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URL Structure Signals Useful SEO Information

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The URL structure of a website article sends important information to search engines about the article’s content. This in turn creates the potential for better search engine optimization.

The Uniform Resource Locator or URL specifies the location of a page (or resource) and tells search engines and web surfers how and where to find it.

The typical URL begins with the website address and has up to three or four segments with slashes that divide them that pinpoint the location of the article on the site. The first segment is often a section name for sites large enough to have sections.

That content between the slashes offer great opportunities for publishers to make their sites more friendly to search engines. Ideally, online publishers and writers follow a few simple steps to create a good URL.

Note that search engines display three pieces of information: the title of the article, the description and the URL.

Step 1: Make URL Structure Stand Alone

Many content management systems automatically create a URL from the title or headline of the page. If the title or headline of the article is SEO friendly, the URL is probably SEO friendly as well. But it’s not always the case.

Google shows titles that are about 60 characters long before cutting them off with ellipses. A 60-character title (including spaces) has as many as 10 to 12 words. The first article segment should not come close to that many words. A better number is about three words.

So pick three words carefully, make sure they appear in the first segment and create the URL segment name for the article without automatically accepting the output of a content management system.

Step 2: Choose Dominant Keywords

A well-optimized article has one dominant keyword phrase and one or more synonyms. They should appear one or more times in the body of the page with the number of times depending on the length of the content. Likewise, the dominant phrase should appear in the title and if possible in an image file name and image caption.

If the phrase is longer than about three words, choose the words that best represent the phrase. Even better, take a look at the competition to find out what angle might be new and different. An article with a URL structure that is exactly like 50 others will have a hard time moving up in rankings. Be original as well as accurate and SEO friendly.

Step 3: Change Only When Necessary

Competition, change in the content environment or simply a bad choice may result in a less than ideal URL structure. In that case, there are three choices:

Change the URL, which means losing backlinks, SEO rankings and internal links. This is essentially the same as deleting the article and starting over.

Keep the URL but evolve the content away from what the URL structure means, starting with a change to the article title. This has the obvious disadvantage of sending mixed signals to search engines.

Neither option is attractive, but both of them have a place depending on the situation.

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