Despite the maxim to the contrary, many people judge books by their covers. On the internet, consumers can discern a lot about the content on a page by it’s URL structure. The name of the page, the category it’s in, etc. can help searchers determine if a particular page probably contains the information they are looking for. To make it easier for people to quickly make sense of pages they see in search results Google is changing the way URLs are presented in mobile search.
After experimenting the with idea for a long time, Google announced they will start using simplified URL structure in search results on mobile devices. Essentially, instead of using the full url in the search results, there will be a bread crumb trail based on the category or folder the URL is located in.
In a clear case of a picture being worth a thousand words, the image below makes the concept easier to understand:
“Well-structured URLs offer users a quick hint about the page topic and how the page fits within the website,” wrote Bartlomiej Niechwiej, Software Engineer, and Rob Ennals, a Product Manager, in a blog post on Google. “To help mobile searchers understand your website better when we show it in the mobile search results, today we’re updating the algorithms that display URLs in the search results to better reflect the names of websites, using the real-world name of the site instead of the domain name, and the URL structure of the sites in a breadcrumbs-like format.”
The change only affects mobile devices and will roll out over time. And as usual, this will start in the US and branch out worldwide overtime. This change makes more sense for mobile search because with limited space, using an entire URL results in a lot information being truncated. Additionally, the bread crumbs are easier to understand, and in the fast-paced world of mobile search, anything that helps users get to the answer faster is a benefit.
For the most part, marketers shouldn’t have to change anything because of Google’s new URL structuring. It does make it more important for URLs to be structured by taxonomies, but this is something that website owners should have done anyway a long time ago to improve SEO. And no one should still be using content management systems that produce urls by page number instead of by page/post title (though I do still see this sometimes and it’s baffling).
If anything, marketers may want to take this change by Google as an opportunity to review their category names to make sure that they would be easy to understand at first glance. Rename categories that are acronyms most people wouldn’t recognize. Avoid duplicate category and subcategory names or other such redundancies. Use keywords as category names when possible, which again, is something marketers are probably doing already.
Now that Google is restructuring the way URLs are displayed in mobile search, there’s a good chance that more people will look at them. This means marketers get another opportunity to make a quick impact with mobile searchers.
For more information on Google updates, read this article on Google’s plan to bold the answers to search questions.