Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the simple activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering. In many respects it’s simply quality control for websites. Having said that, if there was ever an industry that was little understood by outsiders it’s SEO.
SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.
SEO Friendly URL Structure in WordPress
Some people say there is no such thing as SEO-friendly URL structure. They claim search engines are perfectly capable of making sense of any type of URL and pretty much any URL structure. In most cases, the people who say this are web developers.
What is an SEO-friendly URL Structure?
First of all, let me start by saying that it is always better to call in an SEO manager early in the development stage, so there is no need to make sometimes hard-to-implement tweaks afterwards.
From an SEO point of view, a site’s URL structure should be:
- Straightforward: URLs with duplicate content should have canonical URLs specified for them; there should be no confusing redirects on the site, etc.
- Meaningful: URL names should have keywords in them, not gibbering numbers and punctuation marks.
- With emphasis on the right URLs: SEO-wise, not all URLs on a site are of equal importance as a rule. Some even should be concealed from the search engines. At the same time, it is important to check that the pages that ought to be accessible to the search engines are actually open for crawling and indexing.
SEO Friendly URL Structure in WordPress
The Permalink Settings Page Explained
In WordPress, links are called Permalinks (short for permanent links). You’ll see the term permalink structure and URL structure being used interchangeably.
First thing you need to do is to visit the Permalinks settings page in your WordPressadmin area.
Simply click on Settings link in the admin menu and then click on Permalinks.
Let us explain these options a bit, and how useful they are for users and SEO.
The first option which is called plain used to be the default WordPress URL structure. This is not an SEO friendly option.
The day and name option is somewhat SEO friendly as it has the post name in it. However, with dates, the URL becomes too lengthy. But more importantly after some time your content seems outdated, even if you regularly update it. Similarly, the month and name option also runs the risk of being dated.
However if you’re a news publication, then you want to have the dates in your URL to show the recency and improve the user experience.
In our opinion, those two structures are only good for news sites. Business sites that are hoping to create ever-green content should avoid it.
Post name option is the most SEO friendly because it is short and pretty.
If you are running a larger publication, then you can use a custom structure that can also be SEO friendly.
In order to use a custom URL structure, you will need to add special tags in the custom structure box. For example, we use:
Notice how each tag is wrapped between percent signs. Also notice the trailing slashes / before, after, and between the tags.
Creating Custom URL Structure with Available Tags
For the best results, we recommend using the options we mentioned above.
However, there are plenty of other combinations you can create using tags. Here is a list of tags that you can use to create your own custom URL structure:
- %year% – The year of the post, four digits, for example 2016.
- %monthnum% – Month of the year, for example 05
- %day% – Day of the month, for example 28
- %hour% – Hour of the day, for example 15
- %minute% – Minute of the hour, for example 43
- %second% – Second of the minute, for example 33
- %postname% – A sanitized version of the title of the post (post slug field on Edit Post/Page panel). For example, if your post title is This Is A Great Post! It would become this-is-a-great-post in the URL.
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post, for example 423
- %category% – A sanitized version of the category name (category slug field on New/Edit Category panel). Nested sub-categories appear as nested directories in the URI.
- %author% – A sanitized version of the author name.
Don’t forget to click on the save changes button after choosing your permalink structure.
As soon as you press the save changes button, WordPress will automatically update your site’s .htaccess file and your site will immediately start using the new URL structure.
Warning: Important Note for Established Sites
If your site has been running for more than 6 months, then please don’t change your permalink structure.
You don’t have to use the same structure that we used.
By changing your permalink structure on an established site, you will lose all of your social media share count and run the risk of losing your existing SEO ranking.
If you must change your permalink structure, then hire a professional, so they can setup proper redirects. You’ll still lose your social share counts on the pages.
There’s only one exception to this rule. If your site is using the plain URLs, then no matter how old it is, you should update the URL structure for better SEO. Yes, you will still use social share counts, but the benefits far outweigh that.