Search engine optimization (SEO) for online businesses can mean the difference between a steady flow of website traffic, and a website that has zero organic traffic. One key aspect to ensuring a small online business gets noticed online and in Google’s search results is its technical SEO components. An essential component that goes unoptimized by many websites is its SEO URL structure. More precisely, its permalink structure or URL slug.
Not only does a fully optimized permalink become an SEO friendly URL structure for search engines but it also helps people searching online to know exactly what your web page is about. Luckily, being able to use the best WordPress permalink structure for SEO is an easy process.
Permalinks are categorized as a technical SEO component of your website, which is one of the 4 pillars of SEO. The webpage permalink or URL slug, is the complete address of a web page and is how search engines and users identify the page.
WordPress URL optimization is an important process that can help you increase the rankings of a web page on Google search. There are multiple factors that go into optimizing a URL structure such as using a dynamic URL, static URL, or even having a shorter URL. Moreover, it is important to do keyword research and figure out the primary keyword that should be used in the URL structure.
Don’t worry if this sounds technical to you now, we will cover all of this and more in this blog post!
It is essential that permalinks are optimized as well as structured consistently across your WordPress website. In this post we will cover the following topics:
Table of Contents
What are Permalinks – SEO URL Structure:
Permalink, a permanent link or the URL slug, references the complete structure of the URL used as the address of a specific web page. A permalink has two components, the original domain name and the ‘slug’ portion that follow it. These two components make up a descriptive URL that helps search engines and visitors identify particular pages.
Permalinks are determined while pushing the page or post live, and should be developed in a way that is SEO friendly. This means the optimized URL should have keywords, use a descriptive short URL, as well as be a user-friendly URL to read and be easy to remember and recognize. Permalinks can include an array of attributes such as the publication date, the category that the post is classified under, or can be just the post name.
Finally, once the URL slug portion and the permalink are pushed live, it can not be changed or edited without breaking backlinks and internal links pointing to that particular page. If they are changed it will result in HTTP status code or error and you will need to make 301 redirects in order to save the link juice flowing to the page, and ensure user experience is still good. You can configure 301 redirects with WordPress plugins, or with HTML redirects.
Examples of what Permalinks may look like:
The portion of the link following the domain is considered the URL slug. As mentioned there are URL parameters and best practices that should be used when deciding on the slug. For example, we use post names only and make short descriptive URL slugs.
You can also use the category, which will add ‘breadcrumbs’ for users and make it easier to navigate your website. These will make your URL longer, but this is nothing to worry about, as it is considered a good SEO URL practice.
Why Permalinks are Important to Optimize
There are two main reasons why permalinks are important: Provide information to search engines in order to properly identify the page/post and categorize it correctly, and to establish a systematic system that allows website visitors to easily navigate the website.
In regard to search engines, when they first identify and attempt to crawl and index the new WordPress page or post, they will look at the information in the permalink to understand the content.
Let’s look at an example to understand how being descriptive in permalinks can be a powerful SEO tool.
You just finished your new blog on ‘Best Places to Visit in Portland Oregon.’ Therefore, adhering to permanent links’ best practices you should utilize this in the SEO URL structure to perform better in search results. The link may look something like:
Not only is the permalink descriptive, but it is also utilizing your main keyword phrase. It is giving your SEO a boost, telling search engines exactly what the article is about, and it is short and easily recognizable.
Why a SEO URL structure is important – Things to consider
Another thing that you should keep in mind while constructing your static URL is to include a hyphen between each word, as spaces are not allowed. Moreover, permalinks should be easily recognizable. This builds into our second reason for why permanent links are important: for the user.
Whereas, having easily understandable, and memorable permalinks will allow for visitors to easily share the content. Moreover, it makes it easier for people seeing the shared content, to trust the link. Not only should you focus on how descriptive the link is, but also on the URL length as well. Whereas, if you want your full URL to appear in the search results without being truncated, it should be a maximum of 74 characters
When a link is structured as we highlighted above, people are more likely to trust and click on it. Links with random letters and numbers look spammy and garnish less attention and trust especially when being shared on social media. Remember, social media shares, and interactions are an indirect ranking factor for Google.
How to Structure Permalinks on WordPress Websites:
WordPress has a default permalink structure which will automatically generate URLs for every new post you push live. However, as mentioned, using the default structure will be detrimental for your SEO endeavors as well as for website visitors.
WordPress’ default setting will automatically generate a URL by attaching the ID number to the end of the post, in a running numerical order.
For example, these WordPress permanent links typically look like this:
This link tells you nothing about the content it contains, can look spammy, and can be hard to remember.
The optimal permalink structure will be optimized with relevant keywords and phrases to inform visitors and search engines to inform that about what the post is about. Therefore, we recommend using the following structure while posting new content on WordPress:
Remember, optimizing URLs will help your overall SEO goals of reaching page 1 of search engine results pages (SERP). Therefore, now that we know how to structure permalinks, let’s look at a few best practices while structuring permalinks.
WordPress Permalink Structure Best Practices:
While changing your permalinks, are deciding how to structure them for the first time, the following best practices can ensure that you design them in the best possible way:
- Permalinks should be short and sweet. Studies show that top-ranking permalinks in Google average 59 characters in length.
- WordPress will automatically generate a permanent link for new posts and pages. However, these automated URLs are not always optimized with keywords. Additionally, they may be too long, or include words that are irrelevant. Therefore, we recommend always checking the permalink before pushing it live, to ensure it includes your targeted keywords.
- Make sure to not use ‘stop words’ in your permalink. These include words like: at, before and which. These types of words make it difficult for search engines to interrupt what the content is about. See A more complete list of stop words here.
