Despite 500 to 600 Google algorithm changes per year…
URLs are still very important for SEO.
Which inherently makes them very important for backlinks.
In short, every backlink URL serves three main purposes:
1. Improve user experience for humans and search engines
2. Serve as a minor ranking factor for search engines
3. Help influence more clicks
The better the URL—the more structured, optimized and engaging it is—the more effective it’ll be at doing those three things.
Your main goal in URL construction is to create an as-close-to-perfect-as-possible URL to maximize your backlinking and SEO results.
This post will show you seven tips to do just that.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Backlink URL: 7 Tips for Crafting Clickable Links
1. Use the Keyword in the URL
Using your target keyword in your page’s URL helps ensure that users know they’re going to get what they want and expect when they visit your page.
For example, let’s say you consider clicking on this link:
When you hover over it, you’ll see the URL in the bottom-left corner of the screen…
… and because it includes the keyword (hint: it’s “google algorithm update”), you’ll have a good idea of what the linked page will be about.
But that’s not the only benefit of including your keyword in the URL:
It also helps make sure your keyword is part of the backlink’s anchor text—even if the person sharing the link copy-and-pastes it as-is.
Certain social media sites (like Facebook) don’t allow anchor text in their status updates. Instead, they display the entire URL.
So, when the link shows in the post, it’ll conveniently include your target keyword.
2. Avoid Keyword Stuffing and Repetition
Keyword stuffing (aka: keyword repetition) is the practice of including your keyword multiple times in the page’s URL.
One of the popular ways marketers do this is by creating a subfolder within their domain for each page they publish and naming the subfolder after the target keyword.
What you end up with is a URL that looks like this:
Keyword stuffing used to be a “super ninja tactic” for ranking higher in the SERPs (what, back in 2005?).
But Google dropped the gavel on it (and many other grey hat and black hat SEO tactics) a long time ago.
Today, it’s an easy way to hurt your rankings.
Google sees keyword-stuffed URLs and automatically assumes the site is spammy, avoids the link, and could actually penalize your site as a result.
3. Make the URL Reader-Friendly
It’s no secret that engagement has never mattered more for getting higher search engine rankings.
Whether it’s through a search engine listing or a backlink, one of the keys to increasing engagement is convincing your target audience to click a link that takes them to your site.
Now, let’s not pretend that your URL is more important than:
- Creating compelling content
- Crafting captivating headlines, or
- Writing engaging meta descriptions
But your page’s URL does play an important role in getting people to click your link.
Because, as I touched on earlier, people automatically reference a URL (often times without even noticing) before they click a link. They want assurance that they’re not wasting their time by visiting an irrelevant page.
If your URL reads like a foreign language, they’re less likely to visit the page.
That’s why it’s important that your URL is reader-friendly. Meaning that it can be easily read and understood by your target audience.
You want to avoid URLs that look like this:
And instead, focus on creating URLs that:
- Clearly state what the page is about, and
- Compel readers to click it
(I’ll show you exactly what that looks like in just a minute.)
4. Shorter > Longer URLs
When it comes to optimized URLs, brevity is your best friend.
The shorter the URL (without sacrificing readability and clarity), the better.
Search engines, like Google, can handle any URL length (although they prefer shorter ones). So that’s not the problem.
The problem lies in that longer URLs negatively impact user experience.
Again, it boils down to clarity and ease of use.
People won’t click a long and convoluted URL as often as they’ll click a short and precise one. Nor will people copy-and-paste a long URL as often as they’ll copy-and-paste a short one.
So if your aim is to earn more backlinks, strive to craft URLs that resemble this:
And avoid URLs that look like this:
The question remains…
What length should you aim for?
A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep your URLs under 60 characters.
5. Remove Unwieldy Punctuation
Character choices matter (a lot) for crafting URLs.
For starters, certain text characters can make a URL difficult to read, which creates a poor user experience.
But more than that:
Certain characters can actually break specific web browsers and search engine crawlers.
So pay attention to which characters are showing up in your URLs. They’re more important than you might think.
To take the guesswork out of the equation, here’s a list of safe and unsafe characters from Perishable Press:
6. Use Hyphens or Underscores to Separate Words
It used to be a “no-no” to use underscores in URLs because search engines couldn’t properly process them.
It’s now completely safe to use hyphens or underscore to separate words in URLs.
As a matter of fact, it’s recommended.
That’s because both hyphens and underscores easily distinguish individual words in a URL, making it more presentable and easy to read.
However, there’s one thing you don’t want to do:
And that’s use spaces as word separators in your URL.
Spaces render as “%20” inside the URL, making it difficult to read and comprehend.
So you end up with a URL that looks like this:
Most CMSs (like WordPress) let you easily modify the way your URL is rendered. You simply need to make the necessary changes through your admin panel and you’re good to go.
7. Be Consistent with URL Addresses
How does your site render when it loads in a browser?
Does it include “www:”
Or exclude it:
Why do I ask?
Because these are actually two separate URLs that point to the same page.
Which means that if you’re using the URL that isn’t set up for your site, you’re unknowingly creating a redirect to your pages.
Now, by itself, this is no big deal. But it can quickly compound and become a real problem.
Think about it like this:
Let’s pretend your site is set up to use http://examplesite.com.
Now, let’s say you have an out-of-date blog post with good traffic, and the majority of the backlinks pointing to the page use “www.”
That’s one automatic redirect.
But, you’ve decided to create an entirely new page with updated information and you don’t want to lose traffic from the old page. So you create your own redirect to the new page.
Unbeknownst to you, you now have two redirects.
Here’s why that’s a problem:
The more redirects you have in between the original backlink and the destination page, the higher the chances that search engines will ignore the link. And if they start ignoring the link, your rankings are almost guaranteed to drop.
So, determine which URL setup you want to use and make sure you use it exclusively moving forward.
How to Easily Check Your Current Backlink URLs
It might surprise you to know that not all of the page-specific backlinks pointing back to your site are the same.
Some of these links could be creating redirects that could potentially hurt your search engine rankings.
What can you do about that?
Here’s how to do it:
Go to the Your Links module.
Then, you have two ways to view your backlink URLs:
Option 1: Hover over URLs in the Anchor & Link To column
Place your cursor over any URL in the Anchor & Link To column and it’ll show you the full backlink URL:
Option 2: Export your backlink list to .csv
Export your backlink portfolio to a .csv document by selecting All items and then clicking the Export button:
Then, open the document and you’ll see the URLs for every backlink under the “Link to” column (Column B):
If you see any discrepancies, reach out the site owner with the backlink pointing to your site and kindly request that they change the link.
Include the following in the email:
1. A warm greeting
2. A brief explanation for why the backlink URL needs to be changed
3. A link to the page with the backlink
4. The new URL that needs to replace the old one
Not everyone will respond to this request. That’s okay. Don’t fret.
This isn’t a game-ending situation.
The important thing is that you take the proper steps to create effective backlink URLs moving forward.
Putting It All Together
So now you know what’s required for a perfect backlink URL.
But what does it actually look like in practice?
Here’s an example from an imaginary page on the “best large dog bowls:”
1. Uses the URL setup for the site
2. Hyphens for word separators and no special characters
3. Keyword included in the URL only once
4. Less than 60 total characters
5. Easy to read
See how easy it is?
That’s really all it takes to create backlink URLs that maximize value, generate more clicks and provide an extra SEO boost.
Make the URL clear, concise and compelling (and include the keyword!).
Do that and you’ll be golden.