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April 23, 2014 // 1:00 PM

How to Optimize Your URLs for Search [Quick Tip]

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penguin-quotesOne of the last things I do before publishing a blog post is a little URL check -- I make sure it's well-optimized for both readers and search engines. It's one of those SEO best practices that's actually stood the test of time, left relatively unscathed by violent little penguins and fuzzy-yet-aggressive pandas.

In the spirit of sharing knowledge, I thought I'd share the process I use to optimize those URLs every time. Keep this checklist in your back pocket to optimize your own URLs for SEO, or share it with a colleague or new hire that's responsible for content creation and publishing.

How to Search Engine Optimize Your URLs

1) Take out the extra words in the page part of the URL slug.

Words that add little or no meaning to the URL -- like "and" or "that" -- can be removed for the sake of brevity and/or readability. Here's a before & after of this post's URL, for instance:

url-slugs

I removed "your" for brevity and the fact that it didn't add any value for readers or search engines. I removed "quick tip" for the same reasons, though I suppose one could make an argument that it's nice for readers who stumble on the URL to know that it's a quick tip. It's not the end of the world if it stays in, but in my opinion, it doesn't add enough value to warrant its inclusion since it could mean so many different things. If this was an [Infographic] or a [SlideShare], however, I'd keep it in.

I could go either way in keeping "for" in, but I decided to keep it in because it helps make the URL more readable for humans. If anyone stumbles on this URL elsewhere, I'd like it to be readable so they understand the contents of the page and feel they can trust the site.

2) Include relevant keywords.

One way search engines and humans learn about your page contents is through the keywords in the URL. Include keywords in your URL slug, but be sure they align with the actual page contents. Luckily, this URL is already pretty well-optimized as it is, because it's a long-tail search term on its own.

3) Make it reader-friendly.

We talked about this a little already, but it's worth reiterating. Both search engines and readers should be able to look at your URL and understand what they might find should they click to the other side. That means when you add a bunch of keywords and delete those little extraneous words, you should end up with a URL that still makes sense.

Let's take our URL for this post:

http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-optimize-urls-for-search

It's really clear from the subdomain and subdirectory where you are -- you're on HubSpot's blog, in the Marketing section. From there, you can tell what you're going to read about on the Marketing section of HubSpot's blog -- how to optimize URLs for search. Search engines get it. Readers get it. It doesn't look like spam. All good.

4) Separate words with hyphens.

Don't use underscores to separate words or try to squish a bunch of words together. The hyphens are meant to help with readability. Use them.

If you want to geek out a bit more on URL optimization, I recommend checking out Moz's guide to URL best practices. Like with most of the SEO best practices, keep user-friendliness top of mind, and you'll likely be making good decisions.

free guide: common seo myths

                                     

Topics: SEO Content Marketing

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