Clean and Human Readable URLs

Your URLs (the addresses for the pages of your website) should be as “clean” as possible and human readable.

What does this mean? Let’s take a look at an example:

Dirty URL:

Clean URL:

The dirty URL contains URL parameters – everything after (and including) the question mark. The clean URL does not contain these things. The clean URL also gives the user a much clearer idea of what they are going to get when they click the link.

A URL is not clean if it contains a question mark.

Clean URLs can, and should, contain keywords relevant to the page – more on that later. It’s also important to keep URLs as short as possible. Not only do some search engines prefer shorter URLs but the shorter and simpler a URL is, the easier it is to give to somebody over the phone, fit on a business card, type correctly into an email, or fit on the side of a bus.

A customer should be able to tell what the content of a page is going to be just from the URL.

If you can’t imagine a BBC World Service presenter reading out your URL for the attention of an ageing dowager, then it’s probably not a clean URL.

It’s not always possible to keep every single URL perfectly clean. If you’re running an eCommerce site, for example, your CMS is unlikely to produce a perfectly clean URL for every possible combination of filters a customer might choose on a product search page. There are also certain actions, like a customer search, where parameters may need to be passed to the site that are dynamic and therefore can’t be cleaned in advance.The important thing is to make sure that the URLs of your landing pages, by which I mean all the pages that you want people to be able to land on by clicking-through from a search engine result, are clean. If the user interacts with the page and the URL picks up some parameters after that, that’s completely fine.

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