Marketers often put a lot of thought into their headlines and subject lines, but may just click to make automatic, software-created URLs. The results can be just plain ugly. That disgust factor may have more consequences than simply aesthetically turning consumers off—it may impact SEO.
To fix both problems, Neil Patel reveals the good and bad of URLs on Monday in his Quicksprout post, "Does URL Structure Even Matter? A Data-Driven Answer."
Here's what Patel finds:
1. Backlinks and Content Quality matter more for SEO than even the most horrific URLs. [Editor's note: Take a look at the default permalinks for WordPress blog posts: http://regrettablesincerity.com/?p=9058. Pretty awful. That's probably why WordPress offers bloggers the option to create "pretty permalinks: http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks.]
2. Google Reads Underscores As Combined Words. Use hyphens, Patel advises. In his example, he says Google views "com/red-widget" as "red widget," but "com/red_widget" as "redwidget."
3. 'Strange Characters' Equal Trouble, he says. Search engines have difficulty crawling websites when URLs contain characters such as "&, %, $ and @." Only 0.194 of the highest-ranking URLs had these symbols. "We analyzed the top 100 results for 1,000 keywords in various industries," Patel says of the strange characters and underscores.
4. Keep URLs Short. "URLs that contain 35 to 40 characters tend to dominate the search listings," he says. "This doesn't necessarily mean that long URLs can't rank, especially when you consider that 21 percent of the URLs that rank on Page One contained over 60 characters." Citing a couple long URLs, Patel says they built up a lot of backlinks that helped with their SEO. Also, he says using Google itself as a guide shows the company's URL lengths across its various offerings range from 59 to 76 characters.
5. Keyword-Stuffing Is Obvious Here, Too. Make URLs seem natural. Keywords in domain names don't even matter as much any more, because the search engine algorithms are ranking other factors higher.