How Should You Optimise URLs for Ecommerce SEO
Table of Contents
URL, short for Uniform Resource Locator, can have a significant impact on your ecommerce SEO results.
Let’s say there are numerous colour and size variations for the various products in your store. You would typically have a separate product page for each variation. That’s perfectly alright. But you’ll need to think meticulously about how this structure will affect your URLs.
You’ll need to optimise your web store URLs for SEO, especially the URLs of your product pages and blogs. This is to help the search engine spiders get a correct understanding of your online store.
Only when you do this the right way, your web pages will link correctly to search queries. And, in turn, this will result in high-quality traffic, higher conversion and ultimately more sales. Hence, the way you create your URLs will have a variety of effects on your ecommerce SEO.
A Brief History of the URL
In simple terms, a URL is essentially a web address. It is the location of a particular website, file, or page on the internet.
Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist and the inventor of the internet, coined the term Uniform Resource Locator (URL) in 1994. He had big dreams about the World Wide Web.
During the first decade of its existence, URLs were quite long. With people creating blog posts, sharing articles, and creating live videos frequently, it was becoming increasingly difficult to use these long URLs in emails. So, in 2002, Kevin Gilbertson, an American web developer, created TinyURL, the first URL shortener.
Today, a website URL is one of the most valuable online sharing tools. It’s important that URLs match web page titles. The reason is human-readable URLs are truly valuable in social media posts, emails, and other places you desire to share web pages with others.
Parts of the URL
Each URL is made up of six key parts. A quick look at these six parts will help you understand what URLs stand for.
1. The Scheme
A URL scheme or protocol is a set of rules that determines the transmission and data exchange on web servers when a user accesses your website pages.
Consider the URL below:
You hardly look at the very first part of this address. You don’t give a second thought to the http:// or https:// right at the beginning of every URL.
That’s probably because you’re so used to seeing it. This is the URL’s protocol, and it is really important.
It’s the protocol that enables a URL to function in the first place.
Previously, most online stores used the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) version. But there’s been widespread adoption of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) version in recent years since 2014 when Google started to consider HTTPS as a ranking factor.
The protocol encrypts the data that is sent back and forth between the server and the browser.
For online shoppers, this protocol is a much more secure option.
2. The Subdomain
The subdomain determines which resources or content should be delivered to the users.
You might notice that sometimes you see this kind of URL:
https:// blog.digitalchakra.co.uk/ecommerce-seo-guide/ or https:// services.digitalchakra.co.uk/
The “blog” or “services” subdomain indicates that users who access that URL will see your website’s blog pages or services page specifically.
Another subdomain that you might be familiar with is ‘www’, which serves general resources on your website.
3. The Domain Name
Let’s revisit the URL:
The second part is the most identifiable component of a web address. It’s known as the domain name. Here, it’s digitalchakra.co.uk (our website).
A domain name is typically an identifier for a particular site. This element will bring you to the home page of the website when nothing else is added further.
A domain name comprises two smaller parts. Other than the name of the website – digitalchakra – you also have the Top-Level Domain (TLD) – .co.uk.
Other commonly used TLDs include .com, .org, .net, .gov, .info, etc.
When you’re launching a new online store, it’s worthwhile to spend some time considering your domain name. It should be attention-grabbing as well as unique. And it should be easy to recall. There are dozens of TLD options, but .com is the best choice.
4. The Top Level Domain (TLD)
The top level domain is the extension of your domain name. It indicates your website’s purpose or geographical area.
In our website’s URL case, Top-Level Domain (TLD) – .co.uk indicates that we are a company, based in the UK.
Other commonly used TLDs include .com, .org, .net, .gov, .info, etc.
With how enormous the Internet has become, there are several new-age TLDs such as .agency, .ai, .xyz and so on.
When you’re launching a new online store, it’s worthwhile to spend some time considering your domain name. It should be attention-grabbing as well as unique. And it should be easy to recall.
There are dozens of TLD options, but .com is the best choice.
5. The Subdirectory
A subdirectory, also known as a subfolder is a part of a URL that helps users understand which section of your website they’re on. You can see the subdirectory right after the top level domain.
Let’s see an example:
- https:// digitalchakra.co.uk/blog/ecommerce-seo-guide/
In the example above, the subdirectory is ‘blog’. Users can easily understand that they are currently reading one of the articles on the blog.
Not only does it help users understand your website’s sections, but it also helps Google crawlers when they visit your website.
6. The Path
If you wanted to visit the front page of our website, it would suffice if you used the protocol and the domain name: https://digitalchakra.co.uk/.
But if you wanted to visit an individual page (for instance, our detailed Ecommerce SEO Guide blog post), then you’d also need the page URL. Here’s what it looks like:
The part that comes after the subdirectory is called the path. It specifies the location of a specific article or page on our website.
Why is it Important to Optimise URLs for eCommerce?
Here are some reasons to have a better URL structure for your eCommerce store:
1. Better Rankings
Using HTTPs provides a safe browsing experience and all things being equal, gives your site a slight ranking boost.
Using the target keyword phrase in your URL helps with better visibility & rankings in SERPs.
2. Better User Experience
A simple and clean URL with proper page hierarchy enhances user experience. It avoids unnecessary confusion. Also, your URL is likely to stick in your user’s mind for a longer period.
3. Better Shareability
Continuing the advantage of a better user experience above, a simple and clean URL is more likely to be shared.
