On Thursday, Google announced that they are “updating the algorithms that display URLs in the search results to better reflect the names of websites” on mobile searches. In a nutshell, Google is changing search results for mobile such that the website name will be used instead of the domain name and the URL structure will be displayed as breadcrumbs.

This change means that your site’s URL structure will become even more important than it already was. Long and ugly URLs will be more prominent in the search results than before.

To keep  your mobile search results looking pretty, here are some general tips to keep in mind when setting up your site’s URL structure:

  1. Length of URL : There is no limit on URL length, but usability dictates they should be as short as possible while still identifying the content of the page clearly to the user.
  2. Parameter URLs : URLs like example.com/index.php?a=AHF34f&z=UASF are neither user friendly nor SEO friendly. Try to create a hierarchy that lets users and spiders easily understand what content appears on a given page
  3. Keywords in URL : Placing non-repetitive keywords in the URL is likely to raise a page’s search prominence.
  4. Stop Words : Don’t use Stop Words in URLs.
  5. Case : example.com/index.htm is a different page to search engines than example.com/Index.htm. As a general rule, keep directors and filenames lower case.
  6. Separator : Never use spaces in a URL as it can cause problems with spiders and older browsers. Use hyphens and underscores.

One additional comment about URLs that contain parameters or querystrings – Google specifically states the following in its SEO Starter Guide:

Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines. Also, it can create easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words. URLs like [baseball.com/folder1/1034847/x1/0234848a.htm] can be confusing and unfriendly. Users would have a hard time reciting the URL from memory or creating a link to it. Also, users may believe that a portion of the URL is unnecessary, especially if the URL shows many unrecognizable parameters. They might leave off a part, breaking the link. Some users might link to your page using the URL of that page as the anchor text. If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than an ID or oddly named parameter would [like baseball.com/articles/ten-best-baseballcards.htm].

In a nutshell, your site’s URLs should semantically make sense, contain keywords relevant to the content of the page, and clearly describe its content to the user. Taking these steps will be helpful to both your users and search engines.