The best Permalink settings WordPress SEO is the one that best adds value to user experience and for SEO purposes. However, irrespective of your blog type, there are SEO practices for permalink structure.
This is what we’re going to look at in today’s article.
But first, for beginners;
What is Permalink in WordPress?
In case you don’t know or never heard of it before, Permalink is another word used for URLs or links.
And it is short for permanent links.
So, when you read the Permalink, know that we’re talking about a URL structure. The way a website URL is structured for navigating through the pages in orderly settings.
For clarity, I will use both words, “permalink” and “URL,” interchangeably throughout this post. So don’t get confused; both have the same meaning.
This post will walk you through the best permalink settings for WordPress SEO. Also, we will discuss if changing your URL structure is safe. And the best way to do it.
What Permalink Structure is Best for SEO?
The simple rule for proper URL structure is adding the post name to the end of your links. This is the preferred option for many personal blogs and helped optimize for SEO purposes.
You can achieve this by selecting the post name as your preferred URL structure. Go to settings from your WordPress admin menu, click on Permalink, and select “Post Name” from the available options.
However, this does not work for every blog on the internet.
For an eCommerce site with lots of categories and pages, to improve user experience, it makes sense to add categories as prefixes before the post name.
For example, if you sell luxury cars, your permalink structure could be something like this:
This URL structure contains the primary category car, sub-category, luxury, and Mercedes car type.
For users, this type of URL structure makes it clear to understand what the page is all about. And finding what they want on the website becomes easy to search for.
There are many variables you can select from your WordPress permalink page.
You can do it from the Permalink page if you need to add custom variables like tags, topics, or categories to your Permalink structure.
Select the custom structure from the available permalinks options and click on the preferred variables on the page.
Adding a category/tag prefix to the URL structure could be beneficial for search engine purposes. Users searching for items within the category or tags can click-through through the search engine to find all the content categories on your website.
How to Create an SEO-Friendly URL Structure
An SEO-friendly URL is important for optimizing search engines and improving user experience. Many factors are considered for a page to rank in SERP, and the page URL structure is one.
Along with the page title, the permalink structure helps describe the content on the page. So always remember to keep your URL structure simple, accurate, descriptive, and SEO optimized.
With this in mind, here are 5 SEO best practices for creating an SEO-friendly permalink structure.
1. Summarize The Page Topic
By looking at the page URL, a reader should be able to understand the content on the page. If you can’t summarize the content on the page within the URL structure, you need to work on your target keyword phrases.
For example, take a look at the URL structure below:
At a glance, readers can tell what the page topic is all about. This is an example of an optimized URL structure for users and search engines because it includes…
2. Targets Keyword
As I said earlier, there are many contributing factors to SERP rankings, and URL structure is just one among many search ranking signals.
Google emphasizes creating each page on your website around a specific industry topic, one of the best ways to tell Google and other search engines what each page is all about is to include your primary keyword in the URL structure.
Though the impact of keywords in URLs might be minor for SERP rankings, it helps improve click-through rate and user experience.
A simple rule is to write your keyword at the beginning of the URL slug. This is because search engines give more weight to the first few words in the page URL and title.
Yoast SEO WordPress plugin allows you to control the URL slug of your WordPress pages.
You can edit the page URL slug by scrolling down to the Yoast settings.
If you don’t define how the URL slug reads here, the plugins will automatically take the whole page title text as the URL slug. And this might not be so good for search engine optimization.
Yoast SEO 17.3 shows the Slug setting under the SEO title before the Meta description section.
Always write your URL slug before hitting the publish button each time you write a post.
3. Use Hyphens, Not Dashes, or Underscore
Google recommends using hyphens in your URL structure and not dashes or underscores. Also, Google recommends using descriptive words and not long ID numbers in the permalink structure.
Here is a snapshot from the Google developer’s page on URL structure by using hyphens and no dashes.
Many big news websites are guilty of number IDs in their URL structure. This is not even considered a good user experience.
It makes it difficult for users and search engines to understand the concept in the page URL.
To set up your URL using the hyphen, go to Yoast SEO >>> General >>>, then select the symbol that best represents your blog branding and SEO.
As a piece of advice, select the hyphen symbol.
4. Refrain From Using Dates or Years in the URL
Though using dates, months, or years in URLs could be beneficial for users on a time-sensitive information website, it makes your content irrelevant days after publishing.
If you blog on evergreen topics, there is no reason to use dates, months, or years in the permalink structure. Nobody loves reading outdated content on things that interest them.
Look at this Google search result for the keyword “How to do SEO.”
Search engine optimization is an evolving industry with constant changes and knowledge upgrades. What works today might not work tomorrow.
While Forbes and WordStream are authority sites, the dates make the content outdated. Users won’t click on the link if they rank high for the search phrase.
Adding dates, months, or years of publication to the permalink structure will lead to low CTR from the organic listing.
In the image above, Brian Dean of Backlinko uses a simple technique to make the content relevant year after year.
First, the URL prefix uses no dates of publication. The title can be edited anytime to reflect the current year, making the content evergreen.
You can always edit the page title to reflect the current year, but you can’t edit the page URL; it will lead to a 404 error page not found.
Though there is a way to fix this in WordPress, I will discuss it in this post in the next chapter.
5. Use Static URL Structure, not Dynamic
Static URLs are links that remain the same with every page load.
This URL type doesn’t change irrespective of the user’s location, devices, gender, or who is accessing the page.
