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The Ultimate Guide for an SEO-Friendly URL Structure

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To many, URLs are just seemingly inconsequential addresses to webpages. However, how you structure URLs for SEO matters.

They may seem less important than the title and heading elements but URLs can be a powerful tool for achieving SEO success.

Are Keywords in URLs Used for Ranking?

There’s no clear answer to whether keywords in the URL are used for ranking. Here’s why.

2010: Approach Keywords in URL Like a User

In 2010, Google’s Matt Cutts published a video where he discussed keywords in the path name versus keywords in the filename.

The path name is:

/tools/wood/drills.html

The multi-hyphen filename is:

/tools-wood-drills.html

Cutts recommended approaching the problem from the point of what a user might prefer.

He stated that the multi-hyphenated version may appear spammy to users.

He then affirmed that there is no multi-hyphen algorithm that will penalize multiple hyphens, doubling down on the approach of looking at it from a user perspective.

Cutts implied that there was a user impact effect in the following statement:

“As far as search engine ranking, I’m not sure that there’s really that much difference between the two.

But you might want to be a little careful because of the user experience of having a really long filename that’s just stuffed with hyphens. People might not like it if they see dash, dash, dash, dash, dash, dash and so they might not click on it.”

Matt didn’t address the ranking factor aspect.

It could be that what he wanted to stress was that the user experience part – what people would click on in the search engine results pages (SERPs) – was more important than any ranking factor-related benefit.

2011: Keywords in Domain are Ranking Factors

In 2011, in a somewhat related video about keywords in domains, he stated that Google was thinking about turning down the influence of keywords in the domain.

Like keywords in URLs, keywords in domains were also ranking factors.

But they were downplayed in terms of how important they were.

Matt downplays their ranking factor role in favor of other factors related to user experience and marketing – which is similar to how he also downplayed keywords in the URL.

2016: Google Says Keywords are Very Small Ranking Factor

In a Webmaster Central hangout in January 2016, John Mueller did in fact acknowledge that keywords in the URL were a ranking factor.

However, he minimized the importance of that as a ranking factor, describing its influence as being “very small.”

Mueller:

“I believe that’s a very small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’d really try to force. And it’s not something where I’d say it’s even worth your effort to kind of restructure your site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”

Calling it “very small” lines up well with what Cutts had been saying all along – that there are other areas of a site that are more important to focus on.

2017: Keywords in URL are Overrated

Mueller continued to minimize the importance of keywords in the URL as a ranking factor.

In 2017, he called them overrated.

2018: Don’t Worry About Keywords in URL

As recently as 2018, Mueller continued to downplay keywords in URL as a ranking factor, saying that they’re not even seen by users.

(Presumably, he’s referencing URLs invisibility in the Google SERPs.)

Keywords in a URL may be a ranking factor but judging from Googler statements, it’s a very minor one.

Are Keywords in Bare URL Links Used as Anchor Text?

There’s an idea around that if someone links to your site with just the link, Google will at least use the keywords in the URL as anchor text, which will help that site rank better for that anchor text.

That kind of link is sometimes called a naked link.

It’s called naked because it is a link in the form of a URL instead of hidden in an anchor text.

Bare URL:

http://www.example.com/

URL in an anchor text:

Click here!

Mueller said (How Google Handles Naked Links, September 2020) that naked links do not pass anchor text information.

This is what he said:

“From what I understand, our systems do try to recognize this and say well, this is just a URL that is linked, it’s not that there’s a valuable anchor here.

So we can take this into account as a link but we can’t really use that anchor text for anything in particular.

So from that point of view it’s a normal link but we don’t have any context there.”

Can Keywords in a URL Increase Clicks From SERPS?

There’s an old SEO idea that says using keywords in the URL will help stimulate a higher click-through rate (CTR) from the search results pages (SERPs).

This might have been true in the past.

It’s less true today, particularly for sites that use breadcrumb navigation and/or breadcrumb navigation structured data.

Google is instead using the category name in the search results for sites that feature breadcrumb navigation or breadcrumb navigation structured data.

The keywords in the URL are not visible.

Screenshot of Google search results with no discernible URLsScreenshot of a search result where Google does not show the URL

For sites that don’t use breadcrumb navigation or the breadcrumb structured data, Google does display the URLs with keywords in them.

But Google does not highlight them.

If Google did highlight the keywords in the URL, it might have helped to draw the eye to the listing—but this is not the case.

Screenshot of a keyword showing in Google's search engine results pages aka SERPsScreenshot showing that keywords in the SERPs are not highlighted

What Use Are Keywords in a URL?

Aside from a very minor possible ranking factor weight, there are clear benefits to site visitors for keywords in a URL.

