Keywords in URLs – Are They Really Necessary for SEO?

The subject of whether or not the inclusion of major keywords in URLs is a worthwhile exercise in SEO terms is not exactly new. In fact, it was almost 11 years ago when Matt Cutts first announced that, although there was some benefit involved, the actual placement of targeted keywords within URL text and filenames was only slightly helpful at best. However, in terms of existing URL keywords having a negative effect (in terms of over optimisation), there should be very little to worry about.

Moving swiftly on, in 2016 (10 years later!), Google’s John Mueller chirped in on the subject, saying that keywords in the URL are in fact used as a “very small ranking factor”. Exactly “how small” is a difficult value to quantify, but suffice to say that Google themselves have said that it isn’t worth changing URLs if you are considering doing so simply for SEO benefits.

To clarify the situation, a more recent tweet from John Mueller, published just 3 days ago (on March 8th 2017), reads as follows:

“Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO. Make URLs for users. Also, on mobile you usually don’t even see them.”

With this in mind, it would be safe to say that if your website is already doing well in the SERPs, renaming your URLs and changing the structure of your site with a view to improving your ranking, could actually damage your positions. This is particularly true if you aren’t 100% sure about what you are doing. Missing files, broken links and a damaged sitemap could have a seriously negative impact on your site’s visibility, particularly when your site is re-crawled and re-cached and the search spiders aren’t able to find your landing pages because you’ve renamed the URLs without updating your internal linking structure accordingly. The same is true for external links pointing to your site – which also includes your Google listings!

In short, if it’s not broken – don’t try to fix it!