There’s been a longstanding discussion on whether keywords in your URL matter for SEO or whether your URL matters at all. Conventional wisdom states the following:
* Have your URL match your post title
* Have at least your desired keywords in your URL
* Keep your URL shorter than 140 characters
* Consider taking out conjunction words such as: and, or, but, yet, nor, for, so
As you can gather from my previous posts on SEO, I really don’t think SEO matters beyond the basics. The basics include a searchable title, filling out the meta description, writing unique relevant content around your keywords, and perhaps having keywords in your URL.
After a recent analysis, I’m not so sure.
AN EXAMPLE OF WHERE YOUR URL DOESN’T MATTER
On January 12, 2012 I wrote a post entitled, “How To Save More For Retirement If You Don’t Make Much.” The post is roughly 2,150 words long with two proprietary charts and some sound advice on retirement savings strategies.
There’s a funny thing that happens in WordPress if you start writing the post without writing the title first. WordPress will randomly assign you a URL number instead of repeat the phrase of your title. After I wrote my first paragraph, I then went and put in the title at which point WP created the following URL: http://www.financialsamurai.com/2012/01/12/24402/. Oops.
Only after I published the post did I realize, crap, I didn’t optimize my URL title. I thought about changing the URL immediately after publishing, but I later decided what the hell. Comments were already coming in aggressively as the post was widely shared over social media.
It turns out that this post on saving for retirement was one of the most commented on posts of all 2012 published posts with 181 comments. Furthermore, the post itself had over 40,000 views in 2012. The post wasn’t in the top 5 most viewed posts on Financial Samurai for 2012, but all in all, it did quite well with a URL of “/24402.”
If what the SEOs say is true, my post should do poorly in the highly competitive search field of saving money for retirement. Shoot, who doesn’t want to save more money for a better retirement? Here are the following rankings for my post if you type in the phrase: “How to save more for retirement”
Google: Front Page #12
Yahoo: Front Page #6
Bing: Front Page #5
DuckDuckGo: Front Page #1
So what’s going on here? The only thing I can see is that quality of content, length of content, uniqueness of content with the charts, and social media signals trump a “bad” URL /24402. The search engines are smart enough to look beyond the URL to assess the meat of the post.
Search engines are getting smarter every day as teams of engineers work to make their algorithms better. Search results must find the best content at any given moment otherwise a user will easily use another. Who wants to read another thin eHow article written by someone who isn’t a specialist on what they are writing about? Nobody.
I can’t say definitively that URLs don’t matter for SEO given I’ve just got one specific datapoint. Maybe my retirement savings post would have received even more traffic if it had a better URL. However, I’ve got probably hundreds of posts on Financial Samurai and Yakezie.com which would probably be frowned upon such “SEO Experts.” Yet, traffic continues to do well.
If there’s a choice between creating a URL that makes sense vs. a URL full of garble, obviously go for the one that has your keywords. However, if you mess up your URL like I did, it’s not the end of the world. It might not even matter at all! Just make sure your content is something nobody has ever seen before. After that, promote your article and hope for the best.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the importance of your URL for search engine purposes? Do you think it matters? I’d love to hear examples and arguments for and against. Should an SEO expert have a platform of proof of traffic in order to be SEO worthy?