Stop Wondering What to Include in an Association Website URL

hand touching urlEach page on an association website has a unique address – commonly known as a URL (uniform resource locator).

A URL is like anything else on the web, it can be good, it can be bad, or it can be ugly. It’s one of the most important aspects of making sure your association website shows up in search engine results.

So, what makes a “good” URL? Two things (which go hand-in-hand): a positive user experience and an SEO-friendly structure.

Familiarizing yourself with URL components will smooth the path (and seriously, it’s not complicated).

URL BASICS

A well-crafted URL makes it easy for both humans and search engines to “understand” what your page is about.

URLs should be short, simple, and descriptive.

Shorter URLs are easier:

    • for search engines to crawl
    • to copy and paste
    • for sharing on social
    • to embed
    • to remember

To craft a strong URL:

    • Make it easily readable by humans.
    • Avoid special characters and stick to lowercase characters – uppercase letters can create problems.
    • Use hyphens to separate words (avoid underscores).
    • Keep it roughly in the 50-60-character range.
    • Match the URL to the page titles (when it makes sense).
    • Steer away from stop words (and, or, the, but, etc.) to help keep the URL shorter.

 

KEEP IT ORGANIZED

The URL should be neatly structured.

Your URLs always start with your website’s root domain and from there, ties into the site architecture (e.g., www.yourwebsitename.com)

Hierarchy-based “breadcrumbs” provide a secondary navigation option, letting users know where they are on the website. A visually pleasing, simple breadcrumb trail enriches the user experience, and search engine crawls.

EXAMPLE:

Homepage
https://www.yourdomain.com/

Parent Category (events)
https://www.yourdomain.com/events/

Subcategory (calendar)
https://www.yourdomain.com/events/calendar/

Current Page (september)
https://www.yourdomain.com/events/calendar/september/

Avoid dynamic and parameter URLs:

Good URL structure: https://www.yourdomain.com/blog/event-ideas/

Bad parameters/dynamic URL structure: https://www.yourdomain.com/category.php?id=14

 

SUBDOMAINS

A subdomain is text placed at the beginning of your URL.

Example: store.yourdomain.com

It is used to distinguish specific website content (e.g., e-commerce store, blog, mobile version). For the most part, you won’t need to worry about deciding when to use a subdomain or add it to the URL, your site’s CMS should auto-populate.

 

HTTPS not HTTP

HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) means a website is secured by an SSL certificate. The “S” is short for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which safeguards communications between the visitor and the association website. SSL protects sensitive information, preventing criminals from accessing the data.

Take a look at your site’s URL in the browser bar. If you see a padlock, you’re using HTTPS. No padlock? You’re not using it.

Most sites transitioned from HTTP to HTTPS a while ago, but there are often remaining internal links that point to the HTTP URL instead of the updated version.

Talk to your website manager or server host to arrange for a site-wide HTTP to HTTPS redirect.

While you’re at it, take it a step further:

Ask them to make sure Google is only indexing ONE version of your site:

There’s a chance you have a variety of site versions:

https://www.yourdomain.com
https://yourdomain.com
http://www.yourdomain.com
http://yourdomain.com

 

ESTABLISH ONE DOMAIN VERSION

You should have a primary version, and all others should point to a 301 redirect.

It’s simple to check, just enter each version in your browser bar. If it redirects to your primary site address, you’re set. But, if you’re accessing different versions, set up redirects ASAP.

 

KEYWORD STUFFING

A keyword a single word or a phrase searched for online. SEO-optimized websites strategically include them to improve their search engine results ranking.

Do. Not. Keyword. Stuff. Stuffing is shoving a lot of keywords into the URL in an attempt to improve SEO. It doesn’t work and will do more harm than good.

 

CHANGING A URL

If you need to change a URL after it’s published, use a 301 redirect to point from the old URL to the new one.

A search engine sees them as two different pages and considers that in the ranking. The new URL hasn’t earned any ranking power. Using a 301 explains to the search engine what’s going on with the page. It allows them to transfer the ranking from old to new and deindex the old page, eliminating it from search results.
 

TRAILING SLASHES

https://www.yourdomain.com/  or   https://www.yourdomain.com

To slash or not to slash?

Using a trailing slash isn’t right or wrong. But there can be a negative impact on SEO. The majority of website CMS systems will “decide” whether to include the slash, and it won’t be something that you will need to address when building a URL.

It doesn’t take any longer to create strategically optimized URLs. It’s a win for users and your association’s website. Give it a shot!

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