If you have your own website, then there is a good chance that you know what a web page URL (or "Uniform Resource Locator") actually is. If you manage the site of anyone else--a client, for example--then it's also quite likely that you're familiar with URLs; they're those pesky strings of characters at the end of links and in browser address bars:

URLs  are not particularly exciting things. They look like gibberish and can be hard to read. But URLs do carry meaning and importance with them as they travel across networks and through browsers. Search engine optimization (SEO) is no exception when it comes to understanding and optimizing websites' links and their corresponding links within search results pages (SERPs).

The Search Engine Results Page The SERP is the page that appears after a search has been submitted. For example, if you perform a Google search for "NYC SEO Company," your results will appear below the following address bar:

As you can see, this SERP contains links to relevant pages as well as ads, which all share something in common--they include URLs. If you click on one of those links and arrive at a different webpage, the URL within the address bar probably looks familiar because it's similar to what was on the previous page (e.g., www.google.com/search?q=nyc+seo+company&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=nyc+seo+company).

URLs are important to search engine results pages, just as they are important for any webpage. URLs are used by search engines to enrich their indexing capabilities and provide useful metadata that helps users find the best webpages suited to their queries. Knowing how URLs work within SERPs can help you reap more visit traffic from SERPs, which can lead to an increase in organic rankings over time.

Search Engines & URL Basics Search engines look at URLs for a number of reasons, but two main purposes stand out: 1) understanding where a page is located on the Internet ("where" it is housed), and 2) what's on the page itself (the "what," or content).

URLs that search engine spiders see can include a domain name, homepage URL, and many other page-specific pieces of information. One popular and simple URL is for this article:


By reading the above example URL, you'll notice several things about how it looks and what it conveys: 1) It has no special characters (e.g., %20 instead of " ") or capitalization; 2) each piece of information follows the same formatting; 3) some parts are clickable hyperlinks that take readers to different places on the internet; and 4) every part is connected by a single forward slash ( / ).

These components provide two main bits of information. First, that this article is hosted on the SEO Tips For Beginners website; and second, that its title is "URLs in SERPs." As you can see, both of these pieces of information appear to be useful for readers (and search engine spiders).

It should come as no surprise then that Google uses URLs to help rank pages. One main way it does this is by identifying how many times the page's URL appears elsewhere on the web. This tells Google how highly people prioritize your content within their own networks--after all, why would they link to something if they didn't value it? The more links there are, the more valuable your content must be!

There's another way that links play into the role of URLs on SERPs. Google takes into account where links are coming from when it processes search queries, because the page linking to your webpage is essentially saying something about how relevant its content is to yours. It's just like if you were talking about someone, and a number of people agreed by saying "I agree."

The Importance & Power of Links Your link profile is very important for SEO purposes. If there aren't any links pointing toward webpages, then you can say goodbye to organic rankings--no matter how great your content may be!

SEOs have attempted to game the system by creating systems that automatically generate links with keyword-specific anchor text (the part of a link that appears after a colon). Search engines have put a stop to this, however, by recognizing unrelated keyword-specific words connected with the anchor text. This gives webmasters and SEOs new ways to build powerful links that won't get penalized by search engines.

This leads us back to what we were discussing earlier: how URLs can convey value within SERPs through their structure and quantity of inbound links. A URL's power lies in its ability to attract inbound links--in other words, it's not the actual content on a page that matters most, but rather how it appears in SERPs itself. So if you want your content to make its way up in rankings, you must pay attention to URLs when they're live on the web [ARTICLE END]