Throughout my career, I too frequently see situations where customers have read wrong information that ended up being detrimental to their brand, brand’s growth, and website’s reputation. Permalink is a common topic. If you want to learn more about permalinks, tread carefully. Pinterest is a minefield of wrong information on permalinks. Today’s post debunks common myths and aims to give you a better understanding of how your site is setup, thus improving your SEO and helping you become a better WordPress user.
Understanding the Basic Structure
Permalinks are the web address (URL) of each post or page on your website. Images, downloads, products, portfolio listings, and archive pages all of a permalink. A permalink is distinct and unique.
The permalink’s slug identifies your post or page. When you type in your post title in WordPress, the permalink is automatically populated with hyphens instead of spaces. You might not have thought much about this unless you use YOAST SEO, then you likely are customizing your slugs to be SEO Optimized. In this post, the slug is “WordPress-permalinks”.
The post slug doesn’t have to match your post name. Your post name might be long or eye-catching, however, you can edit your post slug to be more SEO friendly. A best practice is to use your SEO keyword as your slug title. Remember that keywords should be specific and relevant. For example, “blog design services” is better than “services”.
Including the date along with the post, title does not impact the SEO of your permalink. However, it is a best practice to include them if your website has a high posting frequency. If your permalinks include dates, and you post a few times a week, do not bother changing it (see below). Including dates and not including dates does not impact your SEO. Using accurate and descriptive slugs will impact it.
Changing Permalinks After Published
Once you publish a post or page, you CANNOT change the slug or structure. You will likely break old links, post share and like counts will be reset, and often readers will land on the frustrating 404 page instead of the post or page.
Changing your permalink structure is a bad idea. I’m saying this twice because it is that important, and be wary of incorrect information. If you are just starting your blog, selecting a default permalink style is great before you publish a post. If you are transferring from Blogger to WordPress, you will likely be attached to the permalink structure of Blogger. In bad Blogger-WordPress transfers, often the permalink structure differs causing a drop in page views and awful user experience. In the whole scope of SEO, it is not that big of a deal if the permalink structure includes the date compared to cleaner permalinks that do not.
For more advanced information on WordPress permalinks, read the WordPress Codex. The Codex provides the MOST ACCURATE information regarding WordPress Permalinks, but also solutions to common and advanced issues.
Templates + Permalink Structure
Most WordPress blogs include the main archive templates – date, category, tags, author, and search. These templates automatically populate with the various post classifications. As I mentioned in selecting a blog theme, when readers visit archive page templates, they are scanning multiple posts to see the breadth or find a specific post. Thus, an abbreviated post view that only includes essential information is optimal for the reader.
Date archive templates display posts written within a certain time range – yearly, monthly, and daily. They display your posts from most recent to latest. Depending on your archive template, they are a great way for readers to scan past posts easily. Archive.php differs from Archives.php. Archives.php is a page template, where Archive.PHP is a part of the WordPress Template Hierarchy. Archive permalink structure follows this form: YourDomain.com/2015
Categories are the most common archive template. It is imperative that the categories you want to display on your blog are properly categorized in your WordPress Dashboard (Useful Posts: Organizing Your Blog Categories, Managing WordPress Categories, Adding Categories to Menu + Sidebar, When to Use Categories, and Bulk Select + Quick Edit Categories). Category permalink structure follows this form: YourDomain.com/category/category-name
Tags are very similar to categories; some sites use tags, and others do not. They are another great way to connect similar genre content within your blog. For more information on how to optimize your WordPress Tags, check out this post. Tag permalink structure follows this form: YourDomain.com/tag/tag-name
Author archive templates display posts written by a certain author, and they are a great functionality for blogs and websites with multiple contributors. Depending on your theme, the author template can show an image, description, social media links, and link to one’s website along with all of the posts the author has written. Author Permalink structure follows this form: YourDomain.com/author/authorusername
Search templates display posts when searching for a specific term or keyword. Similiar to categories and tags, often people are searching, so you want to present as many opportunities to find what they need, but also the information they need to search. Search permalink structure follows this form: YourDomain.com/=?s=yoursearchterm
If you have a typical blog, where the main page of your site shows your most recent posts, then the structure listed above will work for you. However, if you are using a static home page, like my site, then after your domain and before the slug includes “/blog”. For example, category permalink is YourDomain.com/Blog/Category/Category-Name. Search should be the only exception to this rule.
So Why Does This Matter?
Permalinks are a core component of SEO. Careful consideration must be placed on your post and page permalinks for your target audience to find you. Even if the permalink is to a category or tag template, it is still an opportunity for search engines to index your page, and for users to visit your website. Thus, organized content is clearly presented to the reader.
When either purchasing a blog theme or testing your existing theme, it is imperative that you view these pages as essential as your home page. WordPress permalinks and templates significantly influence your readers’ experience and will help you grow your brand.
Want more SEO tips? Check out these posts!
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