For any SEO tactic to be successful it has to achieve at least two things; it has to provide an effective way for search engines to pick up on the relevance of your content, and it has to provide an appealing and easy way for real people to navigate the site and find what they’re looking for. This is certainly very true as far as URLs are concerned.
In the early stages of web development relatively little thought may be given to long term SEO, but conversely there are some businesses who go all out from the word go to create an appealing navigation structure that works well in terms of both SEO and real visitors, but often this can become unwieldy after the site has been established for some time. Here are two examples of these problems.
One of the SEO problems often created early on is the choice of domain, with many completely lacking any keywords at all. A snack bar might choose www.quickbitestogo.com, thinking it’s catchy, but (as per current ranking algorithms) this will take considerably more SEO marketing than one which has the domain www.snackbar.com, or even www.snackbarmanchester.com. (There is actually talk that keyword domains will not be as effective in Google in the long term, but we’ll just have to wait and see!)
But many businesses do start out with a good choice of domain, and develop intricate directories, sub directories and sub sub directories, often nested so far down that the URL becomes too long to remember, and too long to even fit on a single line of text, creating problems for those wishing to share the link. You might think that having a separate directory for press releases, and a separate directory for each year, month, day and category is a good idea, creating understandable and SEO relevant URLs. In fact a URL along the lines of www.mywebsitedomainhere.com/marketing/released/press_releases/2011/may/19/new_product_range.html looks good, but it easily becomes far too long, and it is unlikely that search engine spiders will dig that far down each and every time they crawl your site.
So when thinking about creating a new site, or tidying up your existing one, try to keep in the mind the need to strike a balance between short, memorable URLs which don’t require too many multiple sub directories, with having keyword rich and highly relevant URLs which grab the attention of both spiders and humans alike.