Every page on your website must have a Universal Resource Locator (URL) if it is to be found. Whatever you’re selling—ebooks, mops, tires or horseshoes—when you assign a URL to a page on your site, you’re determining how difficult or easily it can be found; both by your site’s users and by search engines. This is why it’s important to consider these five URL best practices when you set up your ecommerce site.
- Make Them Easy to Read
The easier it is for a human being to read a URL, the more readily a search engine digests it. Accessibility is a key aspect of search engine optimization, particularly when you consider web crawlers employ usage data to determine what people find valuable, based largely upon their rate of engagement with it.
Easy-to-read URLs entice people to click on them because the URL provides a strong indicator of what the person can expect to find. Let’s say you’re looking for books by the renowned crime writer Chester Himes. In your search results you see: https://crimebooks.com/chester-himes-books. This pretty much guarantees to offer what you’re trying to find, so of course you’re going to click on it.
Which also brings us to—
- URLs Should Be Logical
When someone sees https://crimebooks.com/chester-himes-books, it’s a pretty good guess they’re expecting to find a list of books by that writer when they click it. More importantly though, ”Chester Himes books” is what most people are likely to type when they’re looking for books by Mr. Himes. When you’re establishing a URL, consider the keywords people are likely to be searching around your product and include them.
- Change the URL if the Page Changes
Let’s say in addition to selling ebooks of Himes’ work, you decide to offer movies made from his books on the same landing page. This makes good sense; after all, people who are interested in his novels are likely to enjoy the filmed versions of them too. When you add them to the page adjust the URL to read something along the lines of https://crimebooks.com/chester-himes-books-and-movies. You should also do a 301 redirect from /chester-himes-books to /chester-himes-books-and-movies. This way, anyone who has bookmarked the old URL will be taken to the new one. Further, because search engines will consider the old page dead, a 301 redirect will transfer the ranking power of the old URL to the new one.
- Always Make Them Lowercase
If you’ve ever examined a list of URLs on a search engine results page, you may have noticed they are always written in lowercase. This is because URLs are case sensitive. Search engines will consider /chester-himes-books and /Chester-Himes-Books to be two entirely different pages.
If you have both URLs pointing to the same page you’ll split your search engine results. Now, instead of traffic aggregating to just one of them, it will be spread over both. This means the page won’t rank as highly for either URL as it would have if the other didn’t exist. Worse, you’ve also told Google the page is duplicate content, since it appears identical when both URLs are examined.
- Think About the Future
Take a good look at the structure of your site and try to ensure a uniform system of domains and sub domains, so as your site grows it will be easier to manage. Your goal is to ensure the categorization of your product offerings always appears logical to your users and to search engines, regardless of the number of pages your site expands to encompass.
These five URL best practices will help you build traffic to your site, make it easier for users to interact with it and, most of all, keep your management activities to a minimum. It really is a worthwhile endeavor.