URL Length

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Many wonder how long to make the URLs on their website. This 7-minute video provides an answer.


As cited in the video here is a hyperlink to the transcript of the interview between Stephen Spencer and Head of Web Spam at Google, Matt Cutts.


Hi, there. My name is Andrew Schiestel. And today’s conversation is about how long should the URL’s on your website be. This is a very useful conversation if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re in your content management system. You’re creating a subpage. You’re constructing the URL, and you start to have questions like should the URL be long? should it be short? should words like “at” or “the” be apart of the URL?

So, if you’ve had these kinds of questions, or considerations, or concerns, it’s my hope that by the end of this conversation that all of that, the questions and the concerns, they disappear. And that you’re left with more confidence and clarity that when you’re creating subpages and you’re constructing URLs, you’re doing so in the best interest of users who are going to be going to the subpages, and you’re doing so in the best interest of Google, who will also be going to the subpages for search engine purposes.

There are two pieces of data that we’re going to cover first in this conversation. And that will help form some recommendations that will follow. The first piece of data is an interview that was conducted between Stephen Spencer and Matt Cutts. Matt Cutts is the Head of Web Spam at Google. And as an aside, hyperlink to the full transcript of this interview is available on Kill the Cold Call’s website, on the subpage where this video is house. So, killthecoldcall.com/url-length. So, Spencer in the interview asks Cutts basically, “How long should URLs be? What do you recommend?” And Cutts responds. And I’ll take an excerpt here from Cutt’s response, and I’ll share with you verbatim. “If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.”

So, what Cutts is basically saying is three, four, or five words in a URL, it’s safe. If you’re going beyond that, you might not get the same priority with Google on those key terms past that fifth word. And that makes perfect sense when you think about it, right? Because nobody would reasonably expect Google to prioritize the 80th or the 110th word in a URL at the same level that it might the second, or third, or the fourth word in a URL. So, it does make sense. That’s the first piece of data and something to be mindful of, this notion of three, four, or five words in a URL. The spirit there is to keep the URL short.

The second piece of data is a study that was conducted in 2016 by the website Backlinko. And what they found was there is correlation between how short a URL is and how well it ranks on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages. And what they did was they depicted the data within a graph, and they show that the position, number one, on Google, the average URL had 50 characters in it. And then they went through positions one through ten. And by the tenth position, the number of characters actually climbed to 60, 62, somewhere in that range for characters in the URL. So, the data, although it’s correlate data, it certainly does make us consider that the shorter a URL, the better it is for ranking within Google. So, we have this interview with Cutts from Google. We have this study by Backlinko. They’re both very complimentary to each other. And this can help form some recommendations.

So, recommendation number one, keep the slugs in your URLs to two to three words. So, by the way, a background, if you’re unfamiliar with what the term slugs is in the web industry… To deconstruct a URL for a moment, you have the protocol. So, that’s an HTTP or HTTPS. You have the domain name. You have .com or .org. Then you might have folders depending on the website and how it’s set up. That comes after typically the domain suffix, so the .com or the .org. So, folders. Then you have the slug. The slug is what you can control usually within a content management system like WordPress or another content management system.

And it’s distinct for the subpage that you’re creating. So, the recommendation is keep those slugs to two to three words. And in no case, unless you have a really good reason, should you be going beyond five words in a slug. By keeping it to two to three words, it’s keeping consistent with the spirit of what Cutts is saying, where he’s saying basically up to five words is the recommendation within an entire URL. And it also keeps within the spirit of the Backlinko study as well. So, that’s the first recommendation. Recommendation number two is separate the words in your slugs with hyphens. Google, for the most part, can really decipher the various words, whether you’re separating them or not with a hyphen. But at the very least, it’s useful for users so that they can better read what the URL is and understand it.

The third recommendation is around folders. So, again, after the domain suffix, you get into considerations about setting your site up with folders or areas of your site with folders or not. The recommendation is if you have a moderate amount of services or products…let’s say you’re a professional services company, and you have 5, or 10, or 20 services, it’s probably okay to not have a folder called services or whatever. It’s implied that those subpages are regarding the particular service. So, let’s say you’re a lawyer, and it’s trademark law, you could have your…after your .com, /trademark-law or .com/trademarks. It’s probably not necessary to have an actual folder called services in that case. Now, if you have a large quantity of products or services…

Let’s say you’re a B to B products company, and you have hundreds or thousands of products across dozens or hundreds of categories, then in that case, it is recommended that you have a folder system where you’re labeling the folder based on the category that given product is in. So, in summary, keep the URL’s short. So, the shorter, the better. It’s recommended that you’re keeping your slugs to two to three words. Separate the words in your slugs with hyphens. And if you have a moderate amount of products or services that you have pages dedicated to on your website, it’s probably not necessary to have folders representing those categories.

But if you have a large quantity of products or services, it’s recommended that you do have a folder system that represents those products or categories.

It’s my hope as I shared at the start of this conversation that if you’ve had considerations or questions about how long URLs on your website should be, it’s my hope that those considerations and questions have disappeared. So, it’s my hope that that commitment was fulfilled on. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below. I always love to hear from you. And I look forward to connecting with you soon again.

Take care.

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