URL Optimization: SEO Best Practice Quick Guide

We spend a lot of time talking about changes that Google makes to its algorithm and how those changes affect SEO best practices. But there are some SEO tactics that have weathered every algorithmic storm over the last several years. One of those best practices is URL optimization.

The page URL is what appears in the address bar of your browser when you navigate to a website. For example, www.e3ngage.com. You want your URL to be mostly words, not numbers. It should be short, concise, and include keywords, because it helps search engines understand what that specific page is about. For example, Google would not know how to classify www.e3ngage.com/1238tyf532. But it would know how to classify www.e3ngage.com/url-optimization.

Remove Unnecessary Words (But Keep The Reader in Mind)

Before you publish a blog post, check out your URL. In WordPress, you’ll see it highlighted in yellow under the Title field for your post. Remove words that don’t add any value like “for,” “the,” “and,” etc. Don’t remove them if it means the words left behind won’t make a coherent thought.

Let’s say the title of your blog post is, “How To Optimize Your Title Tags For SEO.” You’d leave “to” in that title because you want Google and your readers to know that they’re landing on a “how to” guide. But you don’t really need “your,” and you could make a case for removing “for,” as well. You want your URLs to be concise, but they should also make sense and they should never appear to be spammy or automated.

Always separate words, don’t jam everything together into an unreadable mish-mash. And when separating words, use dashes only, not underscores. Parameters and special characters like “?” and “%” should never be used, as they can confuse search engine spiders.

Check For Keywords

Your URL should include your main focus keyword for the post. Both searchers and search engines use titles and URLs to tell them what a page is about. Therefore your main keyword should always be included in your URL. If you haven’t used the keyword in the URL, it probably means you haven’t used it in the title of your post, since most CRMs pull the URL directly from your page title.

Remember, Google reads from left to right, and puts more emphasis on the words it sees first. Your keywords should appear at the beginning of the URL whenever possible.

Use Plugins For URL Optimization

If you use WordPress, consider using an SEO plugin like Yoast to help you with URL optimization. It will check the length of your URL, the structure of your URL, and tell you if you’ve forgotten to include keywords.

Yoast is a full-service SEO plugin so in addition to checking URL optimization, it will check your content for keyword inclusion, give you a snippet preview, optimize your titles, and will automatically generate XML sitemaps.

We’ve been able to abandon a lot of old-fashioned SEO techniques over the years, but URL optimization is still a very important piece of the on-page SEO puzzle. Take a little time to review your URLs before you upload a new page or post, and you can always “cheat” by using a plugin to double check your work.

Google Plus: The Walking Dead? Or The Party Crasher Who Just Won’t Leave?

In case you missed it, Vic Gundotra is resigning from Google. Who is Vic Gundotra and why should you care? Well, he is the (now outgoing) senior vice president of social, and he is (was) the brains behind Google Plus.

His resignation caused TechCrunch to declare Google Plus the new walking dead, a declaration that Google flatly denied. And most search gurus agree that it’s not time for such declarations. But while the network has not quite achieved zombie status, it does appear to be hanging on for dear life.

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Inbound Marketing and SEO: What’s the Relationship?

The worst part about being an SEO professional is the negative connotation that can come along with the label. The  multitude of “undesirables” in the industry have burned so many website owners over the years, that it’s led many white-hat agencies to shift from identifying themselves as SEOs.  These agencies (often hastily, and without a shift in strategy) rebrand themselves “inbound marketers.”  But SEO and inbound marketing are not the same. Anyone who engages in only SEO but ignores other marketing strategies is not truly an inbound marketer.

And this shift has led to confusion among those seeking SEO and inbound marketing services. Many times, website owners think that because they engage in optimization, that they can cross “inbound marekting” off of their digital to do lists. And others hire inbound marketing agencies, assuming that optimization will be part of the strategy, only to find out six months later that there was no optimization taking place at all.

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AdWords for Small Business: Is It Worth The Cost?

There has been a lot of debate in recent months about Google AdWords. When the Big G cut off access to organic keyword referral data, most SEOs believed it was an effort to force businesses into the PPC arena. And from there, the debate has focused on whether or not AdWords can work for a small business on a budget. The bubbling AdWords for small business conversation reached the mainstream media in mid-February in the form of a piece from The New York Times that concluded that AdWords is completely ineffective for small business and startups.

The article focuses on the cost of AdWords.  The internet has given consumers more choice and more buying power than ever. As such, AdWords has become an extremely competitive sandbox in which to play.  The Times piece quoted Kate Finnegan, founder of shopping app Hukkster. She said that it was just too expensive to test keywords to determine what drives traffic. And another business owner, Jennifer Blumin, of Skylight Group,  cited an inundation of unqualified leads as the source of her frustration with the platform.

These are viable frustrations. It can be very expensive to operate on the AdWords platform. And if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, it truly can be a waste of money.

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Search Experience Optimization: The New Definition Of SEO?

SEO used to be an industry of guarantees. With a little bit of link building and keyword manipulation, websites could instantly capture strong rankings. But the sun has long set on that strategy. Now, in order to be an effective SEO professional, you must be an effective marketer.  In the old days, when the system was very easy to game, it worked out well for everyone. Searchers had low expectations. And websites willing to put in the work raked in the profits. Now, users have high expectations. They want quick, high-quality results that match their precise need at the time of their query. This evolution has shifted the foundations of SEO and changed the way webmasters approach optimization. To reflect this shift in expectation and experience, could the new definition of SEO be “Search Experience Optimization?”

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Link Earning Strategies: Grow Your Link Profile Without Penalty

As link building tactics continue to get devalued by Google, search marketers are running out of “foolproof” and scalable ways to build link profiles without getting penalized. In order to adapt, SEOs must rethink their processes. But the first thing marketers must change is mindset. It is no longer about “building” links. Instead, we must focus on link earning strategies.

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Duplicate Content Demystified

Most website owners have heard of duplicate content and know that it can cause Google to send you to the penalty box. But just in case you don’t know what it is, duplicate content is content that appears on more than one URL on the internet. It can be on one site, two sites, or many sites. But if it appears more than once, it’s duplicate content.

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Google Authorship: What The Recent Change Means For You

Another day, another Google algorithm change to discuss.  The most recent update affecting SEOs and inbound marketers involves Google Authorship.  It’s not a seismic change like Hummingbird, but it is significant.

Those who follow the news of search closely may have seen this coming. Back in October during PubCon, Matt Cutts stated that a 10-15% reduction in Google Authorship improved search quality. Then, on December 19, 2013 he announced the start of the rollout.  As predicted, Moz.com reports that there has, in fact, been about a 15% drop in Google Authorship since then.

So what does all of this mean for the average business website?

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SEO Red Flags: 8 Questions To Ask A Prospective SEO Company

It can be difficult for the average website owner to know what to look for in an SEO company. And unfortunately, there are thousands of companies online willing to take your money without providing you any real SEO benefit whatsoever. And in many cases, these companies can end up getting your site banned from search engines. So how do you know what to ask prospective companies before you sign a contract?

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Guest Blogging Declared Dead: Answers To Your Most Pressing Questions

Matt Cutts has done it again. On January 20, he once again sent the SEO community into a tailspin with a simple blog post.  It was titled, “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.” In the post, he declared guest blogging for SEO and link building purposes dead.

He wrote, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”

Cue the ensuing panic.

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