Your page’s URL is its unique address on your organization’s website. And while URLs largely exist as a mechanism for computers and search engines to identify resources on a website, your page visitors often also evaluate those URL’s within the search results to see whether your page will meet their needs. A URL like "http://www.example.com/how-do-i-optmize-url-readability" is much more likely to generate interest from a searcher and a click to your page than one such as "http://www.example.com/?pid=1234&qid=hdiour&ses=0246".

Help your searchers recognize the value your page provides by offering a readable URL for their needs. This may require working with your website’s technical team, but represents a critical step to help searchers find and choose your page. Some concepts you will want to keep in mind for your URLs include:

  1. Keywords. Try to include relevant keywords within your URL. These reinforce that your page will contain the content your users are looking for. Review “How Do I Know What Keywords Searchers Use?” for more information on this topic.
  2. Length. While short URLs have their benefits, (easier to remember, type, or write down), longer URLs offer greater opportunities to include keywords and may provide greater clarity to searchers about your page’s purpose. Don’t artificially limit the length of your URL. Avoid generic descriptions that don’t offer clear information to searchers or use abbreviations (e.g., “my-company-page” or “ALOS” or “avg-ht-wt”). And while some web browsers may still limit URLs to no more than 2,048 characters, that limit should offer a sufficient number of characters to craft a human-readable URL.
  3. Spaces, Dashes, and Underscores. URLs may not contain spaces. Many content management systems instead automatically replace spaces with an encoded value (typically “%20”). As with the example cited above though, a URL such as http://www.example.com/how%20do%20I%20optimize%20URL%20readability isn’t very readable at all. Use dashes to separate words in your URL and improve readability. Some older websites favored underscores instead (for instance, http://www.example.com/optimize_readability) but note that when the URL is underlined as is usually the case within web browsers and word processing documents, those underscores may look like spaces to your users and confuse them. Again, use dashes to eliminate any confusion.
  4. Avoid “special” characters such as “&” and “?”. URLs may contain question marks and ampersands (the “&” symbol) to pass information to a web server. These also limit readability and, where possible, should be replaced by human-readable words.

URL readability offers an important signal to searchers about your page’s purpose and whether your page will meet their needs. Take advantage of the URL to convey this critical information and to encourage searchers to visit your page.

For more information on this topic, please see: