The Evolution of Keyword Phrases in URLs: A Look at SEO Then and Now


Hello, web wanderers and SEO strategists! Ever pondered the power of keywords in your website’s URL? There was a time when packing your URL with keywords was a golden ticket to SEO success. But as with all things in the digital realm, change is constant. Let’s explore how the role of keyword phrases in URLs has evolved and where they stand today.

The Golden Era of Keywords in URLs

In the early days of SEO, having a keyword-rich URL was like having an express lane to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). This practice was based on the belief that search engines heavily weighted the words in a URL when ranking pages. Websites sprang up with URLs crammed full of keywords, hoping to boost their visibility and ranking.

Google’s Algorithm Evolution

However, as search engines, particularly Google, became more sophisticated, they began to see through this tactic. Google’s algorithm updates, like Panda and Penguin, started penalizing sites that engaged in such practices, considering them to be ‘over-optimization’ or even ‘spammy’. This shift forced SEO professionals to rethink their strategies.

The Current State of Keyword Usage in URLs

Today, the presence of a keyword phrase in a URL still holds value, but it’s not the magic bullet it once was. The emphasis now is on relevance and user experience. A URL that contains a concise, descriptive keyword can be helpful both to users and search engines in understanding what the page is about.

However, if you search for a certain keyword phrase and check the SERPs and discover that the keyword phrase is NOT in most of the websites listed it will not do you any good. But, if you do this and find a lot of the keyword phrases in the URLs (sometimes the main domain name and sometimes in the page name) it may still hold some value.

Citations and Studies:

  1. Search Engine Journal – A study discussed by Search Engine Journal highlighted that while keywords in URLs have some impact, they’re not a primary ranking factor.
  2. Moz’s Search Ranking Factors Survey – Moz’s survey among SEO professionals found that while keywords in URLs are beneficial, their influence is relatively minor compared to other factors like content quality and backlinks.
  3. Internet Presence – From multiple tests done on various subjects and comparing domain strength, page strength, quality backlinks, and other factors compared to similar websites that have and do not have the keyword phrase in their URL.

Balancing Keywords and Readability in URLs

  1. Relevance Over Repetition: Choose URLs that are relevant to the page’s content rather than stuffing them with keywords.
  2. Clarity and Simplicity: A clear, straightforward URL is more user-friendly and is favored by search engines.
  3. Consistency in Structure: Maintain a logical and consistent URL structure throughout your website.


The role of keyword phrases in URLs has seen a significant shift from a heavy-hitting ranking strategy to a more nuanced and balanced approach. It’s about finding the sweet spot where the URL is both informative and keyword-relevant, without appearing forced or spammy. In the end, a well-crafted URL, like a good book title, should entice and inform both the reader and the ever-evolving search engines.