Proper URL Structure
Created March 8, 2023
Updated September 29, 2023
9 min read

The Importance of Proper URL Structure (Best Practices for SEO)

URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator and as the name says it allows you to locate a specific page among the billions of existing Internet pages. Like a unique internet address.

It also serves as a short info for your website, that is later crawled into search engines like Google, Bing and others. 

When someone searches for a given topic Google can match their search intention with your webpage and show it to them.

Having a well structured URLs means good SEO, because good URL is SEO-friendly URL.

What is the General URL Structure?

The typical URL looks like this: https://oshara.ca/en/proper-url-structure

This is by the way the URL of this article, funny ha? 🙂

So, the structure of URLs is standardized and consists of 3 essential elements.

General Structure of an URL
General URL structure

The Protocol

The protocol is a set of standards that allow computer and mobile devices to connect between themselves.

This allows any user to send and receive messages, emails, download files or access websites.

The most common protocols used to access websites are “http” and “https”. 

Note, that http is no longer used, as it is not secure. Instead, we use “https” protocol today. 

So the protocol is the “https://” part of our URL.

Domain 

This is a unique and exclusive name that is used to identify your website on the Internet, it is the part of the URL that immediately follows the protocol. 

Domain name is unique and specific to each site, like a full name is specific to an individual.

In our case, our domain is oshara.ca.

Path

The path goes to the specific webpage that we need. In the background it’s located on a server so thats why we have to use the dashes to find it. 

Dashes are like doors that lead us through sections of the website called subfolders. 

Like when you save something on your Desktop the address is My Computer/Desktop/Name of your file. Same rule applies to URLs.

In this example that is the “/blog/importance-of-url-structure” part of the above URL.

On some websites, the URLs structures are more complicated. Different information such as language, categories, subcategories, and product names are added in the path which makes the whole URL more lengthy.

When we talk about URLs we usually talk about static URLs, but sometimes the path (or part of the path) can change and become dynamic URLs, you may have notice this if you play browser games, because every session has different URL path ending.

Also the URL can contain different URL parameters consisting of numbers and letters positioned between a question mark (?) and ampersands (&). This is also usually the dynamic part of the URL.

What is SEO-Friendly URL Structure?

In order to rank relevant search engine results to the user according to his search, Google and other search engines must be able to evaluate the content offered by different webpages.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a set of best practices to rank better and have more relevance to a search query.

Good optimized URL provides more traffic and better website navigation and is a mandatory part of any SEO strategy.  

The URL is one of the first elements to be evaluated: it says a lot about the subject of the page.

For example, if you are looking for a SEO agency, Google will not show you a web page whose URL contains the keyword “football club”.

The URL can also allow Internet users and search engines to understand the structure of your website.

Let’s take the example of an e-commerce website with the URL like https://www.walmart.com/browse/home/shop-microwaves/

Walmart Microwave URL Category
The Walmart webpage in question you can see the URL structure at the top

The user with this link can easily understand that in the “home” category there is a subcategory of “shop microwaves” where you look for microwaves.

The indexing robots that work for search engines ranking are able to identify this category of products and understand more easily the relationships between the pages of your website.

10 Golden Rules for Viral URLs

10 Golden Rules for Good URLs

Whenever Possible, Use Short URLs

There is no hard rule for the ideal size of a URL.

However, the shorter the URL, the easier it will be to remember, copy and share.

According to Google itself, the size of a URL will not necessarily influence the ranking of a website, but a short and easy to remember URL will always be more user-friendly than a long one.

To optimize your URL, make them short as your main SEO keyword and use hyphens between the words.

Upper and Lower Case

URLs can contain both upper and lower case letters. 

However, it is best to structure your URLs with lowercase letters, as this creates a uniform pattern and makes it easier for users to read.

Keywords in the URLs

The use of keywords in the URLs is crucial for your site to perform better in search results. 

Keywords should be used in a descriptive, unique and personalized way.

Always choose your main, most visited keyword as a SEO-friendly URLs. 

