The Importance of Clean URLs

Human readable, descriptive URLs are the foundation of all SEO

Your website needs to have clean, human readable, URLs, by which we mean things like this:

…rather than something ugly, like:

That second address is not a nice URL!  You wouldn’t send it to your friend and expect her to understand it.  So why do you send it to Google?   Not many sites get this sorted out cleanly, and it’s a very strong component of SEO in a competitive landscape.

If you want to see just how important this is, try this simple test:  Search for “estate agent in…” and “house for sale in…” your town.  Then try this again for a range of towns starting somewhere remote like Falmouth, and working your way up through Exeter, Bristol, into steadily more urban areas ending in Notting Hill or Clapham Junction.  Scan down through the URLs of the winning agents.  As you get closer and closer to major urban areas, where larger agency groups compete with more resources, you’ll see the agents that manage to rank typically have cleaner and cleaner “human readable” URL structures.  This needn’t be expensive, but it does need to be understood and insisted on from your web developers.  If you have the luxury of being in a less competitive, less urban area, then the great news is you have a gaping wide opportunity.  Sort this issue out, and work on a few of the other points, and you’ll quickly pop out above your competition and start picking up more valuation leads.

Another more fundamental point to check is that you have “uniquely addressable” link structures sorted out (that’s the U bit of URL after all!).  Try your own site to check: search for one village name, then another, check the URL isn’t constant for both of these searches, like the raw stem for example:

If it is, then your site is passing all the location IDs in the background, and you don’t have URLs at all.  If you are a one brancher, and you just filter by price range, not location as it isn’t necessary, then you should still have your town name in your search results URL string, if you want the best chance of ranking.  There is little point in trying other SEO work, until your URL foundations are well sorted, as not only can Google not get a handle on the town name (so you have no hope of optimising for that specific traffic) but now you have a human error in your site as well (I can’t send a specific price or town filtered list, in an email to my wife for her to look through).  This is a clear example of where focusing on great human experiences has lovely alignment with your SEO objectives too.

So, what next?

Obviously URLs are a big, somewhat technical topic.  If you suspect you might have an issue, drop us a line and we can have a quick look for you.  We’ll audit your URL structures specifically, and give you a call to chat to you about which you might want to fix (both easy, quick wins, and harder, more technical options).

You may want to start back at our introduction to search engines, or read more about the Basics of SEO.

If you’ve done that, you might want to understand why Homeflow sites are a better foundation for your SEO.  And if you’re looking for detailed advice and ideas, there’s no better place to start than our SEO benchmarking or advanced guide.  You’ll also find lots more in our resources library.

And if you just want to talk to one of our team, or you want a copy of our full report, or a free audit of your current sites’ SEO performance, please give us a shout.