Local SEO Practices for Structuring URLs

Written by: Jason Bayless | February 06, 2016

After Google has made additional changes to its local algorithm, there are a few new things to keep in mind for those looking to practice best local SEO URL structuring. The shift in SEO practices is similar to the changes Google made with Pigeon.

Now that on-site signals are important, it’s critical for you to ensure you’re at the top of your local SEO game. It doesn’t matter if you have all the citations in the world if you don’t have any local signals that Google is looking for.

Quick Tips

These might seem like old hat, but a surprising number of websites seem to neglect each of these local opportunities:

  • Add the city and state to a page’s title tag. The title tag is important in all facets of optimization, so adding the city and state will boost relevancy in local results.
  • Add the city and state to the H1 heading. The whole heading doesn’t need to be devoted to this, but it should be included to further improve relevancy to local results.
  • Add the city and state within the content. This is something far too many sites often neglect. The key to optimizing local results is discussing the local area.
  • Add the city and state to image alt text. Remember that Google doesn’t have any way to see what an image looks like, so it relies on the alt text to get an understanding of its relevancy and what the page content includes.
  • Add the city and state into a structured URL. If you can modify the structure of your URL, you’ll definitely want to add the city and state in the URLs. This can make a huge difference to boosting your local signal, both to Google and your prospective customers as well. If this means updating an existing page on your website, make sure to establish a 301 redirect so that your ranking doesn’t take a hit.

Structuring URLs for Local SEO

Each of these tactics are merely specific ways to achieve the same end result: make a website that delivers something awesome to the reader. Don’t focus exclusively on rank, and instead focus on making your website the best it can be. One way to do that, besides awesome content, is to create better URLs.

Naturally, the easier someone can read a URL, the easier a search engine can read it too. SEO has always relied on accessibility, and today’s algorithms make that more true than ever; engines are capable of leveraging data signals to gain an understanding of what people will engage with.

Put plainly, a shorter URL is a better URL. This factor needn’t be exaggerated as most URLs under 60 characters are already optimal for search engine reading. However, those who maintain URLs with over 100 characters probably can adjust the way they’re displayed; otherwise, they’re prone to losing major value.

When adding the city and state in your newly structured URLs, understand that the preferred word separators are hyphens and underscores. Although search engines of the past once had trouble overcoming challenges with the underscore, this is no longer a worry; that means you can feel free to opt for underscores along with hyphens. Spaces also have their place, but they will appear as a %20 in the URL, which immediately makes it less readable. It’s best to avoid this whenever possible.

With these tips, you’ll be able to rewrite your URLs not only so they follow best local SEO practices, but also so they’ll adhere to readability standards.