Does the format of your URL really impact where a site ranks on the search engine result pages?
While opinions vary, ultimately it's most likely a combination of factors where the URL can play a part - although it remains difficult to determine how much.
Couple that with personalized search results and the real-time nature of search (as well as the Web) in general and it's really difficult to know the right way to approach page naming and URL structure for the purpose of search marketing and search engine optimization.
For example a descriptive (keyword-rich) title tag, an informative URL structure and keywords in the actual page name, when combined, has been shown time and again to perform far better on average than by those site not following the best practices. That's reason enough for SEOs to concentrate on their site-wide naming conventions - at least to some degree.
This all leads us to the overwhelming question: what's the best way to structure a URL? To find the answer it is imperative to determine how others are building their URLs.
Today's search results are far different than in years past, and the best way to understand how search engines are using this variable is to head right on over to the search results and determine how others are engaging in the development of this possible variable.
A search for "grow tomatoes in a raised bed", for example, shows a variety of methods employed by those sites that are returned. For example, three of the top ten organic listings used nearly the exact phrase in their page naming and another three had a portion of the search term ("raised bed") within their URL structure. Nearly every site (nine out of ten with the sole exception being YouTube) included keywords somewhere in the complete URL - be it in the domain name itself, a folder or sub-folder, or a variation of the keyword phrase somewhere in the page name.
The quality of the content and the quantity of relevant links of course (and the manner in which other sites provide a citation) is still going to be a stronger signal for the search engines, but if you're looking for an edge, it may very well start with the way in which URLs are structured and what's included within them.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.