When users share your product pages, it’s easier to share optimised URLs on social media, in emails, or any other channels.
4. Better Indexing and Crawlability
Google has clearly stated that optimised URLs help Google to locate and retrieve web pages on your ecommerce site more efficiently.
A good URL structure will avoid some poor URL structure issues such as:
- Important pages getting missed
- Additional load on your server
5. Increased Conversions
When a user searches for a query and results are displayed, factors that make a user click on a particular result are – titles, descriptions, and URLs. And using a simple optimised URL can result in more clicks, leading to more conversions.
Best Practices to SEO Your Site URLs
As I already mentioned, the URLs on the pages of your web store make a huge impact on your ecommerce SEO results. Outlined below are some best practices for setting up SEO URLs for your online store.
1. Use a Single Domain or Sub-domain
You need to restrict all your similar content to one domain. The proven way to get the optimum domain authority results is to make sure all the links within your store and those coming to your store from backlinks, point to one version of your domain.
Sometimes a CMS may make it difficult to implement parts of a site on the same domain.
Example – An e-commerce store, created with Shopify, has the default setting of creating the site’s blog over a subdomain (//www.blog.sitename.com), instead of implementing it as a sub-folder (//www.sitename.com/blog).
Both Bing and Google treat sub-domains as entirely new URLs.
Imagine a guesthouse on a property. It’s not really the main home. But it’s different with sub-folders. Search engines view sub-folders as rooms inside the main house and, therefore, as part of the main site.
Business requirements or lack of knowledge could also lead to a less than ideal site URL setup.
Regardless of your site’s technology stack, it’s important to think about URL structure early on.
This will allow you to build a strong URL foundation for SEO and keep the site well-organised.
2. Keep Your URLs Short
Your readers will certainly find short URLs easy to handle.
Aim for a character count that is under 60. If your URLs are much longer, rewrite them to improve your SERP rankings. They’ll be more human-readable, too.
The length of your URLs doesn’t matter to search engines. But shoppers will find short URLs helpful in locating your products.
3. Use Your Prime Keywords in Your URLs
When you use your primary keywords in your URLs, you make it easier for shoppers to find your store.
Google and Bing show URLs rather prominently.
This means shoppers get to look at the title and meta description, as well as the URL in the search results. This makes your web store URL a top element that shoppers consider before they decide where to click.
So, it’s important to make your URLs valuable to shoppers.
Note: Avoid keyword stuffing in your URLs. Search Engines are smart, you may get penalised for repetitive usage of the same keywords.
4. Make Your URLs More Readable For Humans
Let’s say you search for “top SEO books on amazon.com” on Google. The results show the following two URLs:
Which URL would you click first?
Both the URLs go to the same page. But the second URL is more people-friendly than the first one. Human-readable URLs are immensely valuable when shoppers wish to share the links of your product pages via emails and social media channels.
5. Avoid Using Special Characters and Numbers
Avoid the use of special characters and numbers to keep your URLs clean and user-friendly.
Adding special characters like %,$,#,@,* can cause indexing issues. Special characters make it difficult and confusing for search engines to comprehend a page and rank it accordingly.
URLs with numbers & characters are also difficult to remember for humans. So it’s best to avoid such usage.
6. Use Hyphen (Instead of Underscore) As a Separator
Let’s say you want to create a URL for one of your pages that sells ‘Leather Sofa’.
You notice that you need to separate the words between Leather and Sofa.
Using hyphen or dash (-) is the more SEO-friendly option. That’s because Google algorithms recognise a dash as a space and the underscore as a lack of space.
- Dash (Leather-Sofa ) – Google read it as ‘Leather Sofa’
- Underscore (Leather_Sofa) – Google reads it as ‘LeatherSofa’
What you also need to avoid is using ‘space’ as the separator. Because browsers rewrite them as “%20”.
Let’s see another example:
- https://yourdomain.com/leather sofa
The URL above will be rewritten into:
7. Minimise Your Page Depth
Page Depth indicates the number of perceived folders (/) that a visitor will need to get past to reach your page. This is yet another area that’s about minimising the length of your URL. For instance, let’s consider this URL:
I could have created the same URL as:
But which one is easier for the visitor?
In this example, the difference may not seem as obvious due to the simplistic URL structure but it’s the principle that matters.
If you think in the context of eCommerce Site URLs with tens of Product Categories & anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of products, the importance of page depth starts to gain greater prominence.
Remember, SEO URLs is all about simplifying things for the human searcher. If you simplify things for human searchers, you’ll be rewarded with higher SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
Back in 2018, Google had made it clear that the number of folders wouldn’t affect rankings.
Here are their tweets and video:
However, Google also made it clear that the page depth (the number of clicks to get to the desired page from your home page) would affect rankings. Therefore, you need to make it easier to get to key ranking content from your homepage.
8. Use Location Specific URLs
Consider using a URL structure that allows you to easily geotarget your site if it is multi-regional. There are various ways how you can optimise your URLs for specific region:
- Use Country-specific domain
- Use Subdomains with gTLD
- Use Subdirectories with gTLD
Read more about Google’s guidance on locale-specific URLs.
This blog post synthesises the most important and actionable points for a small to mid-sized ecommerce store. I use all the techniques discussed here with great success for ecommerce clients.
At Digital Chakra, we specialise in creating first-rate ecommerce websites that not only convert well but also bring back shoppers. Whether you’re looking to build a brand new online store or improve your current one, our team can help you in meeting all your ecommerce SEO needs.