5 Benefits of a Standardized Global URL Structure
Do you use the same URL structures for all your international websites?
This is not another article on top-level domain vs. subdomain.
It’s the one that goes deeper into the benefits of a standardized global URL structure for your organization across a global network of sites.
I’ve seen far too many global companies – big and small – cobble together local language sites that would make Frankenstein look like the statue of David.
I’ve even seen sites that use different URL structures depending on the section of the site.
In this article, I outline five benefits of using standardized URL structures and offer some tips.
Hope this helps you minimize a haphazard approach to local language URL structures.
You might think it’s no big deal, but it actually creates a lot of hurdles in many areas of website management that will end up costing you dearly.
For the purposes of this article, I define URL structures as the part of the URL that follows the domain name.
Consisting of a consistent folder structure and an identical final web page for all commercial versions of the site.
Reasons for a lack of organization range from acquisitions, different versions of CMS to a simple lack of coordination or future state planning.
Examples of uniform URLs:
Different examples of URL structure:
Benefit 1: Easier implementation of the Hreflang element
For SEO, having uniform, non-localized URL structures makes it easier to implement hreflang elements.
All alternative versions of URLs are identical.
When the overall structure, folder name and page name are the same across all sites, the CMS can at most find and replace domain or country/language folders and create XML sitemap files or page.
If some sites use different folder or file structures or names, you either need to put in extra logic or manually manage the hreflang elements to implement them.
An added benefit of consistent country and language records makes it much easier to set Google’s geographic targets.
You can add each of the site versions in your Google Search Console (GSC) account and then use the country targeting feature to mark it as a specific country.
The less uniform these structures are, the longer it will take to create and map countries in the GSC.
Advantage 2: Data segmentation
Uniform URL structures make it much easier to compare page performance across sites in analytics tools.
If the same product has dozens of URL variations across multiple sites, it becomes difficult to compare the performance of specific content or product across websites.
This is especially the case as many global teams and analytics teams do not have a full understanding of all variations in URL structure across sites.
For example, if someone creates a segment using the country naming folder in the URLs and assumes that all sites have the folder following the domain, the segment will not work with the JP URL structure: jp.yourdomain.com/products/shoes/women/赤い靴.html
Because it has no “/jp/” folder after the domain.
This also doesn’t work with the ES URL structure: www.yourdomain.com/products/es/shoes/women/redshoes1.html, who has /some products/ before /es/ case.
Advantage 3: simplified content management
If you use a common CMS for all sites, it is rare that the URLs are not created uniformly.
Many sites have “parent-child” content generation set up in the CMS.
However, this can quickly spiral out of control as companies attempt to align their websites with corporate silos.
Larger or more aggressively expanding companies often create new sites or microsites when building new local content segments for a country.
These often do not match the standards of the main sites.
Forcing all sites to conform to a uniform structure and naming convention will minimize many orphaned or misaligned pages on the overall site.
Some pages may not be present on all global sites.
Some content is not applicable to specific sites due to local regulations or contracts with local resellers.
Even in these situations, using uniform URL structures and naming conventions makes content management easier.
Benefit 4: Simplified DevOps management
Companies aware of the costs and challenges of a non-uniform structure have implemented strict rules to avoid it, which greatly facilitates the management of sites.
Using a consistent structure allows for a more convenient migration from staging to production, and especially global update deployments.
This is because the URLs are the same throughout the site, which minimizes testing requirements and redirects if the URLs change.
Advantage 5: Simplified location management
Similar to DevOps benefits, the localization team can take advantage of translation management tools that help identify changes or updates to URLs in one country that need to be implemented in other countries.
This makes it easier to clone a common language because it has often been validated for linguistic and messaging accuracy and just needs to be adapted for additional countries.
This doesn’t mean you have to translate the content using translation tools, or copy and paste the same translation across multiple sites.
You still want to adopt the translation for local nuances etc.
But having standardized URL structures makes it easier to manage the project.
The lack of standardized URL structures and content segmentation challenges described in this article show why the SEO team needs to be better aligned with the Dev Operations team.
It also shows the importance of applying more rigid web content management standards.
Beyond just being an SEO issue, these types of issues create issues that can impact linking, and more importantly, customer usability and satisfaction.
Most of these issues could be effectively managed if teams knew the downstream implications of their lack of control over content segmentation.
Updating URL structures on multiple websites can be a huge undertaking, but the benefits go far beyond SEO.
It goes through multiple websites, and the efforts and costs are certainly justifiable and recoupable in a short amount of time.
This is one of the must-haves if you are planning to build new global websites in multiple countries and languages.
You will thank me later.