed it, and the potential customer reaches a dead end, orphaned link. Or what if, this potential customer does not choose your URL address because it’s confusing or has no clear wording linking your product or service to their search. It’s also possible that the search engines could decide not to include your business in the final search results.

And this is why you need to create SEO friendly URL addresses. It will better insure that your website is included and ranked at the top of browser searches.

Here is a list of URL structure rules to make your website more accessible, user friendly, and readable by both humans and computer devices.

  1. Begin with short URL addresses that are readable to humans. Avoid dynamic URL addresses which are often computer generated character strings with vague numbers. Instead, you want descriptive keywords that are user-friendly.

Example ✅

Example ❎$


  1. Include target keywords that explain what is on your website. Include only 1-2 target keywords in the URL that describes your main content. Do not use prepositions and conjunctions, so no “and” and “the” in the URL. No keyword repetition either.

Example ✅

Example ❎


  1. Use hyphens (-) and NOT underscores (_) in the URL. The Google search engine algorithm reads hyphens.

Example ✅

Example ❎


  1. Use “https” versus “http” if possible since it can increase ranking


  1. No capital letters in URL, it makes it confusing and adds a barrier to quick access. Passwords with a mixture of capital/lower case letters and other characters are great but not for URL addresses.


  1. To make your brand more recognizable, include a favicon in your URL. The favicon is the tiny 16×16 little icon displayed beside the URL your address. It may increase recognition in the browser site address bar and bookmark sections.


  1. If you must change a URL address, then notify search engines by including a 301 redirect from old URL to new URL.


  1. When you have multiple versions of same page, with URL addresses that begin with www, non-www, http or https, add a canonical tag to tell search engines what is your preferred version to index. Your page code in the head element will look like this <link rel=”canonical” href=>


  1. Your domain ending conveys information about your business. Although search engine rankings will not be directly influenced by your domain ending, it is still a better strategy to use Top-Level Domains (TLD) that are considered more trust worthy and carry authority.

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDS) include .com, .biz, .gov, .info, .jobs, .net, .org, .edu…

Regional Top-Level Domains (rTLDS) include .eu, .asia…

Generic Country Code Top-Level Domains (gccTLD) include .ca (Canada),.cn (China), .de (Germany), .fj (Fiji), .kr (South Korea), .mx (Mexico), .ne (Nigeria), .nl (Netherlands), .ru (Russia), .sa (Saudia Arabia), .se (Sweden), .tr (Turkey), .uk (United Kingdom), .za (South Africa)…


  1. Your website will most likely have different pages. So, use subfolders vs. subdomains for your content organization to avoid search engines considering the content as separate websites. Also, use descriptive names so the search engines and humans understand the page.

Example ✅

Example ❎


  1. Determine whether search engines are recognizing your URL pages as mobile friendly. Your site may be responsive and it doesn’t seem an issue, but it is a good idea to check or to add mobile URL’s to your sitemap.


  1. Lastly, check your URL hierarchy so that all paths lead to your products, services, and other content. Your site organization and general/ specific categorizes need to be accessible and recognizable to both search engines and humans.


Additional Resources

Infographic is a good visual reference; along with similar references for 8 tips; 10 tips; 15 tips

Search Quality Rating Guidelines

Google Explains How It Handles The New Top Level Domains (TLDs)

Study: How Searchers Perceive Country Code Top-Level Domains

List of Internet Top Level Domains on Wikipedia


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