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Five Simple Steps to have an SEO Friendly Site URL Structure

Five Simple Steps to have an SEO Friendly Site URL Structure

Many people say there is no such thing as SEO-friendly URL structure. Especially the IT personnel in your IT Department. Many claim that search engines are perfectly capable of making sense of any type of URL and pretty much any URL structure. In most cases, the people who say this are web masters.

iClick Media have also noticed that sometimes, web masters and SEO Specialists live in two parallel universes, each with its own center of gravity. While web masters basically care about site speed, crawlability, and other technical stuff, SEO Specialists are mostly focused on what constitutes their sacred grail: website rankings and ROI.

Hence, what may be an OK site URL structure to a web master may be a totally SEO-unfriendly URL architecture to an SEO Specialist.

What is an SEO-friendly URL structure?

First of all, over at iClick Media, we always advocate to call in the SEO Specialist (be it out sourced or in house)as early in the development stage as possible, so that there is no need to make sometimes hard-to-implement tweaks thereafter.

From an SEO point of view, a site’s URL structure should be:

1) Straightforward: URLs with duplicate content should have canonical URLs specified for them; there should be no confusing redirects on the site, etc.

2) Meaningful: URL names should have keywords in them, not funny numbers and question marks.

3) With emphasis on the right URLs: From an SEO perspective, not all URLs on a website are of equal importance as a rule. Some even should be concealed from the search engines. At the same time, it is important to check that the pages that ought to be accessible to the search engines are actually open for crawling and indexing.

Without further ado, here is what one can do to achieve an SEO-friendly site URL structure:

1. Consolidate your www and the non-www domain versions

Always remember, there are two versions of your website (domain) indexed in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing - the www and the non-www version of it. These can be consolidated in more than one way, but I’d mention the most widely accepted practice.

Most SEO specialist (especially the agencies that are Google and Yahoo Certified) uses the 301 redirect to point one version of their site to the other (or vice versa).

Alternatively (for instance, when you can’t do a redirect), you can specify your preferred version in Google Webmaster Tools in Configuration >> Settings >> Preferred Domain. However, we don't recommend this because it has certain drawbacks (only do this if you do not have an SEO specialist to task/ask):

  • This takes care of Google only.

  • This option is restricted to root domains only. If you have a subdomain such as example.iclickmedia.com.sg site, this method is not for you.

But why worry about the www vs non-www issue in the first place? The thing is, some of your backlinks may be pointing to your www version, while some could be going to the non-www version. (hint: outsourcing your SEO to companies in some faraway countries? You could be facing such problems.)

So, to ensure that both versions’ SEO value is consolidated, it’s better to explicitly establish this link between the two (either via the 301 redirect, or in Google Webmaster Tools, or by using a canonical tag – we'll talk about that one a bit further).

2. Avoid dynamic and relative URLs

Depending on your CMS (Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, etc), the URLs it generates may be “SEO-friendly” like this one:


or “ugly” like this one:


As we've mentioned many times, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) have no problem with either variant, however it’s better to use static (prettier) URLs rather than dynamic (uglier) ones. Static URLs contain your keywords and are more user-friendly, since one can figure out what the page is about just by looking at the static URL’s name.

Besides, Google recommends using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in URL names, since a phrase in which the words are connected using underscores is treated by Google as one single word, e.g. seo_company is seocompany to Google.

Besides, some web masters make use of relative URLs. The problem with relative URLs is that they are dependent on the context in which they occur. Once the context changes, the URL may not work. SEO-wise, it is better to use absolute URLs instead of relative ones, since the former are what search engines prefer.

3. Create an XML Sitemap

An XML Sitemap is not to be confused with the HTML sitemap. The former is for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, while the latter is mostly designed for actual users like you and me.

So, what exactly is an XML Sitemap? You may be a laymen and this might sound totally geeky or alien to you. However, its really pretty simple actually. What it means in simple English is that it’s a list of your site’s URLs that you submit to the search engines. So what is the usage of this? It helps in two ways:

  1. It helps search engines to locate and index your site’s pages more easily and effectively;

  2. Search engines can also utilise the Sitemap as a reference when choosing canonical URLs on your site.

The word “canonical” simply means “preferred” in this case. Picking a preferred (canonical) URL becomes necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on your site.

So, as the search engines don’t want any duplicates in the search results, search engines use a special algorithm to identify duplicate pages and pick just one URL to represent the group in the search results. Other webpages just get filtered out.

Now, back to sitemaps … One of the criteria search engines may use to pick a canonical URL for the group of webpages is whether this URL is mentioned in the website’s Sitemap.

So, what webpages should be included into your sitemap, all of your site’s pages or not? In fact, for SEO-reasons, it’s recommended to include only the webpages you’d like to show up in search.

4. Close off irrelevant pages with robots.txt

There may be pages on your site that should be concealed from the search engines. These could be your “Terms and conditions” page, or pages with sensitive information such as your CEO's number or email address. It’s advisable not to let these get indexed, since they usually don’t contain your target keywords and only dilute the semantic whole of your site. You can read more about robots.txt here!

The robotx.txt file contains instructions for the search engines as to what pages of your site should be ignored during the crawl. Such pages get a noindex attribute and do not show up in the search results.

Sometimes, however, unsavvy webmasters use noindex on the pages it should not be used. Hence, whenever you start doing SEO for a site, it is important to make sure that no pages that should be ranking in search have the noindex attribute.

5. Specify canonical URLs using a special tag

Another way to highlight canonical URLs on your site is by using the so-called canonical tag. In geek words, it’s not the tag itself that is canonical, but the tag’s parameter, but we’ll just call it the canonical tag.

Note: the canonical tag should be applied only with the purpose of helping search engines decide on your canonical ULR. For redirection of site pages, use redirects. And, for paginated content, it makes sense to employ rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags in most cases.


To know more about how to achieve the best SEO friendly site URL structure, call iClick Media at 6362 0123 or visit our website here - SEO Company!