URL Hierarchy: Underestimated Royalty
It’s floated around the Digital Marketing and SEO industry for quite a few years now that “Content is King”. There’s a lot of truth to this statement, but there’s a hell of a lot of other royalty that can’t be ignored, such as the architecture of the content and URL structure the allows search engine robots to find the King and identify his worth based on where he’s placed in the hierarchy.
Firstly, What Is A URL?
A URL is the location of a web page or digital asset. It stands for Universal (or Uniform) Resource Locator but just think of it as a digital address for a web page or asset (such as an image).
Most of us know what a domain name is and if you do, the good news is that you already know what a URL is. What appears in the address bar at the top of a web browser when a web page is loaded is a URL.
The home page URL is usually just the domain plus the protocol that sits before it – for instance, nobs.link is the domain name for the No BS Marketplace, https://nobs.link/ is the URL of the home page. Any web page that exists online has a unique URL – the URL or ‘address’ for our web page about Guest Posting is https://nobs.link/link-building/guest-posting/.
Why Is The URL So Important?
The wording and structure of each URL allow search engines such as Google to understand the topic of the webpage and assume it’s importance based on how it fits into the websites’ hierarchy.
The homepage sits at the very top of the hierarchy and is therefore the most important and powerful URL with the most “authority”. All of the web pages that sit directly off the home page are referred to as Level 1 URLs or folders, such as https://nobs.link/link-building/ or https://nobs.link/blog/. URLs one step lower than this are Level 2 URLs/folders and considered to be less important than Level 1 URLs, Level 3 are less important than Level 2 URLs and so on. An example of a Level 2 URL is the Guest Posting web page mentioned earlier or any blog post as all of the blog URLs include the /blog/ folder, such as this blog post that talks about the 5 best practices for Blogger Outreach: https://nobs.link/blog/blogger-outreach-best-practices-5/.
The Importance of Hierarchy
Just like the staff hierarchy within a corporation, the CEO/Managing Director is at the top. From here, the lower down in the chain from the CEO you are, the less important the position is. More than this, the higher the number of staff on any particular hierarchical level devalues each staff members importance in the organisation. If there’s a CEO at the top of the hierarchy and all staff are just one level down, then it’s difficult for an outsider to really know who the next most important staff member is and how large or small each department is.
Search engines are similar. If the search engine robot indexes the homepage then all other web pages as Level 1 URLs, there’s no indication in the URLs of how important any of these web pages are. More importantly, any lack of hierarchy can result in a huge lack of contextual relevance. For instance, a sporting goods ecommerce website could have the URL folder /green/, but unless this URL sits off a product category, such as BasketBalls /basket-balls/green/ or Socks /clothing/footwear/socks/green/, without looking at the content or meta-data, there’s no way for the search engine robots to know what topic or category this web page should appear in, in the search engines results.
Creating A Sensible URL Hierarchy
Each time that a new web page is created, whether it be a blog post, an evergreen article that sits on the website or even a product category on an ecommerce website, it’s crucial that the URL places that web page sensibly in the hierarchy.
Hierarchy is created by building a parent-child relationship amongst all indexable web pages and it’s actually easier than what you may think, the best guideline to follow is common sense.
No BS is a marketplace for matching publishers and clients together. Website owners that want to have content created and published on external websites use this platform to do so. This makes it very appealing to SEO professionals as they can have a contextually relevant article published on a closely related website with a hyperlink pointing back at their website (these hyperlinks/”backlinks” are one the most powerful ranking factors for most search engines). As a lot of the current No BS target market won’t be searching for PR solutions, Link Building content must be created.
Rather than having a bunch of articles sitting on the same URL folder level and competing with each other in the search engine results, one parent URL/folder is created for ‘Link Building’, then all related articles/web pages sit off this URL as subtopics. As all of the articles for the sub topics will have a URL starting with https://nobs.link/link-building/, the search engine robot can quickly understand that these are in fact Link Building sub topics and therefore sees that there’s not just one article about Link Building, but a whole bunch of resources on the topic and thus NoBS.link is considered to be more of an authority on both Link Building and all of the sub topics.
Taking this approach makes it a lot easier for producing and publishing future web pages. For No BS, any more Link Building articles that are ever created can sit off the /link-building/ folder. If a web page is created and can’t sensibly sit under any existing URLs, then a content gap has been identified – if a content brief needs to be created fast, a content gap analysis can be conducted at a much faster rate as the taxonomy is set and all web pages, categories and topics are already organised and easy to analyse.
Although websites that offer a service or small product range won’t often have hundreds of web pages that need to be fit into a hierarchy, this all becomes a lot more important for ecommerce websites.
A small to medium sized ecommerce website might have a few hundred web pages, when you count all of the product categories and individual product pages and large ecom may have hundreds of thousands or millions of web pages.
Just like in the sporting goods example earlier, there could be dozens of product categories that have a subcategory of /balls/, /green/ or /small/. Creating a sensible hierarchy for product category URLs will allow the search engines robots to quickly and easily understand hundreds of thousands of web pages – without structuring the URLs correctly, the results can be devastating with only the first level URLs that have the most backlinks having a chance of showing up in the search engine results, as the search engines can’t easily understand what topics to rank all of the other product categories for, let alone even knowing they exist.
It can all start to become a bit overwhelming, especially if you have a website with hundreds or thousands of pages. The beauty is, each time even one product category is rearranged to have the correct hierarchy put in place, after implementing 301 redirects from the old URL to the new one, you’ll almost always see an uplift in organic keyword rankings, so don’t freak out, start mapping out one section at a time of your website and take it from there. If you make a mistake, no problem, change the URL and build another 301 redirect!
If you do happen to have an old website with some decent domain authority (from backlinks) and a terrible mess amongst the URLs, implementing a sensible and meaningful URL hierarchy may be one of the highest ROI tasks that you’ll ever roll out, so stop reading this and get to it!