Keywords at the Beginning of the URL: Positive On-Page Ranking Factor

Keywords at the Beginning of the URL

Keywords at the beginning of the URL

Impact: Very Small

Confidence: Fairly High

Placing your keyword or key phrase at the beginning of your URL of your page has more weight than putting the keywords at the end of the URL. Google indicates that the weight diminishes past the fifth word. The impact of adding keywords to the URL is already very small. Therefore, it is important that this is not diminished further.

The easiest way to explain what we mean by having the keyword in the URL is by reference to the following diagram showing the SERP results for the phrase “SEO Tips”:

keywords at start of url

As you can see, the keyword phrase is clearly shown near the start of a very long URL but is still clearly visible in Google Search.

Is it an SEO ranking factor?

The only person to comment on whether having your keyword or keyword phrase near the start of your URL is a positive ranking factor is Matt Cutts, former head of the Google Web Spam Team. He seems to imply that any words past the first five will have less weight attached to them. Unfortunately, the only sources date back to 2008 and 2009, so we have to question a little whether it is still relevant today. In light of comments made by John Mueller relating to keywords in the URL generally, we suspect it is.

In a Google webmaster video in 2009, Matt Cutts answered a question whether the position of keywords in the URL have a significant impact:

Does the position of keywords in the URL affect ranking YouTube

Matt Cutts answered:

Truthfully, I wouldn’t really obsess about it of that level of detail. It does help a little bit to have keywords in the URL. It doesn’t help so much that you should go stuffing a ton of keywords into your URL. You know, if there’s a convenient way that’s good for users where you have four or five keywords that might be worthwhile, but I wouldn’t obsess about it to the level of, you know, how deep is the URL in the path or, you know, how am I combining it.
For example, on my blog, when I do a post I’ll take the first four or five words or two or three words related to that post and I’ll use that as the URL. But, you know, you don’t need to make seven, eight, ten, twenty words because that just looks spammy to users and people will probably not click through as much in the first place. So position is going to be a very, very second order kind of thing of keywords in the URLs. I would not worry about that so much as having great content that people want to link to and people want to find out about.

You can watch the full video below:

In an interview with Matt Cutts in 2008, it was made clear that Google will weight any words past around five in the URL will be weighted less than the earlier ones. That being said, this advice is from 2008, and cannot be held to be the most reliable.

Certainly. If you can make your title four- or five-words long — and it is pretty natural. If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.

How important is it?

On Jan. 26, 2016, John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, said in an English Google webmaster Central office-hours hangout that while adding a keyword to the URL is a ranking factor, the impact is very small. Couple that with the fact that the benefit of adding a Keyword diminishes after the fifth word, it would stand to reason that it is relatively important.

Of course, this importance is about the fact that keywords in URLs have a very small impact.

Other considerations:

  • Longer URLs — There is some data to suggest that shorter URLs rank better than Longer URLs.
  • Keyword in the URL — Multiple sources confirm that having the keyword in the URL is a ranking factor. You can read full details here.
  • Keyword in Domain Name — There is a ranking bonus when a keyword or phrase is in the domain name. Some reports suggest the impact is less when the keyword is less than when the keyword appears later in the URL.
  • Overusing Keywords — When you overuse keywords, including in the URL, it can contribute to a spam penalty for keyword stuffing.

We will be happy to see your thoughts

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