Keywords in the URL can help users understand what a page is about.

Even though those keywords might not always show up in the SERPs, they will show when linked as a bare URL.

Example of a bare URL:

https:www.example.com/widgets/best-widgets

When in doubt, optimize for the user because Google always recommends making pages useful for users.

This tends to align with the kinds of webpages Google wants to rank.

Best Practices for URL Structure

Standardize Your URLs in Lowercase

Most servers don’t have problems with mixed case URLs.

Even so, it’s a good idea to standardize what your URLs look like.

URLs are commonly written in the lowercase “like-this-dot-com” as opposed to mixed case “Like-That-Dot-Net” or in all uppercaseLIKE-THIS-DOT-BIZ.”

It’s best to do that as well if only because that’s what users expect and it is easier to read than all caps.

Keeping your URLs standardized will help prevent linking errors within the site and from outside of the site, too.

Use Hyphens, Not Underscores

Always use hyphens (-) and not underscores (_) because underscores cannot be seen when the URL is published as a bare link.

Here’s an example of how underscores in links are a bad practice:

Animated GIF showing how underscores are invisible when formatted within a linkUnderscores are invisible when formatted in a link. This means that users are unable to accurately see what the URL is.Animated GIF showing how underscores are invisible when formatted within a link

Use Accurate Keywords in Category URL Structure

Using a less relevant keyword as the category name is a common mistake that comes from choosing the keyword with the most traffic.

Sometimes the highest traffic keyword isn’t necessarily what the pages in the category are about.

Select category names that truly describe what the pages contained within it are about.

When in doubt, pick the words that are most relevant to users who are looking for the content or products that are contained within those categories.

Avoid Using Superfluous Words in URL Structure

Sometimes a CMS might add the word /category/ into the URL structure.

This is an undesirable URL structure.

There is no justification for a URL structure that looks like /category/widget/.

It should simply be /widget/.

Similarly, if a better word than “blog” exists for telling users what to expect out of a section of your site, then use that instead.

Words guide users to content they are looking for.

Use them appropriately.

Future Proof Your URLs

Just because a date is in the title of the article doesn’t mean it belongs in the URL.

If you intend to create a “Top xxx for 20xx” type of post, it is generally a better practice to use the same URL year after year.

So instead of:

example.com/widgets/top-widgets-2020

Try removing the year and simply go with:

example.com/widgets/top-widgets

The benefit of updating the content and the title year after year and keeping the same URL is that all of the links that went to the previous year of content remain.

Anyone who follows the old links will find the updated content.

It’s possible to create an archive of previous years, as well.

That’s up to you.

Trailing Slash or No Trailing Slash

A trailing slash is this symbol: [ / ].

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) the group responsible for web standards – recommends best practice is that the trailing slash should be used to indicate a “container URI” for denoting parent/child relationships.

(A URI is used to identify resources in the same way as a URL, except those resources may not be on the web.)

A parent/child relationship is when a category contains numerous webpages.

The category “container” is the parent and the webpages contained within it are the children documents that are contained within the category.

This is what the W3C states in the section called, Linked Data Platform Best Practices and Guidelines:

“2.6 Include a trailing slash in container URIs
When representing container membership with hierarchical URLs, including the trailing slash in a container’s URI makes it easier to use relative URIs.”

In HTML, the trailing slash is supposed to indicate the presence of a directory or a category section.

In 2017 Google’s John Mueller tweeted that apart from the home page, a URL with and a URL without a trailing slash are different web pages.

For example:

https://www.example.com/widgets

can be a different page from:

https://www.example.com/widgets/

/widgets denotes a page while /widgets/ represents a directory or category section.

Mueller’s tweet in 2017 reaffirmed an official Google blog post from 2010 (To Slash or Not to Slash) that made similar statements.

However, even in that 2010 blog post, Google pretty much left it up to publishers to decide how to use trailing slashes.

But Google’s adherence to a common trailing slash convention reflects that point of view.

Google Is Flexible on Trailing Slash Best Practices

Here’s an example of how Google codes URLs.

This URL features the .html at the end and is clearly a web page:

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/11/timing-for-page-experience.html

This URL ending with a trailing slash is a category page:

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/11/

And this is the container for the month year of 2020:

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/

The above examples conform with the standard recommendation to use trailing slashes at the end for a category directory and to not use it at the end of the URL when it’s a web page.

Google URLs Lacking Trailing Slash Altogether

However, other sections published by Google don’t conform to that standard.

The following examples are categories and webpages that do not use a trailing slash.

