URL Structure and Permalinks

Creating descriptive titles, categories and taxonomies for the documents on your website will not only allow Googlebot to more efficiently crawl your website, it will help you stay organized as well. One trick about URL’s we like to tell people is this: can you recite this URL over the phone without the person on the other end screwing it up?

From an SEO perspective, there are many reasons why URLs and permalinks are important. For one thing confusing URL’s might be improperly linked to. A very long URL with a lot of parameters is just asking for trouble. Keywords and descriptive categories inside of your URL also might help search bots categorize and rank your site better.

While we are on this particular subject, I think it is worth pointing out that this very guide on on-page SEO recently redid our own permalink structure in an effort to rank with the big sites in Google. For starters you can see this particular page has a URL of:

https://elite-strategies.com/learn-seo/on-page-seo/url-structure-permalinks/

Let’s break down this URL:

Our domain:

https://elite-strategies.com/

Main category “learn SEO” which encompasses all aspects of learning SEO on-page and off.

learn-seo/

Sub Category and the Primary Target for our Keyword Ranking Strategy “On-Page SEO”

/on-page-seo/

The actual page we are on now

/url-structure-permalinks/

Prior to a few months ago, we had all of our “learn on-page SEO” series on our blog, but since we re-categorized our website (content cleanup case study)

This part can get a bit tricky, but is a huge part of any website. For starters a few rules of thumb:

 url permalink optimization seo on page

If you have a static website or basic CMS or blog, this subject can be fairly simple and easy to categorize. Once you start getting into larger websites, dynamic websites and eCommerce stores is when this topic starts to get tricky. Trying to organize 1000’s of products, as well as naming and categorizing them can be extremely tricky.

The real magic is when you figure out a way to optimize for both your website visitors as well as search engines. We’ve seen entire websites completely bomb due to their irrational and outdated URL structure.

For a lot of people this process is done during the initial website design or development process. Many people organize their page structure in a spreadsheet.

Relative vs Absolute URLs

Getting to know the difference between relative vs absolute URL’s is a really important part of learning on-page SEO.

http://www.example.com/bikes.html (absolute)
bikes.html (relative)

By using absolute URLs (our preferred version) it minimizes the risk of intentionally producing duplicate content. This will also significantly reduce the amount of versions of the same URL that exist on your website.

Remember: URL’s are used in search results

Like the title tag and meta description, Google uses the entire URL within the search results. This should be enough reason to ensure your URL’s are properly crafted.

urls within search results seo guide

Wording your URL’s

There are a lot of rules to remember when wording or describing your URL’s. A few key pointers:

There are a lot of rules to follow when it comes to URL’s. Lucky for most SEO’s is most modern day CMS’s take the guess work out of creating the overall page hierarchy, most SEO’s and webmasters just have to worry about naming conventions and details.

A word on breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is technically considered part of the navigation system of the website. Breadcrumbs allows your website visitors to navigate either back to a previous part of the site or to the home page.

seo onpage breadcrumb navigation

The beautiful part about breadcrumbs is if you know how to structure them properly, and know how to structure your site properly Google will start using them in place of the actual URL.

seo google breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs within the search results are much prettier and user friendly. Although there is no way to exactly control getting breadcrumbs in the search results, you can definitely improve your chances by simply having them. Adding structured data / semantics markup to your breadcrumbs will help Google tell what they are.

Redirects

This is another tricky and controversial topic. There comes a time in the life of a website where a page might have to be directed. This could be as a result of a change in the site structure, a 404, the merging of two pages, or a number of different reasons.

In short, redirection is when you forward one URL (website address) to another URL. Redirects can be useful for websites that change an address of a URL or another resources. Technically speaking there are different types of redirects, however most of them really accomplish the same thing from a user perspective.

As we’ve already said at the start of this section, there are two main types of redirects: 301 redirects and 302 redirects.

To illustrate, here is how a 301 redirect would look. This code would generally be inserted in the last line of the .htaccess file on a Linux server:

Redirect 301 /feed.xml/ https://elite-strategies.com/feed/
Redirect 302 /something/ http://www.example.com/somewhere-else/

Basically what this is saying “if someone tries to access feed.xml, take them instead to /feed”

If you want to see your redirects “working” you can just enter the URL in your web browser. If you want to take it a bit farther you can open up an Linux command line and use the “curl” command to grab the link.

301 redirect 302 redirect curl linux

One a Windows / IIS server its done a little differently, but the overall principle is the same.

In general most qualities of that page will be passed on to the new page such as Google PageRank, “link juice” and traffic value. We’re not going to get into too much more on how to implement a redirect, as there can be many different options and configurations depending on your needs, your website, and your server. Note that even if you do redirect the page, it might take some time for Googlebot to notice. But how do you decide where to redirect your page?

This is where you’ll have to make some decisions. Let’s say you have a page on your website called “helpful tips” and that page has been redirect. Where do you want your users to go? What if there is no replacement for that page?

As a general rule of thumb, you should always try to redirect your users to a page that is the most relevant. If that page is not relevant you can always point them to your website sitemap (not your XML sitemap) or a category page.

302 Redirects

A 302 redirect, or temporary redirect is implemented when you want to redirect a web page for a short period of time. As a rule of thumb you should only implement a 302 when you know you are going to be removing it at some point. An example of a 302 redirect instance would be when you have a page that you want to test, or a landing page that you are trying out. Like 301’s, 302’s also pass PageRank and “link juice” so keep that in mind when you are creating them.


On-Page SEO Guide Table of Contents

Contact Info

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Phone: 561-526-8457
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E-mail: info@elite-strategies.com
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