Google search ranking factors can gain and lose popularity over time.
A factor that carried a lot of weight with Google years ago may not carry much at all today.
A website URL is an example of this ranking factor.
Since the impact of a website URL on search rankings has changed over time, you may hear conflicting information regarding its relevance today.
Let’s take a look at the claims about URL as a ranking factor, and then we’ll go over what the evidence says.
Claim: URLs are the ranking factor
Website URL is said to be a factor in Google search rankings which can be improved similarly to how a title tag is optimized.
More specifically, the claims suggest that strategic use of keywords in a URL can help a website rank for search queries containing those words.
For example, in order to order a query like [air fryer recipes] Is it useful to have a URL containing air fryer recipes somewhere in the URL (eg example.com/air-fryer-recipes)?
Some believe that a website with keywords in its URL has a ranking advantage over sites with more general URLs.
Is there any truth to this claim?
This is what Google says.
Directory: URLs as a ranking factor
Evidence straight from Google suggests that URLs don’t play as big a role in search rankings as the claims suggest.
Considering the times Google has recognized URLs as a ranking factor, the effect appears to have diminished over time.
In 2016, John Mueller of Google has been confirmed The keywords in the URL are the ranking factor.
However, he described the reference as “very small”.
“I think that’s a pretty small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’m really trying to enforce. And it’s not something I would say it’s kind of worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”
Mueller directed topic back in 2017, saying “Keywords in Google SEO URLs are overrated”.
Instead, Mueller recommends choosing URLs for users, not for search engines.
he He repeats similar advice In 2018, he said that site owners should not worry about using keywords in the URL.
To be clear: this does not mean that URLs are not at all a ranking factor. This means that there are several more important factors to consider above for URL optimization.
This was made clear in other statements by Mueller, like this from 2021 where he said the words in the URL are “a very, very light ranking factor”.
“We use the words in the URL as a very, very light factor. And from what I remember, that’s basically something we keep in mind when we can’t access the content yet.
So if this is the first time we’re seeing that URL and we don’t know how to rank its content, we may use the words in the URL as something to help us rank better.
But once we crawl the content and index it there, we have a lot of information. And then that’s basically if the URL is in German, Japanese, or English, it’s pretty much the same thing.”
As Mueller says, once content is indexed, the URL becomes less important.
URLs as a ranking factor: our judgment
Google has confirmed that URLs are a minor search ranking factor.
When Google crawls a new site for the first time, it will use keywords in the URL to get an idea of what the site is about.
This may play a small role in the site’s initial ranking.
Some SEO professionals also believe it can be used to help group pages (eg, with pages under folders grouped together as with navigation crumbs).
Once the content of the site is fully crawled and indexed, the SEO impact of the URL is minimal.
Featured image: Robin Biong / Search Engine Journal