Part 6: URL Structure

Your URL is the entire string of characters someone would enter into a browser to get to a particular page on your website. It’s the domain name and everything that comes after it as well.

Optimizing your URL for search engines is actually a pretty big part of SEO, and it’s often an over looked one.

Luckily for us, WordPress makes it easy to set them up properly, though oddly they don’t have them set the best way by default.

How to Change URL Structure in WordPress

For some unknown reason, WordPress sets an absolutely awful URL structure by default. It will only add a number after your domain name for each post you write. If left unchanged, your URLs would look something like:

http://timothybackes.com/?p=88

See that “88”? That would change for every post you write, so after that one, then next post you write would be 89 and that URL would be http://timothybackes.com/?p=89 and so on.

It might makes sense from an accounting perspective, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for letting readers and Google know what each particular page is about.

So, if you have just installed WordPress, you’ll want to change the URL structure ASAP.

Permalinks are your friend

friends

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Permalink is short for permanent link. It’s the method we can use to get rid of those numbered URL strings and change them into something meaningful. For example, the URL of this post is:

http://timothybackes.com/search-engine-optimization/url-structure/

There’s nothing confusing or unexplained by that. It’s clear, concise, and not full of numbers or characters that mean nothing about the content.

Best of all, it’s easy to setup. Let’s take a look how.

First, you need to get into the backend of your site. That’s the place where you change themes, add and edit posts and pages, and install plugins (which we’ll talk about in a post later).

On the left sidebar you should see lots of items in a menu including Dashboard, Posts, and Media. Keep looking until you find Settings.

Hover over Settings, and you’ll see Permalinks.

Wordpress permalinks

Settings > Permalinks

Now, click Permalinks.

Second, you should see a section titled Common Settings with a list of URL options with a bunch of radial buttons to the left. Here’s what mine looks like.

permalink options

Red, bad. Green, good.

As you can see, the default setting is nothing more than a bunch of numbers after your domain name. We don’t want that.

You can skip the next three settings, day and name, month and name, and numeric as well. What we’re looking for is either post name or custom structure.

Post Name – 99% of the time, this is going to be the best option. It allows you to give each post or page a unique and permanent name without having much else cluttering up your URL.

Almost every site I have ever made has used this URL structure. Those that didn’t were for reasons regarding a particular need of each of those site.

For example, as you can see in the above photo, this site uses the custom structure, which I’ll go into below. 

Custom Structure – This structure lets you, like the name suggests, customize your URL.

I wanted to show the various categories that I nested each post under. I have unrealistic grandiose plans of growing this very site into a huge digital marketing website, and I wanted a way to separate SEO, SEM, and other aspect of digital marketing.

To be perfectly honest, for SEO purposes, using post name might have been a better choice for me,. But, if I actually stick to my guns, I’m hoping this custom structure works well enough for SEO while at the same time allows me to organize the site in a logical manner.

SEO Friendly URL Best Practices

Aside from using a reader friendly premalink like discussed in the section above, there are a few other things you can do to make your URL more SEO friendly.

Don’t forget about keywords

kittens and flowers

These aren’t mittens…these are flowers!

We already discussed keyword research and now it’s time to put some of that research time and effort to good use.

Don’t be scared to place your main keyword right into the URL. In fact, feel free to make it the entire URL extension after your domain name.

What I mean by that is, if I wanted to rank a page on this website for the term pink kitten mittens, I could make that page URL:

http://timothybackes.com/pink-kitten-mittens

That’s it. It’s really that simple. There’s no need to overthink it.

Shorter might be better

There has been some research that points to having a shorter URL is better than a longer one in regards to SEO. However, the impact seems fairly small.

That being said, I’ll take a dollar over a penny each and every day, and if it helps even a little bit, I’m game. After all, it’s not difficult.

If you use the post name permalink structure mentioned above, and you use your keywords in the URL, you’ll end up with a short and easily understandable URL structure for both people and search engines.

Final Word

There’s nothing to overthink about any of this. Keep you permalinks simple and keep them short. It will make your life easier by doing so, and you might benefit from some Google love.

*Note: We haven’t discussed WordPress plugins yet, but in a later post we will. However, I thought I should mention that one very commonly used plugin, the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, also lets you easily change your permalink structure.

Genesis Framework for WordPress

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