Why you should pay attention to ecommerce URL structures

Posted by Itamar Gero on 6 Jan, 2022
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Your URL structure is vital for your SEO and ecommerce business. Find out why it matters and best practices to use when structuring your web address.

URL structure.

A Uniform Resource Locator or URL is more than just a web address we enter into a browser to locate a page. These links are an important part of SEO, and knowing how to structure them correctly is an asset that can mean the difference between ranking high on search engine results pages (SERPS) and not ranking at all.

Although SEO is composed of much bigger and more technical initiatives, structuring your URL correctly is a priority. Overlooking this task can be the reason you’re losing web traffic, a point we’ll explain later on in this article.

What is a URL structure?

A URL or a web address is used to locate resources (eg. a web page)  on the web. Learning why the page URL matters and why you should care what they look like is important, whether you’re hiring a technical SEO professional or doing the SEO work yourself.

Let’s go over the components of a URL structure:

Here's an example URL: https://www.samplewebsite.com/blog/post-title

  • Protocol → https://

The protocol or scheme is how the browser retrieves information about the page or resource.

  • SubDomain → www.

The subdomain is the part of the domain that comes before the main “root” domain. It’s created to organize and navigate different sections of your website.

  • Root Domain → samplewebsite

The root domain is the domain name. It’s the unique address that pertains to the location of the website.

  • Top-Level Domain → .com

The top-level domain or TLD is the part of the domain that comes after the root domain and can vary from .com or .org to more customized extensions, like .chi or .lac. It gives users an idea about the services you provide or the industry you work in.

  • Subdirectory or Path → /blog

URLs can contain elements, like specific locations, folders, or subfolders on a website. A subdirectory is a unique identifier that’s used to pinpoint a resource.

  • Slug → /post-title

A slug is the component of a path or subdirectory. It’s used to point to a specific page or information in that path.

Why are URL structures critical in SEO?

Rankings

Search engines can use keywords in the URL as a ranking factor, enhancing a web page’s visibility. In addition, using a secured protocol or “HTTPS” will help search engines verify that your website is safe.

Why does that matter? Users prefer a safe and secure website, or HTTPS, because they’ll have an extra layer of security over and above HTTP. Google also prefers HTTPS and strongly encourages siteowners to use it.

Links

URLs make a clear path for search engines to follow, making it easier for them to categorize, crawl and index your website. If your link or URL is well-crafted, it can also serve as its own anchor text, giving readers information about the topic or content of the page. One use case would be if someone shared your link on Twitter.

An unoptimized link would look like this:
https://www.samplewebsite.com/blog/7029382378/?

An optimized link would look like this:
https://www.samplewebsite.com/blog/how-to-layer-skin-care-products

A well-made link not only helps search engines understand your content, it also informs users what the content will be about when they click a link.

User experience

A well-constructed URL enhances user experience. URLs make it possible for users to commit fewer errors when clicking a link or a site that was shared. It allows users to just type in or copy and paste an address to go to a website. URLs that are crafted well and easy to type can result in more website clicks.

Conversion rate optimization

Having the right URL structure goes hand in hand with having an organized site structure. It can help you better organize your templates correctly and let you know which pages are set up for a specific purpose.

Helps in organizing keywords

Having the right URL structure can help you associate the right keywords for a specific section of your website. This will make it easier for you to build up a list of keywords you want to include or rank for, as well as create pages that can attract more visitors.

Best practices in optimizing URL structures for SEO

Applying the best practices in creating a URL structure will help you organize your content, rank your website and engage more users.

1. Keep URLs short

Your URLs should be as short as possible. Not only does it look more organized, but it’s better for sharing on social media or other sites. Generally, it’s easier for users and search engines to understand and use short URLs.

Even though you’re allowed to put as many as 2083 characters in your URL, that length is not going to help anyone. Both users and search engines should have a general idea of what to expect on the page, and it should be easily shareable.

2. Insert a keyword

Use a root keyword in your URL so Google can crawl it and quickly understand how to index your page. Placing the root keyword in the URL makes it easier for Google to relate the keyword to the page.

But don’t stuff your URL with keywords.

It’ll look spammy, it’s not effective and people won’t want to share it.

3. Subdirectory and subdomain structures

Knowing when to use subdirectory and subdomain is important. This is a bit more technical since determining which one is best for your brand will call for analysis and an experienced eye.

Let’s dive into the difference between the two.

A subdirectory structure is when the page or location comes after the top-level domain (TLD). This can also be labeled as a subfolder or directory structure.

An example would be https://www.samplewebsite.com/blog/post-title.

A subdomain structure is when the website hierarchy falls under a root directory. Simply put, it comes before the root domain.

An example would be https://www.blog.samplewebsite.com or https://www.services.samplewebsite.com.

The table below shows you which cases are better suited to a subdirectory structure, and which to a subdomain structure.

Subdirectory or subdomain.

Some argue that a subdirectory structure is better as search engines may confuse your main domain and subdomain as different websites when using the subdomain structure. However, Google has stated that this won’t be the case since its search engine is smart enough to know that both belong to the same site.

Google’s video on whether subdirectory or subdomain is better for SEO emphasised that webmasters should choose a setup that can be used and retained for a long time.

4. Use hyphens

For readability purposes, use hyphens to separate words in a URL. Other characters such as spaces, underscores or commas are not allowed.

5. Be consistent

You may encounter a scenario where you need to change URLs. Maybe you’ve just migrated a website or you have a 301 redirect. Whatever the reason, a change in URL can hurt your SEO.

For example, an ecommerce website decides to change the URL of a product page because there’s an upgrade to a product. If that page is already ranking, they would lose that ranking the moment the URL changes. Incorrect URL structuring and inconsistency can lead to lower rankings and less traffic.

Make sure that your URLs are always static and only apply changes if it’s absolutely necessary.

SEO TIP:

Structure your URL in a way that’s easy to manage, organize and understand. Ecommerce stores with thousands of pages will find it easier to add things in their proper categories and manage pages if they have a good URL structure on the site.

Also, search engines can properly and quickly index these pages.

For example, if you’re running an online supermarket, you can structure it this way:

Homepage: https://www.samplemarket.com
Category: https://www.samplemarket.com/toiletries
Subcategory: https://www.samplemarket.com/toiletries/face
Product: https://www.samplemarket.com/toiletries/face/product-name-01

URL structure: keep it short and simple

URLs are seen as your address online, which means they should be easy to understand and locate.

Your URL structure should always be short, concise and static. Keep everything organized in subfolders because it’s easier to optimize keywords for SEO and it enables search engines to efficiently crawl and index your ecommerce website. A well-structured URL makes it easier for your users and potential customers to understand, navigate and share pages on your site.

With a good URL structure you can also expect improved visibility and ranking for your website.

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