Here’s one simple way to improve your WordPress SEO starting today: Make sure you have SEO-friendly URLs.
Creating SEO-friendly URLs is a super simple way to improve your SEO. If you get it right, you’ll improve your organic search visibility, especially for low-volume long-tail keywords.
Here are four tips to ensure your WordPress URLs are SEO-friendly.
1. Choose an SEO-Friendly Permalink Structure
If you want Google to recognize your content and associate it with certain search phrases, you’ll want to make sure your URL uses keywords relevant to your topic.
For example, if you’re writing about an epic Burning Man sunrise dance party you experienced, make sure your URL looks like this:
Rather than this:
Which URL would you be more likely to click on?
The first one. You know exactly what you’re getting.
Your URL tells Google – and the people scanning Google’s search results – exactly what topic your content is about. In other words, Google can understand it (because it’s SEO-friendly) and people can understand it (because it’s also user-friendly).
If you want to change your permalink structure in WordPress, go to Settings > Permalinks. There, you’ll find these options.
- Plain: Not a good option for SEO. Nothing in the URL describes your pages/content.
- Day and name: This is a good option for SEO! This helps Google know what your content is about and the exact publishing date, which can be really important for your readers.
- Month and name: Also a good option! Similar to day and name, but only shows the month the piece of content was published.
- Numeric: Not a good option for SEO. Nothing in the URL describes your pages/content.
- Post name: This is the most popular choice for optimal WordPress SEO. It allows you to personalize your URL to match your content topics.
- Custom Structure: Here you can use WordPress-specific tags to customize your URL. If you have a large website with multiple categories that are important to your readers, using a tag like /%category%/%postname%/ to add the category to your URL might be a good idea. You can use this to give Google even more information about your piece of content, but it’s up to you how granular you want to get.
If you make the transition to use categories in your SEO-friendly permalink structure, you’ll only want to choose one, single category per post. This video by Matt Cutts will give you some additional information.
Once you’ve selected your permalinks setting, be sure to click Save Changes to make the change.
Subsequently, you can make changes to the URL of individual pages and posts. In the admin dashboard, you can edit and adjust the URL before clicking OK and updating the post.
A Note for Established Websites
By transitioning from one permalink structure to another on an existing site, you will unfortunately lose all of your social media share counts. If you have thousands of share counts on a piece of content, switching your URL structure will reset it to zero. Additionally, there’s always a risk of damaging your existing search rankings.
If your site is implementing plain URLs, you should change the URL structure no matter how old it is. You will still lose your social share counts across all pages on your website, but the benefits of a more relevant URL far outweigh that loss.
Now your URLs will look something like they do on Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/wordpress-seo-mistakes/195725/
2. Rewrite Your URLs to Make Them SEO-Friendly
Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to writing and rewriting URLs in WordPress:
- Keep your URLs focused. Remove any irrelevant words and focus on your target keywords. Some words don’t add any value to your readers (e.g., “a”, “the”, “of”). These won’t hurt you if they’re in your URL, but they won’t help you either because they don’t add any value to your readers and they make your URLs longer. So a URL like http://yourwebsite.com/burning-man-sunrise-party is better than http://yourwebsite.com/the-burning-man-sunrise-party-we-went-to-was-awesome.
- Keep URLs short. URL length isn’t a ranking factor. You can do this by following the first bullet point above; the key here is to use the most focused keywords possible in the URL and avoid needless words.
- Keep your URL formatting consistent across pages and posts. If you use dashes (“-“) to separate words on all your posts, don’t use underscores (“_”) to separate words on your pages. Stick with how WordPress does it – use the traditional dash to separate words in your URLs.
3. Implement an SSL Certificate
Making sure that your website is fully encrypted with an SSL certificate is becoming essential moving forward.
For both these reasons, enabling HTTPS on your WordPress site can help you rank better and improve the user experience.
And with Let’s Encrypt providing a free HTTPS solution, there’s no reason not to make the transition to help your website strengthen its URLs in the eyes of The Big G.
Transitioning from http://yourwebsite.com to https://yourwebsite.com will put your website, and every piece of content you’ve written, in a much better position to rank well in search engines.
4. Use Plugins to Make Sure Your URLs Are SEO-Friendly
Unfortunately, there are no up-to-date WordPress plugins that can help you with SEO-friendly URLs.
That said, the Yoast SEO plugin gives you a heads up when your URL structure works well for your focus keyword. This might be a good way for you to make sure you have SEO-friendly URLs manually.
There isn’t a single way to create the best SEO-friendly URL. It depends heavily on the kind of website you’re running, your niche/industry, and what your visitors find valuable.
It’s incredibly important to optimize your WordPress URLs – include all the significant keywords to make it clear what the page is about, and you should be ready to rumble in the SERPs.
Screenshots by Joe Howard. Taken June, 2017.