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Say I have an eCommerce website, which sells a variety of photographs. Within the parent category of 'Photographs', there are various child categories. For example: 'Wildlife', 'Sealife' and 'City Life'.

As such, I would have the following URLs:

www.example.com/photographs/wildlife/
www.example.com/photographs/sealife/
www.example.com/photographs/citylife/

From an SEO perspective, would search engines 'see' that 'Wildlife', 'Sealife' and 'City Life' are contained within 'Photographs' and are likely to be photographs or would I need to append '-photographs' to each child category?

I understand that there are other signals, which search engines consider, but I am not sure whether I am better off keeping URLs as short as possible or whether to extend the URLs with a more accurate URL, even if it does mean extending each URL.

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Google understands the URL structures of directories. There likely isn't a difference in using hyphens or backslashes in terms of URL keywords.

For instance

www.example.com/photographs/wildlife/

and

www.example.com/photographs-wildlife/

are probably the same thing to Google, both have the keyword "Photograph Wildlife"

But let's say you were to use the URL www.example.com/wildlife-photographs/ instead. Your URL keyword is now "Wildlife Photographs" instead of "Photographs Wildlife", and this is probably going to be an exact match keyword for a lot more searches.

The clean directory URLs do look better, but the second example gives you more of an exact match for what people are searching for. As a result, you may prefer to structure your site to be closer to the search terms you are targeting.

The following structure probably yields the same targeting results. Though if you don't actually have a "wildlife" category, because your category is actually "photographs", you may prefer to use the hyphenated version.

www.example.com/wildlife/photographs

www.example.com/wildlife-photographs

The exact match could make a modest impact, but as long as your page is targeting your keywords, Google should understand what your page is about. So if this exact match version requires your entire site to be restructured to accommodate it, it may be a better investment of your time to work on other improvements. The URL structure may be impactful, but not necessarily a massive different in signal. Ultimately, I would prefer to have the exact match URL if possible.


If the choice is between www.example.com/photography/wildlife-photography/ and www.example.com/photography/wildlife, then I do think the first is rather redundant, and I would prefer the second structure.

If you made the URL www.example.com/photography/wildlife-photographs/ then at least this is slightly less redundant and you're targeting multiple versions of the same keyword.

It's also reasonable to have photography/wildlife-photographs/because it shows me that the page likely has photographs on it. Whereas photography/wildlife could be an article about photographers and doesn't necessarily indicate that the page is going to be full of photographs.

  • I was thinking for of www.example.com/photography/wildlife-photography/ Would 'photography' be redundant in this case, as search engines would pick up photography from the Parent Category? – Craig Apr 11 '18 at 23:28
  • updated the answer - and yes, Google will pick up photography in /photography/ as a keyword for what your page is about – Michael d Apr 11 '18 at 23:35
  • Great. Some food for though there, on your advise there. Thank you. – Craig Apr 11 '18 at 23:42
  • There is are few minor exceptions to your theory. Ontologies clearly understand that photography and photographs are the same thing. It is not necessary to target keywords since this is not how search works. SEs do not match keywords! I cannot say this enough. As well, there is a difference between using a hyphen and a slash in a URL. Slashes represent semantic clusters. Using a redundant term in the URL makes no sense given that the cluster to the left has already signaled what the content is. I am not in favor of the keyword chase when sensible usage of language is well understood. – closetnoc Apr 12 '18 at 5:17
  • @closetnoc: photography and photographs are the same thing ... Are they? As Michael kind of suggests, Photography is the industry as a whole whilst photographs are the product produced by the photography industry. – Craig Jun 9 '18 at 22:14

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