URLs for SEO

I just helped someone at work configure the Newsroom blog so that it generates unique URLs for SEO traffic. We are trying to improve the search-ability of the newsroom, and the URL (Uniform Resource Locator – a fancy name for the “www” address in your browser,) is the best place to start.

For a long time, when you did a search on Google, the first result of what you were looking for was almost always a site that used that phrase as their address. If you looked for “fried wonton,” you’d likely get friedwanton.com, “Thai cookbooks” would get thaicookbook.net, and so on.

SEO has changed in the last year, so that Google gives you more returns where a site has good content on those subjects instead of just a URL. Wikipedia, Amazon and eBay tend to get top rankings for these phrases when you look them up.

While these sites have the content to justify being ranked #1, they also still have the phrases searched for in that URL. Go ahead and search for “Thai cookbook.” What I see as I type this is a result from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Original-Thai-Cookbook-Jennifer-Brennan/dp/0399510338

But you see how “Thai Cookbook” is still there in the address? It’s still a powerful indicator to Google what the page is about. It won’t help if you don’t have “Thai cookbook” in the page content itself, as well as quality links. But having the phrase in the URL is the easiest way to get some points for what you want to rank for.

Don’t think if you want to score well for “Thai cookbooks” that you actually need to own that domain name either. Google’s spiders will analyse a URL for up to 128 characters – so even if you have a lot of sub folders in your URL that make it terribly long, if the phrase turns up within 128 characters Google will see it, and you’ll do better for that phrase.

Also, you don’t want to stuff the URL with a bunch of phrases. Keyword stuffing is never a good idea, no matter what SEO operation you’re engaged in. You want your use of these phrases to be smart and make sense. For the URLs, if you keep it down to three or four words, you can start to own that phrase.

After that, you’ll need to make sure your phrase shows up in your page’s content, and you get those links. Creating the content is your job. You can’t be lazy and do a lot of SEO on a page, then not write content that people will want to read when they go looking for that phrase. This very post is optimized for the phrase, “URLs for SEO,” but then that’s exactly what this content is about.

As for links, links need to have the keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for in the anchor text. The problem is most people don’t build a link the way us search junkies wish they would. The perfect, anchored link for the Amazon Thai Cookbook example would be:

Thai Cookbook

Instead, people will usually anchor it to something like, “this book” or even, “here.” Nothing you can do about those. But people also tend to just post the URL. Look at it again:

http://www.amazon.com/Original-Thai-Cookbook-Jennifer-Brennan/dp/0399510338

This link uses the link itself for the anchor – and the keyword phrase, “Thai Cookbook” is still right there! So when Google finds this link, they will see one that has this phrase as part of the anchor text, and it will help the ranking for the page.

If only my blog was all about asian cooking, the link would have more value for the site, so remember to try to build these on sites that matter.

With the newsroom at work now publishing stories with keywords in their URLs, for stories dealing with these keywords, we can now gain rankings for almost any phase we want. If you’re willing to do the writing, and you do a little keyword research to know what you should rank for, changing out the URL will take you a long way.

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