It’s good to also use the same keyword int he title of the page.

Well-constructed, unique and descriptive URL will give the user a clearer idea of what they will be dealing with in relation to the content of your site. 

This can be a decisive factor in choosing which site to visit and it increases user experience.

Avoid Double URLs

If your website has two URLs that point to the same content, consider implementing 301 or 302 redirection, which is exactly what is used to direct the incorrect or duplicate address to the correct page.

Eventually, in the case of a redirect to a specific product or service page, to avoid split indexing by search engines, use the canonical tag function.

Beware of Problematic Characters

Some special characters can make reading a URL harder, so it should be avoided.

The use of certain special characters can even make it impossible for the site to function properly, as it may be a character reserved and exclusive to certain platforms.

For example, the use of the question mark (?) in URLs should be avoided whenever possible.

This is a special character used to make database queries and misinterpreting these characters in a poorly crafted URL can lead to a malfunctioning website.

Another example to avoid is the use of quotation marks (“), as in some systems they are used to delimit URLs.

So if you want to have the best URL structure possible stay away from problematic characters.

Separate Words Correctly

A few years ago, the use of underscores to separate words in URLs was not a very recommended practice, as some browsers had difficulties in interpreting these characters.

This has changed and today the use of underscores (_) or hyphens (-) is recommended to separate words in URLs.

Be careful though, with the use of blank spaces, these remain problematic and are not recognized by all browsers. Therefore, make sure to always connect your words with underscores or hyphens.

Avoid Using Subfolders

Keep in mind that a URL with several subfolders, i.e. containing several elements divided by bars (/) can generate some confusion for the user, which makes it preferable to a simpler and easier to understand URL site.

Avoid Articles and Linking Verbs

As said before, shorter URLs are more effective in attracting users.

So don’t use articles or linking verbs like: a, an, the, of, of the, etc. 

We don’t do this just to save space, but also because when people google things they omit these articles or linking verbs. 

Now in case your keyword contains an article or a linking verb then go ahead and include it in the URL. 

Use Descriptive URLs for Images

When uploading images for your content be sure to use descriptive URLs for images and not just name them product1, product_3, jacket-blue etc.

Descriptive URLs on images are good for SEO, but they are also good for people with vision problems who use special softwares to search the internet. 

With proper image naming you are enabling them to get information about your product and become your customers. 

This will help you with the SEO and rank you better on the search engine results pages. 

Matching the URL With the Page Title

When the URL of a page comes close to the title of the content, the chances are much higher than the user will want to click on it.

Let’s say you received a page from a friend with an URL that contains a random sequence of numbers and some disconnected words. 

You would most likely be suspicious of such a link. On the other hand, if you receive a well-written, descriptive and clean URL, the chances of you trusting the content and clicking on that link increase dramatically.

To optimize your URLs try to match them with the titles, and put those keywords in your URL.

Conclusion

URLs are very important for both the users and the search engines. One of the first things Google search engine checks on your website is your URL structure.

If your website’s URL structured is not proper the search engines may not give your site enough relevance, which will cause you to lose your audience.

So please try to optimize your URLs so you can rank better and improve your internet presence.

Putting some effort into getting your URLs up to standards can go a long way.

If you have questions, our site of SEO specialists can help you with your project, contact us today.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 3 parts of every URL?

The three parts are protocol, domain and path. Let’s have https://oshara.ca/en/blog as an example. The https is the protocol which, the oshara.ca is the domain and the /en/blog is the path. These three parts are universal and must be part of every URL, they are known as general URL structure.

Should I use longer or shorter URLs?

This depends on your main keyword. Our experience is that best URLS are the one that are the same as the main keyword. So if your main keyword is “green picnic chairs” then your URL should end in green-picnic-chair.

Should I use a, an, of and other articles in URLs?

No, don’t use articles and linking words in URLs. Because the URL will be harder to remember and because search engines like Google understand the meaning of the phrase or word without articles or linking verbs. If you need help with optimizing your URL structures feel free to contact our marketing experts.