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I work for a site and I don't know why the content team did this, but here is an example:

example.com/food/italian is a page that contains links to Italian recipes, such as:

example.com/italian-food/lasagna

And all other Italian recipes are under that /italian-food/ folder. But the main page about Italian food (which links to all the recipes) is /food/italian/

I am thinking I should make a case that all the recipe URLs should be changed to /food/italian/{recipe-name}

However, I wanted to check here first in case this isn't needed, as long as everything is interlinked. Generally speaking, the URL structure on the site makes sense, but not in this one case.

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I think your proposed URL structure is ultimately the way to go. It gives search crawlers a better sense of the hierarchy of your site (food > {cuisine} > {recipe}).

If the entire site is recipe-based, then feel free to drop the "/food/" portion - shorter URLs give more weight to the relevant keywords (the recipe/cuisine) and are more readable for users.

However, changing an existing URL structure does bring up the need to set redirects. It's not much of an issue unless the redirects span multiple urls, creating "redirect chains" - it doesn't sound like to would in your case, but I wanted to bring it up.

In short, I think you should change it to /food/italian/{recipe} as it lends to better formatting of the data the site provides.

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