  • This is a URL for a category section:
    https://developers.google.com/analytics
  • This is a web page:
    https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/integrate
  • And this is another web page:
    https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/firebase/android

All of those webpages and category pages look similar because they don’t use a trailing slash.

Google Is Flexible in Use of Trailing Slash

The above examples show that yes, there are best practices.

But this is one of those best practices that can be ignored.

As far back as 2010, Google’s advice on the use of trailing slashes was flexible.

According to Google:

“…you’re free to choose whichever you like.”

Perhaps the most important point about trailing slash in the URL is that you choose one way of doing it and sticking with that so you can avoid confusion.

It also makes it easier to redirect non-trailing slash URLs to the trailing slash, etc.

URLs for SEO Purposes

The topic of SEO-friendly URLs is deeper than one may suspect, with many nuances to it.

While Google is increasingly not showing URLs in the SERPs, popular search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo still show them.

URLs are a good way to signal to a potential site visitor what a page is about.

The proper use of URLs can help improve click-through rates wherever the links are shared.

And keeping URLs shorter makes them user friendly and easier to share.

Webpages that make it easy to share are helping users make the pages popular.

Don’t underestimate the power of popularity for ranking purposes because some of what search engines do is to show users what the users are expecting to see.

The URL is a humble and somewhat overlooked part of the SEO equation but it can contribute a great deal to helping your pages rank well.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured image and screenshots by author, November 2020

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4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

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4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

In a significant leap in large language model (LLM) development, Mistral AI announced the release of its newest model, Mixtral-8x7B.

What Is Mixtral-8x7B?

Mixtral-8x7B from Mistral AI is a Mixture of Experts (MoE) model designed to enhance how machines understand and generate text.

Imagine it as a team of specialized experts, each skilled in a different area, working together to handle various types of information and tasks.

A report published in June reportedly shed light on the intricacies of OpenAI’s GPT-4, highlighting that it employs a similar approach to MoE, utilizing 16 experts, each with around 111 billion parameters, and routes two experts per forward pass to optimize costs.

This approach allows the model to manage diverse and complex data efficiently, making it helpful in creating content, engaging in conversations, or translating languages.

Mixtral-8x7B Performance Metrics

Mistral AI’s new model, Mixtral-8x7B, represents a significant step forward from its previous model, Mistral-7B-v0.1.

It’s designed to understand better and create text, a key feature for anyone looking to use AI for writing or communication tasks.

This latest addition to the Mistral family promises to revolutionize the AI landscape with its enhanced performance metrics, as shared by OpenCompass.

Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

What makes Mixtral-8x7B stand out is not just its improvement over Mistral AI’s previous version, but the way it measures up to models like Llama2-70B and Qwen-72B.

mixtral-8x7b performance metrics compared to llama 2 open source ai modelsmixtral-8x7b performance metrics compared to llama 2 open source ai models

It’s like having an assistant who can understand complex ideas and express them clearly.

One of the key strengths of the Mixtral-8x7B is its ability to handle specialized tasks.

For example, it performed exceptionally well in specific tests designed to evaluate AI models, indicating that it’s good at general text understanding and generation and excels in more niche areas.

This makes it a valuable tool for marketing professionals and SEO experts who need AI that can adapt to different content and technical requirements.

The Mixtral-8x7B’s ability to deal with complex math and coding problems also suggests it can be a helpful ally for those working in more technical aspects of SEO, where understanding and solving algorithmic challenges are crucial.

This new model could become a versatile and intelligent partner for a wide range of digital content and strategy needs.

How To Try Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Demos

You can experiment with Mistral AI’s new model, Mixtral-8x7B, to see how it responds to queries and how it performs compared to other open-source models and OpenAI’s GPT-4.

Please note that, like all generative AI content, platforms running this new model may produce inaccurate information or otherwise unintended results.

User feedback for new models like this one will help companies like Mistral AI improve future versions and models.

1. Perplexity Labs Playground

In Perplexity Labs, you can try Mixtral-8x7B along with Meta AI’s Llama 2, Mistral-7b, and Perplexity’s new online LLMs.

In this example, I ask about the model itself and notice that new instructions are added after the initial response to extend the generated content about my query.

mixtral-8x7b perplexity labs playgroundScreenshot from Perplexity, December 2023mixtral-8x7b perplexity labs playground

While the answer looks correct, it begins to repeat itself.

mixtral-8x7b errorsScreenshot from Perplexity Labs, December 2023mixtral-8x7b errors

The model did provide an over 600-word answer to the question, “What is SEO?”