- When constructing permalinks, seperate each word with a hyphen. Hyphens help distinguish the different words for search engines while they are crawling the page. For example, https://yourwebsite.com/placesvisitportlandoregon is difficult to read and understand for visitors and search engines. Therefore, you will want to structure it like this instead: https://yourwebsite.com/best-places-visit-portland-oregon.
Now that we can structure our WordPress permalinks correctly, it’s time to talk about how to change permalinks.
How to Change Permalink Structure of WordPress
Before you begin building your website on WordPress, the best thing to do is change the permalink structure settings. However, no matter if you are brand new, or already have pages and posts published, we recommend changing the permalink structure settings for SEO purposes.
Therefore, In order to change the standard WordPress permalink settings, follow the five steps below:
1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard
2. Locate Settings on the left-hand menu panel
3. Click on Permalinks
4. Under the Common Settings section, choose the desired permalink structure. (We recommend using the Post name structure for the setting.)
5. Last, at the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.
Following the steps above and changing the permalink structure on your WordPress Website, means that all existing pages that were pushed live may contain broken internal links as well as backlinks from external sites.
Therefore, to retain the benefits of your existing backlinks as well as to continue to get referral traffic from them, you will need to set up permanent 301 redirects. 301 redirects will save the previously mentioned benefits as well as automatically redirect visitors trying to access the old URL.
The last thing to note is that many of your pre-existing pages will have already been indexed by search engines. To check which pages have been indexed, you should use your Google Search Console. Changing the permalink structure will mean the search engines now have the incorrect URLs for your website. Therefore, it will be important to set up the 301 permanent redirects in order to retain your organic search traffic.
How to Edit a WordPress Permalink
From your WordPress dashboard you can choose any post or page and edit the permalink. There will be multiple places where you can edit the permalink depending on which version or plugin you are using on WordPress. We will look at a couple different ways to change your permalinks on WordPress so they are SEO optimized and easily understandable for visitors.
First, once you have entered into a particular page or post you can click edit next to the pre-existing permanent link.
With many WordPress site users utilizing Yoast SEO plugin, there are two additional places that you can change the permalinks. Two additional places to edit permalinks are:
- Click on settings in the top right corner
- After the right hand menu opens, make sure you click on the Post section
- Then locate the permalink section
- Change the URL slug to your desired choice
FAQs: WordPress Permalinks:
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding permalinks and SEO.
There is no way to change permalinks on WordPress without breaking links. However, you can use 301 redirects in order to keep all links on your website functioning properly. The easiest way to use redirects to make sure no links are broken is by using a plugin.
There are many plugins available on WordPress that will help webmasters set up 301 redirects easily. The plugin we recommend is called: Redirection by John Godley. An image of what the plugin looks like can be seen below.
It is simple to use and a free plugin. It allows you to easily set up redirects on your website after you change any permalinks or URL slugs on a page or post.
After the redirects are set up for the site, it is important to check that they are all functioning properly. One way to do this is by manually checking the redirects. However, this is not feasible if there is a significant number of redirects on your website. Therefore, the easiest way to check is by using an SEO audit tool to crawl through your website for any broken links.
Another name for permalink is permanent link. Moreover, the permalink can be broken down into components. They are as follows:
The four components listed above are the main parts of a permalink. However, additional components can be included depending on the overall structure that is being used. For example, a sub domain, or even category can be included in the permalink structure.
For SEO purposes, the best permalink setting in WordPress is the Post Name structure option. This setting configuration will ensure that your target keywords are used in the permalink.
There are other options when choosing the permalink setting on WordPress, however, they do not follow best practices for search engine optimization. By using the WordPress post name, a webmaster will have much more flexibility and can easily make the URL easy to read and understand for both search engines and website visitors.
It should be noted that choosing to incorporate the date in the permalink structure is usually not best for SEO performance. However, it can be useful for news websites, where the most up-to-date information is preferred.
There is no difference between permalink and URL. They are both describing the same thing, which is the browser address to the specific web page the user is trying to access. A URL can be called a permalink as it is meant to be the permanent address to the webpage for its entire life.
If a permalink is changed on WordPress, all the existing internal and external links pointing to that particular page will be broken. Resulting in users not being able to access the page they were looking for. This will negatively affect a website’s SEO performance as well as user experience.
If a particular page or post’s permalink or slug has been modified, the webmaster should establish a 301 redirect for it, in order to ensure that the usability of the website is still performing well. Moreover, the redirect will ensure that the website is not losing out on any referral traffic, or backlinks that are pointing to the particular page.
Permalinks and hyperlinks are different. A permalink is the URL of a particular web page that can be used to navigate and access the content on the website. A hyperlink is the visible link a web user sees and can click on to access the particular page.
Permalinks and hyperlinks are very similar in nature and are both tools to access a web page on the internet. Another way to describe the differences between the two, is that a hyperlink points to a permalink. Therefore, when a hyperlink is clicked on, it will open the permalink page it is pointing to.
Key takeaways: WordPress permalinks and friendly SEO URL:
Every SEO strategy should ensure that it includes the optimization of permalinks. WordPress makes it easy to change and edit your permalink structure, as long as you know what you are doing. We highlighted how to edit permalinks on your WordPress website, but it will be up to you to make sure they are succinct and optimized correctly for visitors and search engines.
Clear Door SEO is an Oregon SEO company in Portland that focuses on supporting small businesses in achieving their goals of improving their organic search traffic.
So if you need assistance in making sure your website uses the best WordPress permalink structure make sure to contact us today!