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URL as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Some people believe that sites with keywords in their URLs have a ranking advantage over sites with more generic URLs.This is what Google says.

Google search ranking factors can gain and lose prominence over time.A factor that carried a lot of weight in Google a few years ago may not mean much at all today.

The URL of a website is an example of such a ranking factor.

Given that the impact of a website's URL on search rankings has changed over time, you may hear conflicting messages about its importance today.

Let's look at the claims about URLs as a ranking factor, and then we'll review what the evidence says.

Disclaimer: URL is a ranking factor

A website’s URL is said to be a factor in Google search rankings and can be optimized in a similar way to how title tags are optimized.

More specifically, these claims show that strategic use of keywords in URLs can help sites rank for queries that contain those words.

For example, to rank for a query like [air fryer recipes], would it be helpful to have a URL containing an air fryer recipe somewhere in the URL (eg example.com/air-fryer-recipes)?

Some people believe that sites with keywords in their URLs have a ranking advantage over sites with more generic URLs.

Does this statement make sense?

This is what Google says.

Evidence: URL as a ranking factor

Evidence directly from Google suggests that URLs do not play as big a role in search rankings as the statement suggests.

Looking back at the time when Google acknowledged URLs as a ranking factor, it seems that this effect has diminished over time.

In 2016, Google's John Mueller confirmed that keywords in URLs are a ranking factor.

However, he described the signal as "very small".

"I believe it's a very small ranking factor, so it's not something I really want to force.Also, I don't think it's worth the effort to rebuild your site so you can include keywords in the URL.

Mueller touched on the topic again in 2017, saying: "Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO.

Instead, Mueller suggested choosing URLs for users, not search engines.

He repeated similar advice in 2018, saying site owners shouldn't worry about using keywords in URLs.

To be clear: this does not mean that URLs are not a ranking factor at all.This means that there are many more important factors to consider before optimizing a URL.

This has been evident in other Mueller statements, such as this one from 2021, in which he said words in URLs were a "very, very lightweight ranking factor."

"We use the words in the URL as a very, very lightweight factor.From what I can remember, it's mostly something we think about when we don't have access to content.

So if this is the first time we've seen this URL and we don't know how to categorize its content, we might use the words in the URL to help us rank better.

However, once we crawl and index the content there, we have more information.Then, essentially, it's pretty much the same thing if the URL is in German, Japanese, or English.

As Mueller said,Once the content is indexed, the URL becomes less important.

URLs as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict

Google has confirmed that URL is a minimal search ranking factor.

When Google crawls a new site for the first time, it uses the keywords in the URL to learn what the site is about.

This may play a small role in a site's initial ranking.

Some SEO professionals also believe it can be used to help group pages (i.e., group pages together under a folder as if they were using breadcrumbs).

Once a site's content is thoroughly crawled and indexed, the SEO effect of a URL is minimal.

Extended reading:

Are H1 tags a Google ranking factor?

Are HTML title tags (H2-H6) a Google ranking factor?

Fresh Content as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

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