Small business owners invest a great deal of time and energy on creating content that ranks well in search results. With the right strategy, a business can easily outrank the competition, catching the attention of the many customers who find them through a Google GOOGL -0.69% search.
But as recent data from Moz and SearchMetrics reveals, one often-forgotten area of a page’s content is very important in search engine rankings. The content and length of a page’s URL is among the top ranking factors for Google’s algorithms. While this URL is often automatically generated based on the title of a post, it can be easily changed in many Content Management Systems by simply clicking on “Edit” next to the title. Here are a few things you should do to improve your URL strategy.
Choose the Right Length
To maximize success, you may feel tempted to pack as many words as possible into your URL. Unfortunately, long, complex URLs can cause problems for Google’s crawlers. Google recommends shortening URLs whenever possible by trimming unnecessary parameters, so it’s important to make the most of each word.
In addition to meeting Google’s requirements, URLs should also be limited in length to meet Internet Explorer’s requirements. Microsoft requires URLs to be 2,083 characters or shorter in order to allow a page to load. Longer URLs may not be visible to your customers using IE.
Geography is Important
Another important search ranking factor for URLs is the inclusion of a geographic keyword. Location-based searching is more relevant than ever now that consumers are searching on mobile devices. By including the information people would use to search for you in your URL, you improve your chances of reaching customers.
A Chicago Italian restaurant, for instance, would likely see local residents and tourists searching using keywords like “Italian restaurants Chicago” to find a great place to have dinner. If the same customer is in Chicago and simply types in “Italian restaurants,” Google’s algorithms will be able to offer the closest restaurants to that customer if the city information is accessible as possible on that page.
Include Product/Service Keywords
Descriptive information about your product or service is also important to search engine algorithms. This can be complicated if customers are likely to search for that item using a variety of keywords. For best results, separate products, services, and locations as much as possible to ensure when customers are searching for that item, they’re directed to your company above your competitors. If your products or services are location-specific and you have multiple locations, consider creating a separate page for each location to improve your reach.
Use Proper Formatting
As you create your URL, it’s important to format it properly to avoid being disregarded by Google’s algorithms. This includes using all lowercase characters, since Google’s algorithms are confused by uppercase. URLs should be letters and numbers with no special characters and every word should be separated by a hyphen.
For best results in search rankings, some experts recommendlimiting your file structure to only one or two folders deep. Your retail store may separate items into a complicated structure divided by men’s items, women’s items, and children’s items, then break out into categories within those items. For URL naming purposes, though, having a complicated line of subfolders within each of those categories can hurt you in search rankings.
If you aren’t already, consider installing security certificates on your site, especially in areas where you accept payments. Google is on a mission to make the internet as safe as possible for consumers, so its algorithms now search for “https” in domain names during crawls. The presence of https will be use as a ranking signal on a minimal basis temporarily, but its importance will increase once webmasters have been given time to increase its use on their sites.
To make the process easier, Google helps walk webmasters through it. Currently they have basic instructions available, but more information will be added to the Help Center in the coming weeks.
In addition to creating good content and using responsible linking practices, business owners should be aware of their URLs to increase search engine visibility. By avoiding mistakes in their URL naming practices, businesses can maintain their high rankings and take measures to improve. More information on the latest Google search ranking information is available in the infographic by Audience Bloom below.
Originally posted 2016-02-29 20:55:21.