Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

How Do Keywords in the URL Effect Your Search Position?

using keywords in the url

Well I am back, blogging again. Enjoyed my extended weekend break and ready to pump out some more SEO posts :)

I regularly receive emails from readers asking for advice on various SEO issues ranging from tips and tricks to major search penalty issues. Some I am happy to give a quick answer to others require consulting hours.

One thing that is often asked is how and when to use keywords in the URL and what effect this has on rankings. Now instead of me simply answering this I thought I’d show you a brief study I looked at around a month ago.

As an SEO I am continually testing different areas of optimisation to find out what is really working and what is not that important. I performed the following study using 10 competitive keywords, the ten broad keywords were also tested against similar longtail versions.

The aim was to see what correlation, if any, keywords in the URL had on high rankings within Google.

Test 1

I took the 10 broad keywords in competitive niches and analysed the top ten URL’s to see which included the broad terms. Keywords such as “search engine optimisation”, “car loans” and “credit cards” were looked at with the following results;

keywords in url

As you can see on average 50% of the sites in the top ten included the “broad” keyword phrase in the URL. When I say URL I am making reference to the whole URL and not just the root domain.

The results also seemed to show there was no difference between keywords in a file extension and the root domain

eg. www.keywordusedhere.com = root domain

and

www.rootdomain.com/keywordusedhere = extension

As long as the keyword was used somewhere in the URL it seemed to have some sort of positive impact on rankings.

Test 2

I couldn’t just test the broad terms, I also needed to see how longtail terms could be used in the URL to increase rankings. I took the same broad keywords and changed them to a longtail phrase to see how rankings changed.

keywords in url

Only 27% of sites ranking for longtail keywords used the exact “longtail” term in the URL. This was very low so I decided to look at it from a different angle.

Test 3

I decided to analyse the rankings for the longtail terms to see how many URL’s had used the ‘broad’ keyword phrase.

eg.
Search = low cost car loans
Broad Term in URL = car loans

Anyway here’s the difference.

keywords in url

47% of pages ranking for a longtail term had the broad keyword phrase in the URL.

eg. A search for “bad credit loans” reveals that not too many pages have the exact search term in, however over 50% have the broad term “loan” in the URL.

What does this tell us?

Even though the test was only carried out on 10 broad terms and 10 longtail terms, it gives us some insights into how Google treats keywords in the URL.

  • If you want to rank for broad competitive terms, it is a good idea to have the keyword in the URL
  • If your attempting to rank for a longtail, low competition keyword there is no real need to use the exact term as long as you use the broad term.

Overall I don’t think I would really be concerned about keywords in the URL as it only seems to be a minor ranking factor, remember 50% of the sites ranking in the top ten did not use the keywords at all.

If you do a search for “seo services” (which is a major competitive keyword) you will be lucky to find one listing with the keyword in the URL.

So final tip, if you can get the “main” keyword in the URL do it, if not.. Don’t lose any sleep over it as focusing on the more powerful factors will still help push your site to the top of Google.

Line Break

Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Luke September 9, 2009 at 9:59 am

good post, thanks for sharing.
Picking the right url can be a pain, especially if you are focused on
using exact/related keywords.

Reply

Tim September 9, 2009 at 10:03 am

Hi Luke,

Like I say in the post I wouldn’t worry about using the keywords if it is impossible, high rankings are still attainable despite it. Thanks for commenting.

Reply

Mike McEvoy September 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Tim,
More great info and insights. I really appreciate the level of research and detail that you put into your posts. Really well thought out and not just a bunch of off-the-cuff comments. It really adds to the value and benefit. I always learn something new and useful from your posts. Thanks.

Reply

Tim September 10, 2009 at 2:50 am

Mike,

Thanks Mike, the time I put into posts is well worth it when it adds value to someones online knowledge. Thanks for reading, commenting and helping to promote SEOwizz :)

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David September 10, 2009 at 1:19 am

Hi Tim,
Leaving aside the tails after the root domain name, -

I can see the Google could recognize ‘cars’ in best-cars.com, but do you think Google can recognize ‘cars’ in bestcars.com ?

Can Google recognize ‘seo’ in seowizz ?

or ‘cards’ in Quillcards ?

Best
David

Reply

Tim September 10, 2009 at 2:52 am

Hi David,

I should have probably mentioned this in the post because Google seems to recognise the keywords in a URL even if they make part of one word ie SEOwizz or quillCARDS. Their is definitely no detrimental effect from setting your URL up in this fashion.

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David September 10, 2009 at 4:32 am

That’s good to know :-)

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tahir September 10, 2009 at 5:41 am

excellent work, but one thing on your last line where you said that if you search for term “seo services” you will not come with one url and your right but if you just add provider “seo services provider” in the end and you will see almost 60% of them have key term mention show where in their URL

Reply

Tim September 10, 2009 at 5:55 am

Hi Tahir,

I get the top two sites with “seoserviceprovider” in the url. This is more because of the optimisation of the sites rather than the url. Because the keyword is pretty low competition optimising the title tag and some good one way links will put it at1 the top. The url does play a role, I see it as more of a luxury and wouldn’t pick an ugly domain name just to incorporate keywords.

