How NOT to Structure Your URLs for Local Rankings

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Feast your eyes:

Problem 1: 3 subdirectories (in this case, parent pages):





Problem 2:  The page name:


Yep.  13 words.


Problem 3:  Most of the URL won’t show in the SERPs.


Problem 4.  Even if there was a gun pointed at your head, you couldn’t tell someone over the phone how to go directly to the page:

Go to slash social dash security dash disability dash and dash ssi dash claims – yes, that’s “claims” with an “S” – slash THE dash four dash administrative…


Problem 5.  Your breadcrumbs might not improve the user-experience much:


The consequences?

Google won’t re-crawl your page until you’re wearing Depends.

And you know which page(s) will get penalized first, if and when Google revisits the question of how much on-page “optimization” is too much.

Keep it simple.  1 or at most 2 subdirectories.  Short names for those.  Short names for your pages, too.

Hat tip to Darren Shaw for telling me about that page and other good ones.


  1. You can comment on a site without &*$%ing on it. I do practice law 15 hours a day and try to add content a couple hours here and there.

  2. avatar Kirsten Meyer says

    What Kathy said. I just happened to come across this post via one of the SEO round-up email lists I subscribe to and I don’t know anyone involved here, so entirely unbiased. As I’m reading the post, I don’t see anything negative towards Nick or his business. This is about one small aspect of a site, which is online and as such entirely fair game. Nick, no one expects you to be an SEO guru and since you aren’t billing yourself as one it in no way reflects negatively on you. SEO isn’t easy and yours is a common mistake. Kathy is absolutely right your site will actually benefit from this via the inbound link. It may have been unwanted advice about your site but even if you choose to ignore it, it helps more than harms you. I also just visited your site (more traffic for you) and I agree, it’s a respectable-looking site; kudos to you. Phil, I appreciated the post; thanks for sharing your insights.

  3. avatar Jonathan G. says

    Nick, to sum it up, what Phil is really saying is that the URL should not be longer than the post itself.

  4. I’ll let you critique my client’s URL problem, Phil! The site was set up as part of a trade with someone who didn’t know what they were doing and all the permalinks are messed up (the whole site needs a re-do for a variety of reasons, so don’t hold that against me!). What’s the best way to fix this?

    1. WordPress was set up as a subdirectory so is redirected to:

    2. Here’s the link to a blog post: (The permalink is set up as:


    • Hi Cindy,

      That’s a bit in-depth of a question for here!

    • gosh Cindy, that’s so kind of you to offer!

    • Cindy:
      You probably already know this, but others reading this post may not.
      Whenever you change a page URL, always do a redirect from the old URL to the new one. Copy every single page URL before you begin. I’ve done this many times, completely rebuilding a few site using the WordPress “Redirection” plugin. It is a heavy plugin on the database, but I typically give Google and other crawlers 6-8 months to make the change permanent. Then I deactivate the plugin and manually remove entries from the database. Has worked like a charm, and no crawl errors in webmaster tools.
      ~Good Luck 🙂

  5. NIck, don’t worry. None of us see Phil’s post here as trashing you or your site at all. In fact, we all think you are pretty awesome for doing what you do! And I mean that. I love all your FAQs and the fact that you answer comments. With just a little bit of education, all that effort you’re putting out there could bring you some better dividends for you. So think of Phil as your knight in shining armor. He’s helping. And he gave you a nice, juicy backlink to boot. And I may just want to interview you as an attorney who’s doing some pretty cool stuff which will give you another backlink. SERIOUSLY. Plus it got me to look at your website and now I know who you are and what you do. And when I hear of anyone in Pensacola, FL needing a social security attorney I know who to refer them to. And with that said I just tied in a local signal on a page linking to you. Maybe Google will give you a Pensacola point! So as they say S#!t happens, but quite often it can turn into healthy fertilizer. May your business grow! 🙂

  6. Thanks, Kathy.

    Nick, again, it was just a critique of one small part of your site. Nothing personal. FWIW, you’re doing pretty well when my immediate gripe is just the length of your URLs.

  7. I understand. Although my site is publicly available, Phil did not find my site by mere happenstance. Here was my concern so that you get some history:
    I know site needs some work.
    I contacted Darren Shaw to review site and give me quote on SEO.
    He goes and tells Phil about my site behind my back.
    Phil goes online and writes this up.
    To me, Darren Shaw’s conduct was completely unprofessional.
    Imagine for a moment if I consulted with a prospective client in my industry. I then go and tell a colleague about how messed up this client was. This colleague goes online and blogs about how messed up this client is. The Florida bar would sanction me and take my license.
    It is a moral and ethical issue for me. That is why I was so mad.

  8. Nick, I understand where you’re coming from. I can imagine it’s a shocker to have even one little aspect of your site – otherwise pretty good – critiqued by someone who often critiques things.

    Darren didn’t do anything unprofessional. We were talking about bad URLs one day. He mentioned that one page of yours, and another page or two on sites I don’t remember. I latched onto yours and did a quick post about that one element: the lousy URL.

    It wasn’t an impulsive post: I always think about whether I need to anonymize anything, and whether the post is for the greater good. I concluded “no” to the first question, and “yes” to the second.

    Your lawyer-and-potential-client analogy doesn’t hold up. Lawyers and doctors are uniquely regulated. Because potential clients’ and patients’ lives can become complicated if other people know about their problems. (Not news to you, of course.) What’s the problem that I broadcasted here? An overly long URL on an otherwise good site.

    Presumably that page gets some visitors – any of whom can see that minor issue, and draw the same conclusions I’ve drawn. Hardly a question of “confidentiality.”

  9. Phil, You and I can agree to disagree.
    I don’t have an issue with you posting (although I’m still not a fan of the general tone). I think what Darren did was wrong. Note: I didn’t say it was unethical. I said it was unprofessional.
    I know there are not confidentiality issues here as it is a public site. It was still unprofessional for Darren to call out the site after a consultation with him.
    I ran this by several others and they agreed that it was very uncool of Darren to share this information after a consultation. At least one said she was thinking of using his services and would not after reading your post.

  10. I see what you’re saying, Nick.

    But you and Darren (and I) may draw different lines around what’s mentionable after calls like the one you describe. Obviously, the specifics of conversations with past and current clients – who are usually under NDA – are off-limits.

    Or if there was something touchy that you confided in me or Darren or someone else – like a spammy PO-box address that you’re trying to move away from – then that would be off-limits, too.

    But for the entire conversation to be shrouded in mystery, with no parts discussable between friends / colleagues? I maintain that if anyone’s “at fault,” it’s me.

    As for the tone of my post, I think you’ll agree that to the extent it was a “roast,” it was just a roast of that URL. Not of you, your site, or your practice.

  11. By the way, Nick, forgot to mention earlier: I’d be glad to do a free critique of your local visibility. Like a scaled-down version of my X-Ray service. You can take the recommendations and run with them (or not).

    I can’t say that you exactly rolled with the punch of my little URL critique, but it’s a way of saying thanks for being an OK sport overall.

    Feel free to email me if you’re interested.

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