When you are trying to rank a webpage, you want to give search engines every little possible clue you can about what the page is about. One opportunity to do that, which many people fail to take advantage of, is utilizing proper URL structure as well as a sensible folder structure for HTML based sites.
Not too long ago, exact match domains (EMDs) were all the rage. Search engines gave a ranking boost in ranking a homepage for the phrase identified in its domain (Hint: Bing still does to a large degree.) For example, if you wanted to rank for how to make money online, the ideal domain to build your site on would be
Next preferable option would be the .net or .org versions. From there, marketers started adding letters and numbers in front of the phrases like
If all of those were exhausted, the next solution was hyphens.
From there it was .info, org, .co, .wtf.
People built small empires around these exact match domains. Some of us still are in Bing. Google released an update a couple of years ago that turned the dial down on the boost they used to give to EMD domains, and largely put an end to this practice.
While they turned the dial down on that, there was a noticeable ranking impact to URLs that contained exact match or partial match phrases. This boost has never been quite as automatic or powerful as the old EMD boost but certainly does provide a benefit. What I mean by this is if you are targeting life insurance for smokers, using something like
will give you a ranking boost.
It doesn’t always have to be an exact match either. There can be words before or after the phrase such as
or the phrase can even be separated like
The important thing is that you want to have the words in the phrase show up in the correct order, so
is still beneficial because the keywords are in the URL, but nowhere near as impactful as having the words show up in the correct order for the phrase you are targeting.
With silos, you can take this a step further and give search engines even stronger clues as to what your webpage is about. Using the same target search term life insurance for smokers, the target page could be listed under a category of high-risk life insurance like so
In this example, some people will tell you that having life insurance show up twice in the URL could be seen as spammy. I have seen no evidence of this in my testing, but it certainly could be something Google goes after in the future. To be on the safer side, you might want to just use a category of high risk like this
On a much bigger site, there might even be a subcategory like
Let’s expand this a little bit so you can see the big picture.
An example of a site listing life insurance types might include
These would all by categories under insurance types. Under the high-risk category we have been discussing, you might have
Life insurance for smokers
Senior life insurance
Life insurance with no medical exam
Life insurance for people with pre-existing conditions
By having a URL structure this way, you are giving all kinds of relevance and semantic clues to the search engines. In just that one URL, search engines could easily extrapolate that life insurance for smokers is a type of high-risk life insurance.
Not only does this increase the chance of your webpage ranking for life insurance for smokers, but it also increases its chances of ranking for many related terms. It will help your high-risk category page rank for things like high-risk life insurance, and it will help your higher level category page rank for phrases such as types of life insurance.
If you are building an HTML site, you will have your folder structure setup in this way. I have not tested this myself yet, but a lot of folks that I trust believe this to give an additional signal.
The other place where this URL structure can help you to rank web pages is when you are building links. Having links from pages with a strong URL structure like we discussed above, will add value to those links. In a lot of cases, we will have no control over the URL. Probably one of the only times we will have any control is on a guest post, where we can select the title of the post, and that is likely to be in the URL of the page. Of course, on our own private network sites, we can have complete control over the URL structure and take advantage of this as well.
Although it is too often overlooked, putting some thought and planning into your URL structure can have a big impact on your rankings.