While many webmasters neglect their importance, URLs are actually essential for improving the structure of your website both for the search engines and for Web users. Because URLs are displayed alongside search results in Google and other search engines, as well as when people share your content, it is important that they convey information about the content that they link to in as clear a manner as possible. User-friendly URLs rely on the careful use of folder and filename structures, and they are better for search engine optimization (SEO) too.
URLs which are excessively long and/or contain no useful information tend to confuse users and search engines alike. Additionally, a long and/or cryptic URL is not at all likely to be remembered or recognized. By contrast, a URL which contains relevant keywords displays some useful information about a page.
Website URLs accompany the search results in Google, appearing beneath the webpage title and description. You will also notice when using Google or other major search engines, that when you enter a query, any keywords entered which also appear in the website URL in the search results will be highlighted. Although Google’s robots are perfectly able to crawl any URL structure, regardless of their complexity, keeping them short and simple with relevant keywords will make life much easier for your visitors. In fact, many webmasters simply use the title of the webpage in question or a slight variation of it as their URL. One thing you can do to help optimize your URLs for the search engines is to use punctuation in them, since doing so should also help make them more human readable. Of course, you cannot have spaces in URLs, though you can use dashes instead to separate individual words.
To optimize your website’s overall structure, you should also create a straightforward directory structure with folders using names which relate to the content contained within them. For example, a URL such as ‘example.com/your-webpage-category/your-webpage-title.html’ is far more useful than ‘example.com/dir1/article1.html’. Additionally, avoid nesting your directories too deeply in order to keep your URLs as short as possible. Having multiple subdirectories will only make your website harder to navigate and your URLs more difficult to recognize and remember. Have a single URL for each webpage where possible, though if you must have multiple URLs leading to the same page, be sure to set up a 301 redirect or use the link element rel=”canonical” in order to keep your content search engine-friendly and prevent Google from having difficulty finding and ranking your content.
Plan the directory structure of your website so that both your visitors and the search engines can more easily find the content that they are looking for. A simple directory structure will also make your website easier to manage and maintain. Start with your homepage as a root page, and if you have multiple pages which are all related by something like content category or publication date, it is wise to have them all in the same directory such as /news/ or /2014/ etc.
Remember that different people will navigate your website in different ways, and there is always the chance that a part of your URL will be removed. For example, a user might want to find more related content by removing the last part of your URL (the actual webpage itself) and navigating to the folder the page is contained in instead. When people navigate a website in this manner, they may end up being redirected to the infamous 404 page not found error page, so it is wise to prevent this from happening by having them automatically redirected to a useful page, such as one containing a list of content in that directory. For example, if someone wants to view all blog posts from 2014, they might navigate to example.com/blog/2014, in which case you should offer a page providing the information that they are looking for.
To summarize the above, make sure that your URL structure has a hierarchy to it and consists of useful names which your visitors can use to navigate your site and recognize the addresses of the pages they are most interested in.