Crucial Insights on How URLs Influence Google Rankings

3 min read

There is a belief that websites containing keywords within their URLs enjoy a ranking advantage compared to those with more generic URLs. Let’s explore Google’s perspective on this matter.

Google’s search ranking factors can experience shifts in prominence over time.

What used to be a highly influential factor in Google’s ranking algorithms in the past may have significantly less importance in the current era.

The URL of a website serves as a prime illustration of a ranking factor subject to such changes.

Because the influence of a website’s URL on search rankings has evolved, you might encounter varying opinions about its contemporary significance.


The Assertion: URLs Impact Search Rankings


It is posited that a website’s URL is a factor that can influence Google’s search rankings and can be optimized in a manner akin to optimizing a title tag.

In particular, these claims propose that the deliberate inclusion of keywords within a URL can aid a website in ranking for queries that include those specific words.

For instance, to enhance the likelihood of ranking for a query such as [air fryer recipes], having a URL that incorporates “air-fryer-recipes” in some form (e.g., example.com/air-fryer-recipes) is deemed beneficial.

There is a belief that websites featuring keywords in their URLs enjoy a ranking advantage compared to sites with more generic URLs.

But is there any validity to this assertion? Let’s delve into Google’s stance on the matter.


The Available Evidence: URLs and Their Impact on Rankings


Evidence directly from Google suggests that URLs do not wield as significant an influence on search rankings as some claims propose.

When we examine instances where Google has acknowledged the role of URLs as a ranking factor, it becomes apparent that their impact has diminished over time.

In 2016, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that keywords in a URL hold some ranking influence. However, he characterized this influence as “very small” and cautioned against excessive efforts to force such optimization. He suggested that restructuring a site solely to include keywords in the URL might not be worthwhile.

Mueller revisited the topic in 2017, stating, “Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO.” Instead, he recommended selecting URLs primarily focusing on enhancing the user experience rather than catering solely to search engines.

This advice was reiterated in 2018, with Mueller emphasizing that site owners must be more concerned with incorporating keywords into URLs.

This doesn’t imply that URLs have no bearing on rankings. Instead, it underscores that there are numerous other, more critical factors to prioritize when optimizing for search.

This is evident in other statements by Mueller, such as one from 2021, where he describes words in a URL as a “very, very lightweight ranking factor.”

“We consider the words in a URL as an exceedingly subtle factor. This is primarily a consideration when encountering a URL for the first time, and we haven’t yet assessed its content. In such cases, the words in the URL may play a minor role in improving our ranking.

However, we possess more information once we’ve thoroughly crawled and indexed the content. At that point, whether the URL is in German, Japanese, or English, it essentially carries the same weight.”

URLs: Confirmed, Yet Inconsequential in Rankings

Google has repeatedly affirmed that URLs are, at best, a minor factor in search rankings. When Google initially explores a new website, keywords within the URL may offer a slight signal to grasp the content’s nature. This might exert a negligible influence on initial rankings.

Nevertheless, Google relies on much more robust signals, such as page content, inbound links, and user engagement metrics, once these data are accessible. Consequently, the URL’s significance needs to improve in terms of SEO.

As articulated by Mueller, keywords within URLs offer no substantial ranking advantage after content has been indexed. Google does not consider the words in the URL as significant for rankings.

This underscores that optimizing URLs with target keywords offers no discernible SEO benefit. Any potential enhancement is so minuscule as to be imperceptible.

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Shilpi Mathur
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