Readable (SEF) URL's

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Creating easily understandable URL's is very important. If you look at a URL, you should already be able to guess the subject of the page the URL is created for. Ideally, also the focus keyword for that particular page should be included in the URL. The URL is actually a quite important SEO parameter, so pay attention to this. In many CMS's, like Joomla, it is very important to choose a base-configuration for your URL-creation. Getting this right from the start is extremely important. Having to change this in a later stage can cause you all kinds of trouble!

URL's in Joomla

When configured incorrectly, Joomla generates URL's that cannot be easily understood, like this example: 

This is completely meaningless to both users and search engines of course, and it should be presented as something more readable, like this: 

In earlier versions of Joomla, you had to manually adjust your settings to achieve this. Happily this is not necessary anymore in newer versions, they ship with a much better base configuration. Still though, there is a lot of tuning that can be done. First, always go to Global Configuration and check the SEO settings:

SEO settings joomla

The first parameter that you should always make sure is switched on is Search Engine Friendly URL's. This will achieve the readable URL's we just discussed, but luckily this is the default setting.

Secondly, we need to consider the Use URL Rewriting parameter. With this switched off (which is the default setting), your URL's are readable, but they still always start with index.php/. Preferably, we should remove this as well: Set the parameter to Yes, and at the same time, rename the file htaccess.txt (in the root of your Joomla site) to .htaccess. This needs to be done at the same time. It only works on Apache servers, but 95% of the hosts run on these, so this should seldomly be a problem. If you are using a local site on your windows PC, you may notice that you cannot rename a file without an extension, so you should go to a DOS-prompt in the correct folder and type:

rename htaccess.txt .htaccess

Thirdly, you have the possibility to add a suffix to you URL's, like .html. For SEO this is useless, so leave it off. The following 2 parameters do not affect URL's, but are still important:

Unicode Aliases should be better left untouched. And finally, we have the Include Site name in Page Title's parameter. If you have a site name that makes sense for SEO, include it, either before or after the description. Read this article on for some interesting reading on the impact of this parameter. This affects the Page Title.

URL's are based on Menu-item or Article title

Now that the base configuration is in place, we can look at how URL's for individual article's and menu-items are generated:

  • For menu-items, the URL is built based on the alias of the actual item, which is appended to a possible parent menu-item. So, if your menu-item is called Business hours, with a parent menu-item of Contact, the URL will become /contact/business-hours.
  • For articles, it depends on whether they are linked to a menu-item. If they are, the URL is based on this menu-item. If not, the URL is based on the Item-ID of the article plus the actual alias. As an example: if your article is called How to make soup, the URL could be something like /46-how-to-make-soup.

Knowing this, you can either tune your titles for perfect URL's, but you can also customize your aliases, as the alias is used as the actual base for URL's.

About this site is fully built and written by Simon Kloostra, SEO Specialist and Webdesigner from the Netherlands. I have also published a book and blogs for companies like OStraining, TemplateMonster, SEMrush and others.