Search-engine optimization (SEO). If you know even a little bit about the way the Internet works when it comes looking for specific topics, themes, sites and the like, then you’ve probably seen this term bandied about for years. Essentially, SEO means that a particular web page contains elements that monster search engines like Google just love—words and phrases that are easy to understand and index into giant databases that help people find your site quickly and, hopefully, before they find other sites of a similar nature to yours.
However, even though you may feel you have a decent understanding of how SEO works—and perhaps you also recognize how important it can be to the success or failure of your site—you may not fully understand how to fully leverage the process to your advantage. And doing so begins with ensuring that your WordPress site has a “friendly” permalink—also called a URL—structure that the search engines will find easy to categorize and display for those seeking the information, products or services you provide.
Friendly URLs contain keywords that explain a page, post or article contained within your site, keywords that are easily understood by both humans and machines (i.e. search engines). In the past, however, WordPress sites defaulted to a URL structure that was decidedly unfriendly to search engines. For instance, suppose you wrote an article about how to build a bicycle. A default URL for that article may be something like www.bikes.com/?12345. This permalink doesn’t contain information about what the article is actually about, and therefore search engines will give it a poor ranking or omit it all together when someone searches the topic. On the flip side, a “friendly” URL for the same article may read www.bikes.com/how-to-build-a-bike. The latter clearly shows search engines what the article is about, and helps that engine guide its users to your site much more efficiently.
As previously mentioned, in the past WordPress didn’t have the option of customizing their URLs. But now, WordPress uses the post name in the URL, and it’s also possible to create unique permalinks that ensure you’re getting the maximum exposure you can and really drawing traffic to your site. And thankfully, it’s a relatively easy process.
To begin, visit the permalinks settings page in your WordPress admin area. Here you’ll see choices such as “plain,” “day and name,” “month and name,” “numeric” and so on. It will be obvious here that some of the choices are much more SEO friendly than others. While the month and name may be great for bloggers who post content a regular basis, it can work against them if their content becomes stale and outdated. The same goes for the month and name option. Therefore, SEO experts agree that the best choice overall for customized permalinks is the “post name” option, as it’s short, attractive and easy for search engines to process.
If you find you don’t like any of the options and really want to go unique, it’s also possible to create a custom combination using tags: for instance, you may like the idea of listing the year of the post in four digits rather than two; the day of the month; or even the minute of the hour your post or article went live. You can also create a customized post name, choose a specific category, have the author’s name appear in the URL or simply give the post its own number (although always keep in mind, some of these options are decidedly not SEO friendly).
When you’ve chosen or created your URL structure, be sure to save the changes. And experts offer a warning to those looking to take this route and revamp their permalinks: sites that have been up and running for more than six months and have their permalink structure changed will lose social media “share count” and run the risk of also losing any existing SEO rankings they have with the big search engines. And if you’re ensure of whether or not changing the structure is a good idea, consult experts such as those at Byte Technology who can advise you on the pros and cons of going search engine optimized.