URL structure

A website’s URL is often the first thing the search engine and visitor sees. They are the foundations of your website. It indicates an effective site hierarchy, which transmits SEO power and navigates the visitor from page to page(1).

Optimizing your URLs is crucial. However, we often see many mistakes in this. For example, certain pages do not point properly to each other or are not well understood by the reader. Example: www.ralfvanveen.com/begrippen-seo-waarde. Do you immediately know what this page is about?

In this article, we explain more about URL structure and URL optimization for your SEO.

What is a URL structure?

URL structure refers to how URLs are designed. A URL consists of a domain name and extension (after the domain name). How this URL structure is set up is part of SEO.

Use keywords in the URLs

Google and the visitor want to see at a glance where the URL points to. Find an item or products on this page? This should already be obvious in the URL.

The intent of the page is best made clear by using keywords. Is a page about how a company operates? Then use the URL: ralfvanveen.com/operation.

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This way, it is immediately clear that the URL refers to a page that explains this company’s methods.

We also recommend incorporating keywords into the URL. If the keyword “tangerines” is relevant to your business, you will want to write an article about it. Incorporate this keyword into the URL as well, so the search engine will notice it right away. This gives you a better chance of ranking higher in Google.

Build a solid URL structure

A site is often divided into several pages. These pages are again divided into different categories. For example, look at the header of www.ralfvanveen.com. Here you see clear categories, such as rates or knowledge base.

To build a solid and sustainable URL structure, it is important that you include these categories when creating your URLs. This allows you to add web pages by category without losing track of URLs. Case in point: https://up.agency/techniek/url-structuur-seo/. In the “technical” category, you will find all articles that deal with technical SEO. The article you have now landed on is part of technology and is about URL structure.

Adding categories makes it easy to put all the articles you write systematically in your website. That way you maintain an overview for yourself, the visitor and the search engine.

How do I build a URL structure?

Here is a tabulated roadmap for building a new URL structure. This process includes analyzing, planning, implementing and testing the new structure to ensure that it meets SEO best practices and improves the user experience.

Note that every URL structure is different and it can be complex to build a correct structure from 0. You may find that certain steps are more intensive from the step-by-step plan below and others are again not necessary at all.

StepDescriptionResources neededPriority
1. AnalysisAnalyze the current URL structure and identify areas for improvement.SEO analysis tools, Google AnalyticsHigh
2. PlanningDetermine the new URL structure based on SEO best practices and business goals.SEO specialist, content strategistHigh
3. BackupMake a backup of the current website to fix any problems.Backup tools, Web hosting supportMedium
4. ImplementationImplement the new URL structure and update internal links.Web developer, SEO toolsHigh
5. Set up redirectsSet 301 redirects for old URLs to preserve link value and redirect users.Redirect plugins/tools, web developerHigh
6. TestingTest the new URL structure for errors and usability.Testing tools, SEO analysis toolsHigh
7. MonitoringMonitor the performance of the new URLs and make adjustments as needed.Google Analytics, SEO monitoring toolsMedium
8. DocumentationDocument the process and new structure for future reference and maintenance.Documentation tools, team collaborationLow
URL structure building.

This roadmap provides a systematic approach to building a new URL structure, taking into account both technical and strategic considerations. It is important to execute each step carefully and assign the right resources and priority to ensure a successful implementation.

Avoid unnecessary words and characters

A URL should be clear to the search engines, but certainly to the visitor as well. Be short and sweet in your URL. You need to properly represent in a few words or characters what the web page is about. This allows the visitor to immediately see if this page is relevant and interesting to him/her.

Looking for support in optimizing a URL structure?

I am happy to help optimize the URL structure of a website. Please fill out my contact form for this purpose.

For this reason, do not use unnecessary characters or misleading numbers. Example: so do not use www.ralfvanveen.com/techniek/technische-seo-verhalen/

Minimize dynamic URL strings

This can be harder than it sounds, depending on the content management system you use. Some e-commerce platforms automatically spit out strings of characters that give you URLs such as: https:// domain. com/cat/?cid=7078.

You want to avoid these obscure URLs, of course. The visitor and the search engine do not know where the page points to, and it looks very unprofessional. Therefore, be sure to modify these URLs immediately. If you forget this, most Content Management Systems automatically enter it.

Consolidate the different versions of your site

Two major versions of your domain are indexed in the search engines. A “www” and a “non-www” version of the domain. This includes the “https” (the secure version) and the “http” (the non-secure version).

The preferred version, of course, is the safe one.

Make correct use of uI of canonical tags

Canonical tags are very useful codes when you have multiple versions of what is essentially the same page. By adding a canonical tag, you tell Google which version you prefer(2).

Note that the canonical tag is applied only to help search engines decide on your canonical URL. When you want to redirect pages, use redirects.

