How Friendly URLS and Custom File Names Affect Conversion Rates
How to Write Accessible Content – Part 3
Search engine friendly urls and folder names are often overlooked when building and maintaining a website, yet they are important for many reasons.
Apart from some organic search engine benefits they also help with accessibility, usability, social media sharing, marketing and conversion rates.
Otherwise known as FURLs (friendly URLs) or “pretty links”, they simply mean that what’s in your web page address (URL) can be understood by human beings.
For example many websites have URLs like this:
The /7105_16609.aspx carries no meaning for anyone who sees it.
A much better solution is to include a description of what the page is actually about eg: www.yoursite.com/how-to-write-accessible-content-part-3
This has a number of benefits.
Firstly it is an opportunity to add some keywords and let the search engines know a little about what the page is about. The search engines use the url to rank documents and there is some small benefit from having the keyword in the url.
However, don’t overdo the keywords in your urls otherwise you will get penalised. The trick is to write natural sounding urls.
Plus the url is what appears in the search results at the start of the entry. This aids both click thru and visibility.
Secondly it has obvious utility value: Anyone seeing the friendly version will know what the link leads to and, if they are interested in that topic, they are more likely to click on it than if it just said /7105_16609.aspx.
It is also what appears in the users browser address bar. Again this helps the overall user experience by reinforcing where the user is and what the page is about.
According to W3C: “Users should be able to determine their location within a site based on the URL.”
Plus, Google has made it clear that it will penalise sites that don’t conform to accessibility standards.
Thirdly, apart from being useful in search engines and for usability and accessibility, this also has several online marketing benefits.
If people share the link or even post it on their own websites, then you have the added advantage of having keywords in the link from their site.
This is great for building your link profile and improving your search engine marketing performance.
Related to the above, is what you actually call your folders (categories, archives etc) on your website.
EG In the above example I put the article in the “Online Copywriting” section of my blog, so the complete url becomes:
This again is an opportunity to add a keyword or two. Plus it aid s in navigation and usability as anyone looking at the url would know that the article is in the “online-copywriting” section.
Again, all of the same benefits from above apply.
This also has the added benefit of making it easier for your own web staff to administer and find documents when working in the back end of your website.
There are two more benefits: 1: When people bookmark the site, the url is what appears in their bookmarks. Again a human friendly version is easier to understand what they bookmarked.
Also, the auto complete feature of the browser address bar means that people are more likely to remember and type in the friendly version than a meaningless number.
Don’t go overboard with creating multiple sub folders, as there is both a limit to how much of the address will be viewable and penalties if Google thinks you are doing it to game the search results.
Ideally you want a shallow folder structure.
From the above, it should be clear that having a well thought out naming structure is essential for any serious website owner.
If you are building a new website or revamping an old one, then it pays to sit down with an SEO consultant, a marketer and a usability/accessibility consultant to nut out the best naming approach for your site.
They will research the keywords and trigger words for your industry and customers and come up with the optimal approach for your business.
Although this will be an additional upfront cost you will reap the benefits for years to come, plus it will lower your ongoing marketing costs and improve your eventual conversion rates.
As with most things on the web, everything reinforces each other, so if you get your naming conventions right, you get added social media benefit which improves search engine performance, which improves usability and then conversion.
This is a smarter, long term strategy
While most modern content management systems and shopping carts have friendly url options that are easy to enable, many old legacy systems either do not or are extremely difficult to change.
Many older systems have often used the 7105_16609.aspx option as a form of document management, and changing it isn't always possible without a lot of work or a completely new web management system.
Often the cost and time in doing that can be daunting, however as I said in an earlier it is both an accessibility and legal requirement for all government organisations and private businesses operating in Australia.
And indeed, the same is true for most of the rest of the world.
Plus there is a huge missed marketing and financial cost in not doing it.
Friendly URLs have many benefits including:
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