Optimizing WordPress Permalinks Effectively

wordpressWordPress is such a great tool for blogging and building websites alike. But do you sometimes get tired of reading the same old SEO tips for WordPress? Yeah. Well I do too! This time I’m going to tell you about a couple of tips you won’t likely hear anywhere else. To be honest with you, I learned both of these shortly after I had already started blogging here. Which kinda sucked because it usually takes a lot more work to fix up your website after you’ve created a handful of blog posts.

These two search engine optimization tips are for making the most out of your permalinks in WordPress. However, theoretically they can also be applied to other blogging platforms and content management systems. I figured both of them out by carefully studying what some of the most well-known SEOs were doing. Then tested them out for myself. I didn’t read them in how-tos, on any blogs, or in any books. It seems as if these are some the trade secrets you’re not supposed to disclose. I don’t know. But it did surprised me to see only the best of the best were doing it. Regardless, here are two awesome ways to use more effective permalinks in WordPress – for the search engines, and of course, your users.

SEO Tip #1 – Change Default Permalinks

Now I know you’ve probably heard this one before, but I bet you weren’t told to use a Custom Structure, and you’ve probably never been told to set it like this: /%postname%.

You’ll will find your permalink settings under Settings >> Permalinks >> Custom Settings.

wordpress custom structure permalinks

So what does that do?

It changes the default url structure of your posts to something like this:

http://www.nameofblog.com/name-of-post

Which has a few major advantages:

  • Makes the URL easier to read by the search robots
  • Makes it easier to read in the search engine results page
  • Gives more weight to the words in the URL

You’ll likely notice most people optimize the permalinks in thier WordPress blogs to look something like this:

http://www.nameofblog.com/year/month/day/name-of-post/

Compare that to our optimized URL:

http://www.nameofblog.com/name-of-post

Do you see how far away your keywords are from the root domain in the former? Can you see how unnecessary the directory structure and the date is? That doesn’t tell us or the search engine robots anything important about the post, and it also doesn’t include any helpful keywords. It’s really a waste!

Typically search engines give the greatest weight to the most prominent words in the URL, and considers each word slightly less important the further it is from the beginning.

Now let’s take it even a step further.

Do you ever optimize individual post URLs? Most people don’t. But with all else being equal, don’t you want to find an easy way to get a leg up on the other guy? Well, that’s what I’m going to show you next.

SEO Tip #2 – Optimize Permalink For Individual Posts

This step is pretty straight forward and is set on individual post pages, as shown below:

setting wordpress permalink on blog posts

This allows you to customize individual blog posts and remove unnecessary words. For example, some times you might have a blog post title that gives you a default URL like this one:

http://www.nameofblog/i-think-these-were-the-best-cars-ever-made

And compare that to our optimized URL:

http://www.nameofblog/best-cars-ever-made

Can you see how many unnecessary words are in the former? Doesn’t the latter look a lot cleaner, giving only the important keywords all of the weight? From my experience, this is a much better way to structure your URLs.

Note: If you decide to go back and update your established blog, just be sure to permanently redirect the old URLs to the new ones using a 301 permanent redirect. That way you make sure the old link-juice gets passed on to the new pages.

Well I hope you’ve appreciated these two SEO tips for WordPress. Please feel free to leave me a comment or subscribe to my blog if you liked this post!

Thanks!

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  • March 11th, 2010 at 3:05 pm OMA said:

    This is a great tip for those who are running wordpress. I would also recommend using this plugin http://www.onlinemarketingadvisors.com/wordpress-html-file-extensions.html, I use it on my site and it works great.

    Having keyword friendly permalinks is good, but having keyword friendly permalinks with a solid file extension is even better. Having your page names end in .html or php is alot better for search engine rankings than leaving it blank.

  • March 11th, 2010 at 3:27 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hey OMA, I read your blog post.

    I prefer it without the extension for this blog. But I definitely know of cases where I’d prefer it with the extension. For me the difference between the two on a particular site is mostly personal preference.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ADDED: Also, just to note. I don’t think it really makes a difference. If you check out the three most popular SEO sites (seachengineland, seobook, seomoz), none of them use filename extensions on their blog posts. Nor does Danny Sullivan on his personal blog….

  • March 27th, 2010 at 7:21 am Subrato Paul said:

    I have started my self-hosted WordPress blog only this month.
    I am already using your Tip 1, only post name.
    http://www.goldentwine.com/blog/twitter-goofs-2010325
    Here, I have appended the date as I am going to use the same title for more goof stories.
    But I neglected the second tip which is very useful. Thanks for the same. From now on, I am going to edit my post name dropping all unnecessary words.

  • March 27th, 2010 at 10:25 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Subrato,
    By using Tip #2 you can append the date to the URL without having it show in heading of the post. That way you can still use the same exact post name over and over without displaying the date in the post name. Just an FYI.

    best,

  • March 14th, 2011 at 5:49 pm Dan said:

    I have been back and forth on this. I will try to make an example that is congruent with my situation (as I am sick of coming up in google results for comments etc)
    I only have about 6 posts so far.

    Say my domain is:
    bettyschildcaresandiego.com I have a blog section and my permalinks were set to : /%category%/%postname%/ and I had the category called “blog” so it looked like:
    bettyschildcaresandiego.com/blog/how-to-be-a-great-nanny-in-san-diego

    I recently changed my category name from “blog” to “nannys-blog” to get that keyword in there.

    So in my case would I still want to get rid of the category and just use %postname% or should I keep the category since it gets one of my main keywords (nanny) into the url.

    Assume my main search phrase I am targeting is “san diego nannys”

  • March 15th, 2011 at 7:38 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Dan,
    If it was me, I’d remove the “nannys”, because for the post you shouldn’t be trying to rank for “san diego nannys”, but rather “how to be a great nanny in san diego”.

  • November 17th, 2011 at 1:04 pm Gil Pauley said:

    Wesley,

    Great article. On our two blogs, I almost have it correct. LOL. As for SEO Tip 1 – my WordPress blog is set up correctly, except I have always hated the very long “pretty URLs” that the %postname% created. It often cut off the part I really wanted to be seen. I was completely unaware of that little EDIT button under SEO Tip 2, but I will use it in the future with the WordPress blog.

    I also have a Blogspot blog and I can’t find the “permalinks” under “settings”?? to make the change. Right now it uses the year and month before the title;
    http://bellevuedentist-cosmetic.blogspot.com/2011/01/dr-cynthia-pauley-selected-to.html is an example. This one also cut off the “usaTopdentists” which was in the title, so two problems here. Any thoughts on where the “permalinks” are in the Blogspot dashboard??

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  • November 17th, 2011 at 4:11 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hey Gil,
    I’m glad you found tip #2 helpful!

    Also, sorry, but I don’t have blogspot blogs so I can’t help you there….

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