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Well, I have a co-worker (actually my superior) who often sets his articles' slugs to expected / relevant search terms such as:

keywordA-keywordB-keywordC-keywordD-keywordE

I usually make mine closer to the article's title, e.g.:

robber-robs-XYZ-bank-10-million

He claims placing only the expected search terms as the slug led to better SEO and that SEO is more important than a human-friendly URL.

What do you think of the balance between human-friendly and SEO-friendly URLs and does littering your slugs with a few expected keywords actually lead to better SEO? Lastly, what is the recommended practice?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Your co-worker's method looks suspiciously like keyword stuffing and may not actually be relevant if the content doesn't contain those keywords. That's not to say URLs should be devoid of keywords, I just think it should be planned better and make sense to humans too otherwise it could just look really "spammy".

I don't completely disagree with him if it's done right, except for this point:

SEO is more important than a human friendly url

I strongly disagree and will forever believe that regardless of all the tips and tricks developers and marketers can employee (above and beyond just having good content), URLs should make sense at a glance if it's achievable. Having URLs that are close to the title of the post / page definitely makes more sense to me and since the same words will also be present in content, it'll be good for SEO as a by-product.


Edit to answer your edit

One recommended practice is to try to curtail the length of your URLs to 10 words or less, since more will just have less weight when being evaluated by the search algorithm.

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I agree, he just overdid it –  Eric Yin Jan 11 '12 at 13:49
2  
Keywords in URLs are overrated for SEO purposes (as opposed to keywords in Domain names - which, sadly, still get an unwarranted boost). –  Mike Hudson Jan 11 '12 at 21:51

I'm kind of surprised that no one said that human friendly URLs are search engine friendly URLs. Human friendly URLs usually are naturally:

  • going to contain keywords related to the content
  • going to read naturally and not look like a two year old wrote it
  • will usually, but not always, be short and to the point

You really shouldn't need to be considering the search engines when creating your URLs because if you write them for human beings they really are search engine friendly already.

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+1 Exactly! As always, provide compelling content for the people you wish to attract to your website. Google goes to great lengths to tailor search results to what's relevant to the user's search not to the website owner's often overblown expectations. Write for the user and your goal becomes Google's goal. –  Fiasco Labs Jan 12 '12 at 4:12

I would avoid stuffing multiple keywords into the URL as your coworker has done. However, shortening the title to one keyword phrase can be helpful for humans (as they need to read less in order to grasp what the page is about) and for search engines. Try to remove the extra words in the headline and think instead of what a user would search. Your example "robber-robs-XYZ-bank-10-million" could be shortened to "XYZ-bank-robbery". A blog-style title like "The Secret Trick That Earned Me $1 Million" or "No-Brainer Ways to Earn $1 Million" can both be shortened to "earn-1-million" or "how-to-earn-a-million." With this implementation, the title should be click worthy while the slug should more closely match the search term. Using words like "best," "easy," "top 10", "trick," etc. in the title will help get more clicks to your result on Google but don't add SEO benefit to the slug (unless of course the keyword you are after is "best banks").

If you want to target your article to two different phrases, I would use one in the title and one in the URL. Targeting five different keywords on one page is generally unwise. If you must, choose one main keyword for the title and use the others as H2 sub-headers.

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As Google themselves say

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

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For y'all out there. Given my findings on SEOing your website for your own internal search (Probably one of the most overlooked and more useful things you can do for your customer) you're probably doing it wrong. Paying attention to the searches used on your site's internal search is a goldmine of what your customers think is content they're looking for. Look it over really well, make your current content relevant and use it for ideas for new content you can add. –  Fiasco Labs Jan 20 '12 at 20:04

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