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Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

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Move off the Home page and take a look at another one of your web page URLs. Which of these most closely resembles your URL?

(A) http://www.XYZCompany.com/8.0.html

(B) http://www.XYZCompany.com/index.php?page=media_article&n_id=24

(C) http://www.XYZCompany.com/product-line

(D) http://www.XYZCompany.com/keyword-keyword-keyword

Those of you who said D get an A.

Primary Keyword Phrases Belong in URLs

content-optimizationKeywords in URLs will help you rank higher on Google – don’t squander this content optimization opportunity. when you add new Web pages or redo your site. Stick to three to five keywords per URL. Using more than that will look strange to human readers and may even get the page penalized by Google.

How important are keywords in URLs? Nobody knows for sure. The SEO impact analysis can get technical, quite technical indeed. Here’s a short video from Matt Cutts that puts it into plain English – at least as far as blogs and URLs go.

Beyond Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

But there’s more to it than search engine optimization. Keyword placement in URLs is human reader friendly.

Remember, keyword phrases are words people use on search engines when they’re looking for what you offer. You want searchers to see those words, not a bunch of weird looking code. Keyword optimization is aimed at search engines, but side benefits for human readers may be just as important.

Humans do look at URLs. How can http://www.XYZCompany.com/index.php?page=media_article&n_id=24 be better than http://www.XYZCompany.com/keyword-keyword-keyword?

Why say nothing when you can say something? And if you’re going to say something, say something valuable. http://www.XYZCompany.com/product-line certainly says something. http://www.XYZCompany.com/hand-crafted-jewelry-products says a whole lot more.

It’s little details like this that add up to 100 new site visitors (i.e., potential customers) a month rather than 50 or 30 or none.

Should you change URLs on your site in order to include keywords? Step one is to evaluate the search engine performance of your site as it is. If you’re getting lots of qualified traffic and pages are ranking reasonably well, it may be more trouble than it’s worth. If your site is not performing well or is fairly new, changing URLs could make a dramatic difference when combined with other SEO best practices. Blogs are easy, because you can start paying attention to URLs and choosing keywords with care as quickly as the next post.

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13 Responses to Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

  1. Andrew, Yes, the concept is simple, but the execution does take some effort and training. I think that’s why people sometimes overlook it.

    Robert, The nice thing about WordPress (and no doubt other CMS programs) is that you can totally customize URLs. Notice on this post the post title is not the URL … it’s amazingly simple to do this in WP, but yes, it’s easy to forget about it when you’re hustling to get a post published. I regret not spending more time on keywords in URLs myself.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

  2. Brad,

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Prospective customers are looking for a product, service, or benefit of some kind, and I would imagine that companies would be able to attract a great deal more of the right kind of traffic by incorporating keywords which are commonly associated with the benefits of your firm’s offering.

    Andrews last blog post..The shopkeeper who did not like ‘nigger money’

  3. Gee, when you spell it out like this, it certainly leads to the ol’ “smack the forehead” moment! Thanks for the tip, Brad. Guess I need to start puttin’ a little more thought into those URLs… *sigh* One more thing to think about!

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..What I Learned From… Adversity

  4. Hi Ulla, Believe me, none of this is intuitive – we all have to learn about URLs and optimization. And it is not a topic that gets a lot of attention, which is why I plan to write about it more frequently here. Thanks for reading and passing along a nice German expression. :)

    Hi Iain, You bring up an interesting topic – headlines, URLs, consistency of message/context. One question your comment raises – is it better to go for an enticing, non-keyword title, or be plain, boring, and descriptive and use keywords? It’s not always easy to strike a balance.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

  5. Brad,
    Up to now I knew that the customization of URLs existed in WordPress, but I didn’t know why. Having read your blog post I now know. Smack on the forehead – or – as we say in German “Aha Erlebnis” (aha event). Thanks a lot!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Spring has arrived!

  6. You’re right Brad, apart from the obvious SEO benefits, it’s just good web usability and accessibility practice.

    If you’re using WordPress, you can also use plug-ins to take it a step further and distinguish your article title from the URL. A lot of people do this to emphasise keywords, though I’d rather stick with the full title to keep context.

    Good reminder for us all!

    Iain Broomes last blog post..How to write about your life (without upsetting friends and family)

  7. Hi Bill, Thanks. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the last few posts were inspired in large part by our last Panera meeting. Thanks for the help!

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Why URLs Should Contain Your Keywords

  8. Thanks for the great insight. Now that’s value delivered.
    Bill

  9. If your blog is focused doesn’t this run the risk of having repetitive URLS that blur distinctions between posts? It feels as if the overlap of tags, categories, titles and URLs paints a picture for our master Google that should be good enough… Can you sense some frustration leaking through?

    Fred H Schlegels last blog post..Do You Have Just One Creative Department?

  10. Fred, The lengths to which you take content optimization depend on your objectives and common sense. Sure, you can optimize a blog to a great extent without meticulous attention to keywords, provided you write a lot of quality content around your important themes. However, if certain keyword phrases are competitive and also very important to you, you’ll probably have to go the extra mile.

    My main point here is not to suggest that we try to optimize for 100 keyword phrases – that’s something more suitable to midsize or large firms, or entrepreneurs with heavy reliance on e-commerce. Rather, it is to say, why say nothing in your URL when you can easily configure your blog to say something.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Overcoming Adversity in Sales – A Short Story

  11. Excellent Point.

    Fred H Schlegels last blog post..Do You Have Just One Creative Department?

  12. I completely agree, it seems to make sense that if you are on a particular web page the URL should reflect that.

    If i was on a page for high heeled shoes I would expect the URL to say http://www.blahblahblah.co.uk/high-heeled-shoes, or something along those lines.

    It seems to make sense and if it is going to help with search engine optimisation then I ask why do people not do it more?
    [rq=17461,0,blog][/rq]Website Headers And Footers – June 14, 2009

  13. Pingback: How Should You Select Categories for Your Business Blog?

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