urlnaming

Importance of URL Naming Convention and URL Management for Websites

  |  October 5, 2012   |  Comments   |  

Consider these best practices when naming and managing URLs for your website.

A website is made up of many web pages. Each web page can be reached by users through at least a single uniform resource locator (URL) or in some occasions through multiple URLs. URLs are the identities to the web pages of your website.

This makes two aspects of URLs important:

  • Creating URL naming conventions
  • Managing all the URLs

Examples of URL Naming Conventions

How should you come up with a name for any URL?

Bad URL naming convention examples:

www.yourdomain.com/12345.html

www.yourdomain.com/abc.html

The examples are bad because in the uniform resource identifier (URI) part of the URL, it doesn't tell anyone what the page is about.

Good URL naming convention examples:

www.yourdomain.com/[product_name]/

www.yourdomain.com/[product_category]/

www.yourdomain.com/[product_category]/[product_name]/

The examples are good (or better) because the URI part shows users what content they are expecting from the page before they even open up the page in their browsers.

Who Should Care About URLs?

URL naming conventions and URL management are especially important for:

  • Web analytics
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Users

For web analytics, below are good URL naming conventions. Each page is located under an additional folder /fruits, which makes grouping much easier. In many occasions, web analysts look at the performance of a similar set of pages as a group. The /fruits folder lets the web analyst filter, group, and look at all the data only related to all the "fruit" pages.

www.example.com/fruits/apple.html

www.example.com/fruits/orange.html

www.example.com/fruits/banana.html

www.example.com/fruits/kiwi-fruit.html

The conventions below aren't as good as the above. None of the URLs has the /fruit folder, so the web analyst will struggle and won't be able to look at all the data altogether.

www.example.com/apple.html

www.example.com/orange.html

www.example.com/banana.html

www.example.com/kiwi-fruit.html

Below are good URLs for SEO (with the /fruits folder) as any webmasters can quickly use the "site:" command site: www.example.com/fruits to find out how many fruit pages Google have indexed.

www.example.com/fruits/apple/

www.example.com/fruits/orange/

www.example.com/fruits/banana/

www.example.com/fruits/kiwi-fruit/

With the URLs below, webmasters will struggle to find out the same information from Google.

www.example.com/widget-blue/

www.example.com/red-widget/

www.example.com/greenwidgets/

www.example.com/black-widgets/

www.example.com/brown_widget/

Once you have made a URL available on your website for users and/or search engines, don't change the URL (or URI) ever. Once a URL goes live then it's forever, otherwise you risk losing trust from users and search engines:

  • Users: A user may have already bookmarked one of your pages. You change the URL and move the content to another page (i.e., a new URL). The next time the user comes back she only sees a 404 error page.
  • Search engines: Google's bot discovers your new page through the page's URL and puts the URL in Google's Index. You change the URL and move the content to a different page (i.e., a new URL). A user searches on Google, finds and clicks that URL, but only sees a 404 error page. After a while Google understands the URL doesn't have content anymore and drops it from the Index.

Managing URLs

Example: This month you start with 10,000 web pages on your site. As your business grow, the size of your website increases. In three months, you add another 50,000 new pages. In six months, you add another 300,000 new pages. By the end of the first year, most website owners would have lost count of how many pages and/or URLs they have.

For SEO, you always need to know this metric: the number of indexed pages/the number of web pages you have. To go one level deeper, you need to know how many pages are indexed/the number of web pages you have by category (e.g., only the URLs under the /fruits folder).

You don't want any person to simply come up with a new folder and a new URL convention without consulting with the person who manages all the URLs of your website.

Who would be the most suitable person within your business to manage URLs? You can have many options, but the main point is to always have someone responsible for managing all of the URLs to ensure the URLs are following existing conventions, ensure new URL naming conventions make sense, and are being communicated across your entire business.

The person responsible can be:

  • One of your webmasters
  • One of your tech guys
  • One of your SEO guys
  • One of your web analysts

URL image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gordon  Choi

Gordon Choi has paid search experience in Google AdWords and Baidu since 2003; Yahoo/Bing since 2002 and SEO and web analytics experience since 2005 across China, Asia, U.S., U.K. and Australian markets. He gathered China Internet experience through working in-house at Ctrip.com and Alibaba.com and now specializes in setting up SEM/SEO strategies, managing online campaign operations, and implementing web analytics solutions for clients.

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