Again, additional instructions appear as “headers” to seemingly ensure a comprehensive answer.

what is seo by mixtral-8x7bScreenshot from Perplexity Labs, December 2023what is seo by mixtral-8x7b

2. Poe

Poe hosts bots for popular LLMs, including OpenAI’s GPT-4 and DALL·E 3, Meta AI’s Llama 2 and Code Llama, Google’s PaLM 2, Anthropic’s Claude-instant and Claude 2, and StableDiffusionXL.

These bots cover a wide spectrum of capabilities, including text, image, and code generation.

The Mixtral-8x7B-Chat bot is operated by Fireworks AI.

poe bot for mixtral-8x7b firebaseScreenshot from Poe, December 2023poe bot for mixtral-8x7b firebase

It’s worth noting that the Fireworks page specifies it is an “unofficial implementation” that was fine-tuned for chat.

When asked what the best backlinks for SEO are, it provided a valid answer.

mixtral-8x7b poe best backlinks responseScreenshot from Poe, December 2023mixtral-8x7b poe best backlinks response

Compare this to the response offered by Google Bard.

Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AIMixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AIScreenshot from Google Bard, December 2023Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

3. Vercel

Vercel offers a demo of Mixtral-8x7B that allows users to compare responses from popular Anthropic, Cohere, Meta AI, and OpenAI models.

vercel mixtral-8x7b demo compare gpt-4Screenshot from Vercel, December 2023vercel mixtral-8x7b demo compare gpt-4

It offers an interesting perspective on how each model interprets and responds to user questions.

mixtral-8x7b vs cohere on best resources for learning seoScreenshot from Vercel, December 2023mixtral-8x7b vs cohere on best resources for learning seo

Like many LLMs, it does occasionally hallucinate.

mixtral-8x7b hallucinationsScreenshot from Vercel, December 2023mixtral-8x7b hallucinations

4. Replicate

The mixtral-8x7b-32 demo on Replicate is based on this source code. It is also noted in the README that “Inference is quite inefficient.”

Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AIScreenshot from Replicate, December 2023Mixtral-8x7B: 4 Ways To Try The New Model From Mistral AI

In the example above, Mixtral-8x7B describes itself as a game.

Conclusion

Mistral AI’s latest release sets a new benchmark in the AI field, offering enhanced performance and versatility. But like many LLMs, it can provide inaccurate and unexpected answers.

As AI continues to evolve, models like the Mixtral-8x7B could become integral in shaping advanced AI tools for marketing and business.


Featured image: T. Schneider/Shutterstock



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OpenAI Investigates ‘Lazy’ GPT-4 Complaints On Google Reviews, X

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OpenAI Investigates 'Lazy' GPT-4 Complaints On Google Reviews, X

OpenAI, the company that launched ChatGPT a little over a year ago, has recently taken to social media to address concerns regarding the “lazy” performance of GPT-4 on social media and Google Reviews.

Screenshot from X, December 2023OpenAI Investigates ‘Lazy’ GPT-4 Complaints On Google Reviews, X

This move comes after growing user feedback online, which even includes a one-star review on the company’s Google Reviews.

OpenAI Gives Insight Into Training Chat Models, Performance Evaluations, And A/B Testing

OpenAI, through its @ChatGPTapp Twitter account, detailed the complexities involved in training chat models.

chatgpt openai a/b testingScreenshot from X, December 2023chatgpt openai a/b testing

The organization highlighted that the process is not a “clean industrial process” and that variations in training runs can lead to noticeable differences in the AI’s personality, creative style, and political bias.

Thorough AI model testing includes offline evaluation metrics and online A/B tests. The final decision to release a new model is based on a data-driven approach to improve the “real” user experience.

OpenAI’s Google Review Score Affected By GPT-4 Performance, Billing Issues

This explanation comes after weeks of user feedback about GPT-4 becoming worse on social media networks like X.

Complaints also appeared in OpenAI’s community forums.

openai community forums gpt-4 user feedbackScreenshot from OpenAI, December 2023openai community forums gpt-4 user feedback

The experience led one user to leave a one-star rating for OpenAI via Google Reviews. Other complaints regarded accounts, billing, and the artificial nature of AI.

openai google reviews star rating Screenshot from Google Reviews, December 2023openai google reviews star rating

A recent user on Product Hunt gave OpenAI a rating that also appears to be related to GPT-4 worsening.

openai reviewsScreenshot from Product Hunt, December 2023openai reviews

GPT-4 isn’t the only issue that local reviewers complain about. On Yelp, OpenAI has a one-star rating for ChatGPT 3.5 performance.

