How to write friendly URLs

Written by Chris Tapley

A friendly URL is a web address that’s easy to read and includes words that describe the content of the webpage – for example blackad.co.uk/training. They help readers and search engines quickly understand the value of the content on your page.

Why use a friendly URL?

As well as being useful for site visitors and search engines, friendly URLs look much neater in leaflets and brochures. For print materials it’s always best to keep your URLs as brief and meaningful as possible. 

Thankfully, this is easy to achieve. Just follow these best practice guidelines:

1. Keep it short

Shorter is easier to remember and has more impact. No one is going to remember 'www.gardensupplies.com/gardenshedpromo2015'. Drop the ‘www’, and try this one instead: 'gardensupplies.com/shed'.  

It’s not just for bad memories either, URL length is one of the 200+ ranking factors used by Google. Not only do they punish excessively long URLs, but shorter ones have been found to have a slight edge.

2. Make it relevant

The word or words in your URL should give the user a clue about the page they’re going to land on. The aim is to get your brand and SEO working together. But there's no need to be clever. In fact, being clever is likely to harm your ranking chances. Search engines are not trained to pick up on your puns or clever double meanings – at least not yet.

3. Don’t use dynamic string characters (?, =, &)

They make every type of writing less legible and less human. And they just look plain ugly. Search engines aren’t keen on them either. Even if you do manage to rank, you can bet users are less likely to click on a string of characters like that than a nice clean URL.

4. Don’t use numbers

A good friendly URL needs to trigger recognition in the reader, and make them think “that’s what I need.” They certainly won’t know what a ‘categoryitem3’ is. Make sure you tag things with names people will recognise. 

There might be exceptions where numbers form part of the product name – like ‘under12s’.

5. Avoid too many forward slashes

The best friendly URLs are one level deep (blackad.co.uk/courses). You can get away with two (blackad.co.uk/courses/january) but don’t make it a habit. You’ll soon end up with a not-so-short URL which is likely to be frowned upon by search engines.

For more advice on practical writing for SEO, give us a call.