Conclusion

URLs are thus relevant to your SEO. They clearly state what the page is about in just a few words and/or characters for the search engines and visitor.

When optimizing your URLs, it is important to consider a number of points. We list them for you.

  • URLs should be easy to read. Users and search engines should be able to understand what is on each page just by looking at the URL.
  • URLs contain keywords. Keywords are still important and your searches should be within the URLs. Be careful not to cram too many keywords into one URL. Do you have several important keywords? Then create two separate pages with corresponding URLs for this.
  • URLs should be consistent. It is essential that whatever logic you choose to follow be applied consistently throughout the site.
  • URLs should be static. Dynamic parameters are rarely an SEO’s best friend. Therefore, always find a solution that allows your site to display static URLs.
  • URLs must be sustainable. Think ahead when planning your site structure. You need to minimize the number of redirects on your domain, and it’s easier to do this if you don’t require wholesale changes to URLs.
  • URLs must be comprehensive. Make sure there is enough coverage to cover relevant topics. This will maximize the visibility of your site.
  • URLs are supported by data. Always use a secure version of your domain. Make sure you use the ‘https’ version.

These tips will help you optimize your URLs quickly and easily.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is URL structure a ranking factor for search engines?

Your website’s URL is more important than you might think now. I know from experience that people are quick to look at a URL, but so does a search engine. As such, it is considered a foundation for your website. In practice, that also means that optimizing the URL is also crucial.

Yet many people make a lot of mistakes in this, I would like to avoid that and that’s why I tell you more about it. It is important that the pages link well to each other. This ensures that there is a good structure within your website and visitors can easily move from one page to another. It is also about them seeing what a page is about (i.e. having the right words reflected in the URL).

URL structure, in my opinion, is an important ranking factor for search engines. It also plays a big role in indexing. After all, if you make the keywords also return the URL, Google can index it better that way and you’re going to rank better. Therefore, use appropriate keywords in the corresponding URL of a page.

Is there a limit to the length of a URL structure?

It is not about the length of a URL, it is about being short, powerful and clear. No one benefits from a long URL. It is well known that most search engines allow a maximum URL text length of 2000-2500 characters. If you have a long URL, a hyphen or an underscore is also often chosen. A URL is then poorly readable.

A long URL is less likely to show up on a search results page. So it is much more beneficial to invest in a good URL that is short and powerful than a long text with hyphens etc. Your goal is to be findable, right? Therefore, a good URL for each page plays an important role in this.

So in addition, it may vary from one search engine to another whether or not they place a limit on the length of a URL structure. You could look into that beforehand, but it’s better to just not use a long URL. If you don’t, then you don’t have to look it up.

How do I manually modify a URL?

A visitor to your site wants to be able to see at a glance where a URL points to; Google, by the way, wants to know that too. So the URL should be clear. This is also the reason for using the right keywords in it. This in turn allows you to appear higher in Google.

When modifying a URL, it is important to know the structure of the website. What are the main pages, what subpages do you have, and how can you further divide that up logically? You could also create a logical format in advance and then name the URL. It kind of depends on how extensive your website is.

If you have many categories, it is important that you also include a good structure in this in terms of subcategories. After all, this way you can keep an overview, and I recommend that you think about this as well. You can adjust it all manually, but the important thing is that you have a good layout first and also have a breakdown of topics again.

How many subfolders can I put in a URL structure?

Usually, a Web site is divided into a number of pages, and these in turn are divided into various categories. It is important that you start building a good URL structure. A category must therefore be included in this. The convenience you then have is that you can also add web pages per category and then your overview in the URL is not lost.

There’s not really a set amount of subfolders you can put in a URL structure. A long URL is not recommended anyway, as this page will not be quickly visible within search engine results. It is best to create a short and powerful URL, and it will be better indexed by Google and other search engines.

Consider a logical structure of the URL, the site name, the category, a subcategory and the name of the topic. The point is for visitors to see what you have displayed on a given page and thus what they can find there. The search engines also consider this the most important thing, so you have to respond to that effectively.

Can I automate my URL structure?

As I just said, the URL should be clear to a search engine, but also to your visitors. Therefore, a powerful and short URL is best. With a few characters or words, it should be clear what the web page is about. A visitor then sees whether this is relevant to him or not. Therefore, I also advise you not to use unnecessary characters and misleading numbers in a URL.

It is possible to automate the URL structure, some people like that, but it just depends on what you want. You could also do it by hand, the point is that it makes sense. Therefore, think of a good navigation structure in advance and the URL can then be adjusted accordingly.

Again, keep avoiding a long URL. It is not pleasant and obvious for visitors to look at, but it is also of no use to the search engines. You want to be more findable and therefore you should also be efficient with the advice I have given you for URL structure.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 27 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 27 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.