The complaint:

yelp openai chatgpt reviewScreenshot from Yelp, December 2023yelp openai chatgpt review

In related OpenAI news, the review with the most likes aligns with recent rumors about a volatile workplace, alleging that OpenAI is a “Cutthroat environment. Not friendly. Toxic workers.”

google review for openai toxic workersScreenshot from Google Reviews, December 2023google review for openai toxic workers

The reviews voted the most helpful on Glassdoor about OpenAI suggested that employee frustration and product development issues stem from the company’s shift in focus on profits.

openai employee review on glassdooropenai employee review on glassdoor

openai employee reviewsScreenshots from Glassdoor, December 2023openai employee reviews

This incident provides a unique outlook on how customer and employee experiences can impact any business through local reviews and business ratings platforms.

openai inc google business profile local serps google reviewsScreenshot from Google, December 2023openai inc google business profile local serps google reviews

Google SGE Highlights Positive Google Reviews

In addition to occasional complaints, Google reviewers acknowledged the revolutionary impact of OpenAI’s technology on various fields.

The most positive review mentions about the company appear in Google SGE (Search Generative Experience).

Google SGE response on OpenAIScreenshot from Google SGE, December 2023Google SGE response on OpenAI

Conclusion

OpenAI’s recent insights into training chat models and response to public feedback about GPT-4 performance illustrate AI technology’s dynamic and evolving nature and its impact on those who depend on the AI platform.

Especially the people who just received an invitation to join ChatGPT Plus after being waitlisted while OpenAI paused new subscriptions and upgrades. Or those developing GPTs for the upcoming GPT Store launch.

As AI advances, professionals in these fields must remain agile, informed, and responsive to technological developments and the public’s reception of these advancements.


Featured image: Tada Images/Shutterstock



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ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

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ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

ChatGPT Plus subscriptions and upgrades remain paused after a surge in demand for new features created outages.

Some users who signed up for the waitlist have received invites to join ChatGPT Plus.

Screenshot from Gmail, December 2023ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

This has resulted in a few shares of the link that is accessible for everyone. For now.

RELATED: GPT Store Set To Launch In 2024 After ‘Unexpected’ Delays

In addition to the invites, signs that more people are getting access to GPTs include an introductory screen popping up on free ChatGPT accounts.

ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive InvitesScreenshot from ChatGPT, December 2023ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

Unfortunately, they still aren’t accessible without a Plus subscription.

chatgpt plus subscriptions upgrades paused waitlistScreenshot from ChatGPT, December 2023chatgpt plus subscriptions upgrades paused waitlist

You can sign up for the waitlist by clicking on the option to upgrade in the left sidebar of ChatGPT on a desktop browser.

ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive InvitesScreenshot from ChatGPT, December 2023ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

OpenAI also suggests ChatGPT Enterprise for those who need more capabilities, as outlined in the pricing plans below.

ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive InvitesScreenshot from OpenAI, December 2023ChatGPT Plus Upgrades Paused; Waitlisted Users Receive Invites

Why Are ChatGPT Plus Subscriptions Paused?

According to a post on X by OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman, the recent surge in usage following the DevDay developers conference has led to capacity challenges, resulting in the decision to pause ChatGPT Plus signups.

The decision to pause new ChatGPT signups follows a week where OpenAI services – including ChatGPT and the API – experienced a series of outages related to high-demand and DDoS attacks.

Demand for ChatGPT Plus resulted in eBay listings supposedly offering one or more months of the premium subscription.

When Will ChatGPT Plus Subscriptions Resume?

So far, we don’t have any official word on when ChatGPT Plus subscriptions will resume. We know the GPT Store is set to open early next year after recent boardroom drama led to “unexpected delays.”

Therefore, we hope that OpenAI will onboard waitlisted users in time to try out all of the GPTs created by OpenAI and community builders.

What Are GPTs?

GPTs allow users to create one or more personalized ChatGPT experiences based on a specific set of instructions, knowledge files, and actions.

Search marketers with ChatGPT Plus can try GPTs for helpful content assessment and learning SEO.

There are also GPTs for analyzing Google Search Console data.

And GPTs that will let you chat with analytics data from 20 platforms, including Google Ads, GA4, and Facebook.

Google search has indexed hundreds of public GPTs. According to an alleged list of GPT statistics in a GitHub repository, DALL-E, the top GPT from OpenAI, has received 5,620,981 visits since its launch last month. Included in the top 20 GPTs is Canva, with 291,349 views.

 

Weighing The Benefits Of The Pause

Ideally, this means that developers working on building GPTs and using the API should encounter fewer issues (like being unable to save GPT drafts).

But it could also mean a temporary decrease in new users of GPTs since they are only available to Plus subscribers – including the ones I tested for learning about ranking factors and gaining insights on E-E-A-T from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

custom gpts for seoScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023custom gpts for seo

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