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The effect of your URL structure on your Google rankings

Does Google care about the position of a web page on your server? Does it make a difference if a web page is in the root directory of your website or in a sub directory? How does your URL structure influence the position of your web pages in Google's search results?

Trailing slashes and sub directories

A popular assumption is that Google prefers pages that are in the root directory of a website.

If an URL contains many trailing slashes (meaning the page is placed in a sub-sub-directory) then Google might not think that the page is important in relation to the other pages.

Although this statement is often repeated in SEO forums, it is probably not true.

The visibility of a web page counts, not its position

If a web page is linked throughout your website and if the page has inbound links then the web page will be indexed and ranked by Google without any problems.

Most web pages on today's websites are created dynamically and the URL that is displayed in a web browser presents only a virtual site structure that is not really available on the server.

As there are no real folders on the server, search engines won't find a valuable ranking signal if they look at things like presence or absence of directories.

What does this mean for your website?

If you want to show search engines that a page on your website is important, link to it from many other pages of your website so that it can easily be found.

A page that gets many links (both from your own website and from other websites) will get the attention that it deserves from Google's indexing robot.

When you should care about the structure of your URLs

1. URL stripping can cause problems

Rumor has it that Google uses URL stripping to index web pages. That means that Google shortens the path to an URL to find new pages on a site. For example, "" would be shortened to "".

If you use dynamically created URLs then you should make sure that all virtual folders return real web pages a "404 not found" pages. Otherwise, Google might think that you have many faulty pages and/or that your website has a low quality.

2. Shorter URLs can be better for your website visitors

Although most web surfers don't pay attention to the URL in the browser address bar, shorter URLs can enhance the user experience. Shorter URLs are easier to remember and they can improve the direct type-in traffic.

3. Short URLs get more clicks

A search marketing study found out that web surfers clicked short URLs twice as often as long URLs in Google's search results. Long URLs are cut off in Google search engine result pages. Web surfers cannot see where they are going to go and this can decrease the click-through rate.

4. The URLs of your web pages can contain your keywords

The words that appear in the URL of a web page can influence the position of the web page for these words. For that reason, it can make sense to rewrite your URLs so that they include the keywords for which you want to have high rankings.

Analyze your web pages with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer to find out if the URL structure of your web pages prevents them from getting top rankings on Google. In addition to the URL structure, the top 10 optimizer will analyze more than 75 factors that influence the position of your website in Google's search results.

You will get detailed and concrete advice on how to change your web pages so that they can be found for the keywords of your choice on Google's first result page.


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September 2009 search engine articles