URLs are an important factor for both search engine optimization (SEO) and user-experience, and an important factor to consider when building your site structure and navigation scheme. For larger websites, a little advance planning is required.
Crafting the URL text
Human readable with keywords
Use "human-readable" URLS – i.e. a string of real words – not abbreviations or acronyms – that indicate the content of the page.
Use a hyphen to separate words. Do not use underscore, as search engines do not recognize them as separators. Do not use other special characters, as this may cause them to fail.
Ensure that every page URL includes a distinct keyword that best described the content of the page.
Use lower-case letters only. Upper-case letters can fail on some operating systems.
Revealing your site architecture via your URL path or folder structure can orient users and enhance usability, both on page and in search engine results. This means that child pages in a site should include the url path of its parent page. A structured URL helps both users and search engines understand where they are on your site. It also reveals what you have determined is the most important content.
Avoid creating multiple pages that fall outside your site's content hierarchy. There should be a small number of level 1 pages
Shorter is better
Short addresses with 2-3 unique and easy-to-understand keywords look attractive and are much easier to remember and enter manually in a browser.
While the maximum length of a URL is more than 2000 characters (i.e. a browser can process a long address), longer URLs have a negative impact on search engines. Aim for 50-75 characters as a maximum.
While WebPublish will automatically generate a URL for each page based on its page title, be aware that this can lead to superfluous and repeating words, and create URLS that are longer than necessary.
File names for linked documents should follow many of the same same principles as URLs in that they should be:
- human readable
- free of special characters
- free of blank spaces
Spaces in a file name translate to "%20" when they go online. Rewrite them using hyphens between readable words before loading them to the serve.
Consider that linked documents may end up on a user's desktop of in a downloads folder. Prepending a file name with the letters "QU", for example, might be helpful to indicate a Queen's document. Including date details or version numbers in the file name (as well as in the document itself, of course) can also be helpful. The Records Management and Privacy Office provides further guidance on document naming.
Documents and usability
Please note that linking to documents is not the best way of delivering content online, as the formatting of documents pose accessibility and usability issues.
Consider, as well, the naming of photo and illustration file names. Again, file names should be human readable, short, and free of special characters, and should include meaningful keywords.
Whether you are simply moving content to a new page, revising your site architecture, or launching an entirely new site, it is important to plan for creating redirects for URLs that will no longer exist. Learn more about URL redirects.