The Fundamentals of SEO: Naming Conventions and URL Structure Today

In the digital practice of search engine optimization, few things have remained as consistently important as the that of page naming conventions and URL structures.


Not only does the inclusion of keyword and keyword phrases provide information to the user about what they will find upon visiting, but they (apparently) carry a significant amount of weight in the virtual eyes of search engines as well - or so we've been told. Is there a best practice when it comes to naming conventions and URL structures? Let's find out!  


Take a look at the search engine of your choice (be it Google or Bing) and its results page for pretty much any keyword and it will become quite obvious/apparent that keywords and key phrases have most definitely made their way into the page and folder names of most (if not all) of the listings. The question is, does adopting this approach influence position? if everyone is doing it, does that mean you should too? To get to an answer, it is essential to look beyond the first page alone and analyze the pages with an exact or at least partial match of that keyword in the URL structure.


In order to conduct this test it's necessary to go into "incognito" mode so personalization won't affect the results that are returned. A relatively low-volume keyword phrase ("Raspberry Pi Zero") was chosen and great care was taken to filter through a lot of the more "universal" results to exclude listings from the "news," "images" and "video" result sections as well. So what did we find?


At Google, every one of the first page listings had the keyword phrase in its URL with the exception of the company that actually provides that specific product; on the second page, all but one of the listings had the keyword phrase in the URL. Third results page? Same story - all but one listing (a YouTube video) had the keyword phrase included directly (or some variation of it). What happens when you move deeper in the results? Surprisingly not that much. On the tenth page of listings, again, all but one listing included the keyword phrase. The same holds true on the 20th page of listings as well - it seems that websites and the SEO's working on them have gotten the message: keywords and keyword phrases belong in page names and URL structures. Does this hold true on other search engines as well? Let's take a look at Google's primary search competition.


On the first 13 natural/organic results at Bing, every listing had the keyword phrase in the page name. On the second page of results however, listings 14-27, the inclusion of the keyword phrase starts to fall off in terms of exact use/inclusion - just 11 of 13 listings had the search phrase (or some variation of it) in the page name. So what happens when we move even further down into the listings? Not much difference on the whole - but what's interesting is that the pages/listings returned at Bing begin drop in apparent relevance and begin to have far more parameters in the URL structure (whereas those listings from Google in comparison featured relatively few such parameters).


So, what's the takeaway? It should be pretty clear at this point that it's absolutely necessary to include keywords in page names (and URL structure in general). Most top search engine optimization professionals consider this essential today and have seemingly made the practice a habit. If you are just getting started optimizing a website and its pages, definitely take a spin through the search results to see how the competition is using the keywords and phrases you are intending to optimize for - what you'll find will likely confirm what has long been suspected: keywords and phrases belong in your page names and URl structures for the benefit of users and achieved position.