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tahir September 10, 2009 at 5:43 am

one thing more CTR is always better if you have keyword in your URL

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Tim September 10, 2009 at 5:55 am

@tahir,

I have not seen any tets proving that, but can imagine it having some sort of positive effect on CTR

Reply

tahir September 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

1= i am agree with you keywords in url help but it doesnot mean that you go for some name which are not gona make sense
2= i had a website and have two different urls and ulr with keyword always have better CTR and i also manage PPC campaign and u always get better CTR on URL which has Keywords in it

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Tim September 10, 2009 at 9:57 am

@tahir,

The adwords CTR is interesting, when you use the keywords in the URL of an adwords ad your listing tends to be higher, this equates to higher CTR’s. Would an ad in position 6 have a higher CTR if it had the keywords in the URL alone?? Probably and it would be interesting to see some strong data on this.

Thanks for you input

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Derek September 12, 2009 at 9:29 am

Your summary says it all….keywords in the url help but in the broad scheme of things they should be a very small part of your SEO workload

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Tim September 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

@Derek,

Exactly, a luxury but far from a must

Reply

Atul September 14, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Hi Tim,

My good luck that I found this very informative post.
I would like to know whether seo-services is better than seo_services and why .

Reply

Tim September 15, 2009 at 3:44 am

@Atul,

The only reason – is better than _ , is because _ doesn’t split the words up.

So seo-services looks like this to search engines (seo services) where as seo_services, looks like this (seoservices).

Plus Matt Cutts, head of Google’s spam team recommends it :)

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Guy Mackenzie September 23, 2009 at 5:22 am

Nice post Tim, I recently wrote about this on my blog

Keyword Rich Domain Names

Didn’t quite go into the detail that you did but concluded the same thing!

Good post

I always recommend grabbing a keyword rich domain name if you can.

Reply

Tim September 23, 2009 at 10:03 am

Hi Guy,

Keyword reich domains are great if you can get them, but like I say, if not it’s not the end of the world

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Peg Corwin October 1, 2009 at 5:33 am

You pick great topics and look at data, which is why I read you so regularly, Tim. It strikes me that the above relates more to websites than a blog post. Surely, for a blog post, one should always use one or two keyword phrases in the post title/permalink/slug ?

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Tim October 1, 2009 at 6:03 am

Hi Peg,

Where possible it always a good idea to use the keywords in the permalink, this test was based on top level domains and showed how sites can rank regardless of keywords in the domain name. I guess my advice would be, always use keywords in the permalink, however don’t worry about having your target keywords in the top level domain.

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Steve Amundsen November 1, 2010 at 12:55 pm

What you failed to realize is that all things being equal, having the keyword in the domain will outrank another site that does not have the keyword in the domain. I have thousands of keywords that I have done competitive research on and have that data to back this statement up. The key here is “all things being equal”. If you have done all of the onpage optimization properly, as well as the offpage optimization well, and you have the same stats, i.e the same number of indexed pages in your site, the same number and quality of backlinks to the site AND to the PAGE, if you have the keyword in the URL and the other site does not, you will outrank it. So it is important.

And the fact that a lot of long tail keywords do not use the keyword in the ranking URL only tells you one thing: they are not doing a thorough job of SEO. You can have a newer site with fewer indexed pages and a few backlinks, and you will outrank a much larger website, with the same number and quality of backlinks, and you will outrank the larger site if you have the keyword in the URL.

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Tim November 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Hi Steve,

This post was written over 12 months ago and since then there has been a significant increase in the importance of keyword which domains and URL’s.

In terms of long tail we are finding much depends on the overall authority of the website in question rather than keywords in the URL, yes for the sake of completeness all URL’s should be keyword rich and targeted, however we are finding brand pages ranking for a whole range of longtail terms without even using the keyword on page.

So I guess brand + unique content + trusted links = high rankings regardless of keyword rich URL’s.

The post wasn’t saying keywords in the domain/url aren’t important just that they aren’t a must for high rankings.

Reply

Ryan @ Milwaukee Condos November 20, 2010 at 5:30 am

Tim, I found this article really helpful. Especially the second pie chart with showing urls with the actual long tail in domain. Debating on doing this for real estate niches of yourtownhomes versus yourtownhomesforsale at the moment. I’m guessing from this that it would simply be better to do yourtownhomes then do a category/post for the for sale.

Anyways, thanks again.

Ryan

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pc tricks May 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Tim, this is definitely correct. The think that we should put it our mind is, we are doing the page for the reader or consumer and not for the search engines. You can insert the longtail keywords in the meta description or in the site content itself.

Reply

Glynis July 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thank you. Just the information I’ve been looking for. :)

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