SEOs haven’t always considered considered the “usability” of web page URLs as part of their marketing strategies. Typically, they approached this from the keyword perspective. But with today’s algorithms, URL usability now takes front and center stage, which means that even your precious keywords take a step back.
The argument can be made that URLs don’t matter a whole lot to the visitor, but crappy URLs can still cause an element of reader discomfort. On the flip side of that, a readable URL can provide readers with a significant reinforcement of the on-page messaging.
This is especially true when visitors are scanning search results. Typically, the searcher sees the title of the page, the page URL, maybe some rich snippet data and the page description.
Google displays this information because they have found it relevant to searchers. Back in 2013, Google tested search results without the URL. Seeing as those results never rolled out globally, we can only assume that the test proved that showing URLs is a valuable relevance indicator to searchers.
That means that the URL we present to visitors matters a great deal. URLs may or may not be an algorithm signal but they are definitely a user-relevance signal.
So, what makes a good URL? Keywords?
Not necessarily. Your URL trail should mimic your navigation and breadcrumb trails, using category and sub-categories where relevant.
Every navigation link your visitors click on to reach a page should translate to the URL of the page. The more they move down a navigation path, moving from main category through sub-categories, each of those levels should be added to the URL trail.
Web marketing isn’t just about getting to the top of search results, but about taking advantage of every opportunity to get more traffic. If navigationally aligned URLs give the visitor that much of a better signal of the page’s relevance, you increase your chances of getting clicked over a competing listing. Readable URLs can give you just the advantage you need in an already busy search results page.