TL;DR – Create a sustainable SEO blog strategy by restructuring blog post URLs to branch off of their respective category, service, or product pages.
According to Wikipedia, the term “blog” has been in use since the late 1990’s and has remained a quintessential and rapidly growing component of the internet ever since. In fact, WordPress announced that an average of 1.8 million new blog posts are published each day on the WordPress platform alone, and the number is rising. According to W3Techs, the WordPress platform comprises about 27% of the web — consider the other 73%, and we can conservatively estimate the number of new blog posts to be much higher than 1.8 million per day.
Increased blog usage undoubtedly goes hand-in-hand with the growth of the internet. On a macro level, let’s take a look at Google’s index of webpages over the last decade:
- 1 trillion in 2008
- 30 trillion in 2013
- 130 trillion in 2017
This rapid growth makes Google’s job incredibly difficult. Sure, technological advancements and the evolution of Google’s algorithm have helped Google to keep pace, but at what rate? A Sisyphean task, perhaps.
However, unlike the tale Sisyphus, Google is not alone. Tactful and ethical search engine optimization can actually help. Let’s start by exploring the evolution of the blog up to this point – what has changed?
There have been little improvements here and there — namely, the advancement of the internet and the technology behind it. Think HTML5, for instance.
From an SEO-lens, we’ve seen a couple of major changes. For starters, “tagging” — a way to categorize information in a non-hierarchical manner — was coined in 1997. More notably, we have the “nofollow” concept – patented in 2005 in an effort to halt blog spam.
What about the structure of a blog? Why has that not changed? Well, we can attempt to make sense of it. Think of a blog like a garden, where individual blog posts grow like vegetables. For thousands of years, we understood it one way — vegetables grow in soil. Nobody thought to uproot them and change the concept of growing vegetables in its entirety until the introduction of hydroponics. This begs the question: Can we rip a blog post out of the proverbial ground and replant it into something better?
Yes, Think Outside the Blog
To wrap our heads around why this concept makes sense, let’s pretend our client sells sports equipment. Specifically, let’s hone in on one area of the business: wide receiver gloves for football players. We start our keyword research, and it looks something like this…
To be expected, the category page containing all of our client’s wide receiver gloves ranks for most keywords, but a blog page ranks as well. In and of itself, this does not present an immediate issue, so long as the ranking blog post provides a good user experience and ultimately satiates the searcher’s intent.
However, with two pages clearly competing against each other from a topical perspective, it may be difficult for us to solidify our ranking in the long term. Reason being, Google looks to serve the best possible page on a given website to a user. If Google has two (or more) very similar landing pages to choose from, our site will still rank, but it may not rank as well.
To solve this problem, we must assist the search engines by helping them better understand the relationship between a main page and any topically related blog posts. Currently, most search marketers accomplish this through internal linking. For instance, if we mention “wide receiver gloves” in a blog post, we can use it as anchor text in a link back to our main wide receiver gloves page — but if the entire blog post encapsulates the topic of wide receiver gloves, linking each iteration of the keyword would create an obnoxious user experience to say the least.
So instead of relying on internal links, we can utilize URL structure to create a hierarchical relationship. Each blog post written about wide receiver gloves will serve as a child page that branches off of the main parent page.
Why hasn’t this been widely adopted?
Historically, two primary concepts have kept bloggers and search engine optimizers from thinking outside of the box in regards to a blog’s URL Structure:
1. User Experience/Flow
It feels like common sense to isolate a blog from the rest of a website. From a navigation standpoint, this isolation makes perfect sense — but why must the URL structure follow suit? Migrating a blog post to a different file path should have no effect on user experience.
2. URL Flatness (i.e. proximity to the root)
The proximity of a URL to the root can indicate its level of importance relative to the rest of the website’s hierarchy. Due to this, search engine optimizers have historically moved their optimized pages closer to the root in order to reap a benefit. Crucially, this dated tactic sacrifices a search engine’s ability to use the URL structure as a means to understand the relationships between pages.
Potential Road Bumps
This idealistic approach to blog URL structure does not apply to every situation. Let’s explore three potential pitfalls to overcome:
1. Topical Conflict
What if you’re a digital marketing agency that writes a blog post about how SEO and PPC can work together? Do you branch it off of the SEO page or the PPC page? The answer depends on the nature of the post. For instance, if it’s mostly about SEO, you can branch it off of your SEO page. Most of the time, however, blog posts like this may need to remain on the blog, and once again you’ll have to rely on strategic internal linking.
2. Topical Irrelevance
What if you’re a real estate developer that writes a blog post about how to host the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner? Seeing as the target consumer may one day live in one of your residences and have the chance at hosting Thanksgiving, this idea is not out of the ordinary. In this case though, simply keep the post structured off of the blog.
Structuring a website’s blog post URLs to be written as /blog/name-of-post guarantees that every blog post has /blog/ within its URL nomenclature. This provides an easy way to segment the blog for holistic analysis within an analytics platform, such as Google Analytics. Restructuring blogs to branch off of their corresponding product or service page removes this common denominator within the URL path, making holistic blog analysis more difficult to implement and maintain. However, we can solve this problem by reintroducing a common denominator back into the posts themselves, e.g. each blog post could contain the word “post” in it like this:
Any other ideas? Comments? Wins, losses, or potential road bumps? Please let us know in the comments below.