On the other hand, dynamic URLs are page links that change to users’ demands based on the search parameters. Dynamic URLs contain query strings that are part of the URL structure that assigns value to specified search parameters.
The display content on a dynamic page URL is based on the user search query results pulled directly from the website database.
You often see characters like (? = &) in dynamic URLs.
Here is an example of a Dynamic URL structure:
Using a static URL structure is the ideal option if you run a simple personal blog.
There could be reasons to use dynamic URLs on certain pages for an eCommerce website, large businesses, data processing websites, or organizations.
To read more on Static URLs vs. Dynamic URLs, check out this Google page for a comprehensive guide.
How to Change Permalink Structure Without Affecting SEO
We’ve discussed the importance of WordPress permalink for SEO and user experience and how you can choose the best URL structure for your website. But what if you already have a permalink structure but decide to make a change?
There could be many reasons to change your website URL structure to a better one.
It is easier to change your permalink settings if you have a few posts and pages. You must open the post/page to edit and change the URL.
Then hit the save/update button.
You can do this for every post/page from the WordPress editor panel settings.
A website with hundreds of posts and pages, a strong backlink profile, and changing permalink settings needs a bit of thinking and planning.
Please note; that whether you’re making changes to a few posts/pages or thousands of posts and pages, there are SEO consequences to think about.
You might lose existing SEO value, social shares, backlinks from referrals pages, etc. All external and internal links pointing to pages on your website will be broken.
So, this process must be thoroughly thought about and evaluated before embarking on it.
All being said, if you’re sure of what you’re doing and want to make the switch, here is how to get started:
Step 1 – Backup Your Site
First, make a complete backup of your entire WordPress site and save it somewhere safe.
If things didn’t go as planned, you could revert to the current blog state.
Whenever you’re making significant changes to your WordPress blog, always make a backup first.
Step 2 – Change Your Permalink Settings
After you’ve made a backup of your blog, the next thing is to open the WordPress permalink page and select your preferred URL settings.
I have discussed how to change your WordPress Permalink in a previous chapter of this post. You can look that up again if you don’t know how to do it.
Once you make the switch and click on the save changes button, four things will happen:
- All URL structures on existing posts and pages on your website will change to the current settings.
- All future posts/pages you create will take the current URL setting, so you don’t have to set it again manually.
- Any external links to your website pages will be broken.
- Existing search engines’ index pages of your site will be incorrect.
So, all is not over and good with step 2; you need to fix the broken links issue by setting up a permanent 301 redirect and submitting a new sitemap.
Step 3 – Set up 301 Redirect to Fix 404 Error Not Found
301 permanent redirect will route all traffic from the old URL to their corresponding pages/posts in the new URL path. So you don’t have to worry about losing traffic.
If you change your Permalink without setting up a permanent 301 redirect to the new links, all traffic to your WordPress pages/posts will see a 404 error not found page.
So, if you stop at step 2 above, all traffic to your website will see broken links and pages.
There is a simple solution to fix 301 permanent redirects in WordPress, thanks to many plugin developers.
In the past, or if you’re a developer, you may be required to add code to your WordPress .htaccess file.
For many beginners and non-tech bloggers, that’s a foreign language to understand or execute.
You don’t have to change codes to fix 301 permanent redirects in WordPress.
There are many WordPress redirection plugins today, but to save you time and unnecessary headaches, let’s go with the simple 301 redirect plugin.
Using Simple 301 Redirect WordPress Plugin
Download and install the Simple 301 Redirect plugin on your WordPress blog, and activate, and open the plugin settings.
In the plugin setting field, there are two areas you need to fill in:
These fields are labelled “Request” and the “Destination.”
You must input your blog’s old permalink settings in the request field and the new URL settings in the Destination field.
In the image above, the website uses the day and post name as the old URL setting and only the post name as the new destination URL.
Any incoming traffic/links from the old URL path will now redirect to the new URL structure.
There is no need to add the domain name in these fields. The part that comes after the domain name is the only requirement here.
Click the save button once you’re done with the changes.
From now on, any incoming traffic will be routed to the relevant destination on your site.
Step 4 – Submit Site Map for Re-Indexing
The last step is to submit a new sitemap for search engine indexing.
This will tell search engines that your website URLs have changed and need re-indexed in their databases.
You don’t need to submit a sitemap manually if you have the Yoast SEO plugin on your site.
The plugin automatically submits a new sitemap to Google whenever you update a post or make changes to your website pages.
However if you don’t submit a new sitemap, Google and other search engines will crawl your site and learn about the new URL changes; you can speed up the process by submitting a sitemap.
Also, you can request a re-index from the Google search console directly.
Log into your Google Search Console (GSC) account and use the link inspection tool on the page. Type in your domain name and wait a minute for the tool to run.
After that, click the “Request Indexing” button on the page.
That’s all. Now, Google search engines will crawl your site for new changes.
Conclusion…Best Permalink Settings WordPress SEO
If you’re starting a new blog today, carefully think about the future of your site before choosing the Permalink settings WordPress SEO. While you can switch to any URL structure in the future, you may have many SEO consequences.
Changing the WordPress Permalink structure is not something you should be dealing with frequently.
As I said earlier, the word Permalink is another word for permanent links in WordPress. So, your permalink setting should be permanent for the life of your blog once you set it up.
Think carefully before choosing one.
What do you think I’m missing out on in this post? Share your experience in the comment section.