one excellent way to make your website more optimized for natural search is to have search engine friendly URL strings. in the “old” days, a search engine friendly URL string was the difference between something like:

http://www.gravy.com/good/gravy.html

and something along the lines of dynamic, database-driven website URL strings such as:

http://www.grossgravy.com/index.asp?pid=156263&cid=33452&msscsid=1293n8913n9923h97123b78g9512h35945

the latter used to really annoy the search engine spiders as they were/are designed for scale and had a hard time parsing such monstrosities. they would hit something like that and would just disregard it.

the bots became smarter and better over time and were able to understand URL strings with one or two dynamic variables (?, &, =, etc.) and now can understand/index multiple variable URL strings.

that is not to say that they appreciate these types of URLs, my guess is that they would prefer the shorter, more SEO-friendly strings over the dyanmic strings any day. in addition, it has long been thought that the shorter the URL string, the more search engine optimized it is and the more relevance/weight is given to it by the bots. the understanding was that the further down the URL path the less relevant the content must be (this was with regard to URLs that used folder structures). for example:

http://www.gravy.com/tasty.html

was given more weight/relevance than the following URL…

http://www.gravy.com/peanut/buttery/tasty/gravy.html

i’m not 100% sold on the idea that the latter URL is given less weight any longer. i strongly believe that as long as the string is bot-friendly that being a few folder levels down in the hierarchy will not penalize that given page. this is open for debate of course.

even so, i still follow the practice of using shorter URL strings as much as possible with the higher level category pages being no more than one folder level off the root and sub-category level pages being two folder levels off the root. old habits die hard.

since the bots are better at indexing complex URL strings, the new(er) factor to consider when architecting your URLs is to inject keyword text and phrases into your URL strings. this is fairly easy to do if your site is a basic HTML-type site since you have the ability to create real folders and actually name your HTML files yourself. on dynimically driven websites, you really have to be a developer with experience creating dynamic websites and a good understanding of URL re-writing techniques using Apache web server or ISAPI Rewrite for IIS (Windows) servers.

the best practice is to separate words by hyphens “-” to simulate a “space” in the words. Google has recently claimed that underscores “_” are acceptable as well but i would stick with hyphens (old habits).

if you have a website that sells products of varying types but that can be categorized well, you would do yourself justice by optimizing your URL strings with keywords. let’s say you sell pet products online and you have a category for dog foods. a possible URL structure to follow might be:

http://www.petproducts.com/dog-food/puppies/
or
http://www.petproducts.com/dog-food/adult/

or something like…

http://www.petproducts.com/dog-food.asp

then, if the landing page that the keyword-rich URL points to has the same keywords that the URL string contains, you are really creating a better optimized page than if the URL didn’t have any keywords injected into them at all.

this is really the coup de gravy of optimization… having a keyword-rich URL string, with the same keywords in your Title tag and in your body copy.

now go out there and force your web developers to create keyword optimized URL strings.

if you have a website with a lot of pages (one hundred or more) and it is well indexed in the search engines, you really have a great resource for developing your own organic link building campaign.

link building is the act of soliciting other websites to create hyperlinks that point back to your site, in order to increase your ranking and relevance to the search engines.

paid link building entails paying someone to link back to you. organic link building is obtaining links that don’t cost you a dime.

but what many people seem to forget is that their own web site is a possible resource for quality, keyword-optimized links.

let me explain…

over time, your site will build up PageRank. and if you follow good SEO tactics and continually add quality content to your site, you will have a web site with a PageRank of four/five or better.

now this means that any plain text hyperlink you put on your site to link to other pages within your site will pass along a decent amount of PageRank and will help provide some weight behind whatever keyword phrase you utilize within that hyperlink.

the engines, especially Google, like to see keyword optimized text within hyperlinks that subsequently link to landing pages that contain the same text within their Title tags, their header tag(s), their body copy, etc.

so technically, just by utilizing your own website, you can create a decent amount of link popularity around a few key terms by creating the right hyperlinks and pointing them to their respective landing pages.

if you have a handful of terms that you consider the most important to your website, consider creating a single landing page for each one of these terms and then creating a site-wide footer with these keyword optimized hyperlinks that point to these respective pages.

in essence you would be passing a good deal of PageRank/weight/relevance for these terms (by having these links on every page of your site) and applying this to these landing pages.

couple that with an organic link building campaign outside of your website and you’ll be sitting pretty.