Why you need pretty links

Written by: Peter Fisher on August 23, 2016
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Improve your website by using pretty links

The humble website link has changed over the years. It started as a direct link to a web page (a file on a server such as index.html or about-us.html). As web technologies improved so did the mechanics of web links.  Now a link to a webpage can provide better context and meaning to the user or search engine.

Sometimes referred to as pretty links or slugs, these advanced web links can be structured using a combination of slashes and human friendly words. They can point to different locations and also include parameterised options that gives context to the linked information.

A pretty link can improve a pages search rank. The links are analyzed and indexed by search engines with more precision.

Website improvements from using pretty links

Using pretty links on your website will help improve your search ranking, help to increase customer retention and stream line your website. Below are just some of the improvements that you can expect.

Pretty links have less clutter

Site links don’t need filename extensions such as .php or .html. Search engines don’t have a need to include the file extension in the search index. Some suggest that having a file extension is also detrimental to the page rank.

Pretty links will help optimize your website for search engines

Links are examined and indexed by search engines. This means that a link should be descriptive and relevant to the page or action that it is linked too. Including phases or keywords in a links structure will help improve the page ranking. If possible, certain words should be avoided; In the SEO world these words are called ‘Stop Words’. A stop word is a very common word or adjective such as ‘a’, ‘or’ ‘and’, ‘of’. A stop word carries no meaning for SEO and can hinder your SEO efforts as they consume character space. In terms of web links they can take up to 3 times their own character space.  For instance using the word ‘a’ in a link will use up 3 characters in a link.  This is because the word will need a dash either side.  So ‘a’ in the following example is actually ‘-a-‘.

/selling-a-car is not as good as /car-selling

Pretty links are easier to remember

A pretty link is a human readable phrase that should have a consistent format such as /contact or /shop/cart.  It is easier to remember the link in this format compared to /contact_us.html or /lib/shopCart.php. Try to keep the phrases short and to the point. /contact is far better than /contact-us

What else can pretty links do for your website?

Pretty links are more than just inward and outward bound connections to your website.  They can also be used to enhance the user experience and offer more context to the page or action that it is being linked to. Below are a few examples of what pretty links can do for your website.

Dates and times

A URL can be formatted as follows ‘/2016/07/03’. This represents a date format such as /<YEAR>/<MONTH>/<DAY> this is great for calendars and booking systems which have date based features. This URL format is also good for blog archives. The results can be adjusted to match the URLs structure.

By having the full date format (2016/02/27) the results could show all items from the 27th of February 2016. If the user removes the day section from this URL  leaving 2016/02 then the results will adjust to show all items from February 2016. All the results from 2016 would be shown if the month and day was removed.

Here are some examples using the Websomatic blog archives:

Breadcrumbs

Websomatics services page is defined as a top level page or parent page.  This is because it has child pages directly connected to it.  Those child pages have a link structure like so /services/mobile-apps ( /TOP_LEVEL/CHILD_LEVEL ) Search engines love breadcrumbs that have a logically structure. These links are human friendly and provide context to what topic you are reading and what parent page it was linked from.

Parameterised queries

Our content management system uses a lot of these types of links to access certain functionality and perform certain actions. Each of the following page urls require an ID to be accessed.

  •  /testimonial/1002/update – Updates testimonial 1002
  • /image-gallery/5/delete – Deletes image gallery 5
  • /page/15 – Displays page 15 for editing

A number of checks are carried out to ensure data security and integrity before these are actioned .

 

 

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Peter Fisher is a UK based freelance web developer and cross platform mobile applications developer. He has a degree in E-Commerce and Multimedia and has worked for many web design agencies and hosting companies.

Peter has his own web and mobile development blog and is the host of the HowToCodeWell YouTube channel.

Read more about Peter Fisher

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