Here’s how to make your WordPress URLs SEO friendly

What’s an Easy Way to Improve Your WordPress SEO Starting Today?

Make sure you have SEO friendly URLs.

Creating SEO friendly URLs is a super easy way to improve your SEO.

Get it right, and you’ll improve the visibility of your organic search, especially for long-tail, low-volume keywords.

This article will share four tips to make sure your WordPress URLs are SEO friendly.

They range from basic global updates to strategic updates that are tied to the content and information architecture of your website.

1. Go to a single root version of your domain

By default, there are several variations of your root domain that can be rendered as functional URLs and can be identical versions of your pages.

This means the homepage plus every single page of the site based on the configuration of the domain as well as the variations.

Domain variations for URLs:

  • http://example.com
  • https://example.com
  • http://www.example.com
  • https://www.example.com

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All of these will render the site correctly.

If everyone renders the site separately, they can look like mirrored versions of the site.

You want to select one of the “https” versions (more information on SSLs to follow) and have the other three versions 301 redirected globally to the primary version you have selected.

By choosing a primary version of the https URL structure, you consolidate all indexes, rankings, and link values ‚Äč‚Äčinto a single version of the domain and site.

Another important area from a security and SEO perspective is making sure that your website is fully encrypted with an SSL certificate.

HTTPS is now a subordinate ranking signal in Google’s algorithms.

In addition, Google needs HTTPS for secure data in Chrome.

For these two reasons, enabling HTTPS on your WordPress site can help you rank better and improve the user experience.

And since Let’s Encrypt provides a free HTTPS solution, there is no reason not to make the transition to help your website strengthen its URLs in the eyes of Google.

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Moving from http://example.com to https://example.com will put your website and any content you write in a much better position to rank well on search engines.

2. Choose an SEO-friendly permalink structure

If you want Google to recognize your content and match it to specific search terms, make sure your URL uses keywords that are relevant to your topic.

For example, if you’re writing about an epic Burning Man sunrise dance party that you experienced, make sure your URL looks like this:

www.example.com/epic-burning-man-sunrise-dance-party

Better than that:

www.example.com/?p=123

Which URL would you be more likely to click?

The first. You know exactly what you are getting.

Your URL tells Google – and the people who scan Google’s search results – exactly what your content is about.

In other words, Google can understand it (because it’s SEO friendly) and people can understand (because it’s user friendly too).

Win win.

If you’d like to change your permalink structure in WordPress, go to Settings> Permalinks.

You will find these options there.

WordPress Permalink Settings

  • Easy: Not a great option for SEO. Nothing in the URL describes your pages / content.
  • Tag and Name: This is a great option for SEO as Google knows what your content is about and when exactly it will be published. This can be very important to your readers.
  • Month and Name: Also a great option! Similar to day and name, but only shows the month the content was published.
  • Numerically: Not a good option for SEO. Nothing in the URL describes your pages / content.
  • Address name: This is the most popular choice for optimal WordPress SEO. You can customize your URL to suit 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, use a tag like “/% category% /% postname% / Adding the category to your URL might be a good idea. You can use this to give Google even more information about your content. However, it is up to you how detailed you want to get this information.

When making the transition to using categories in your SEO-friendly permalink structure, you’ll only want to pick a single category per post.

This video by former Googler Matt Cutts gives you some additional information.

When you’ve selected your permalink setting, click Save Changes.

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You can then make changes to the URL of individual pages and posts.

In the admin dashboard, you can edit and customize the URL before clicking OK and updating the post.

WordPress Permalink customization

A note for established websites

Unfortunately, by moving from one permalink structure to another on an existing site, you will lose all of your social media shares.

When you have thousands of shares for some piece of content, changing your URL structure will reset it to zero.

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Additionally, there is always a risk that your existing search rankings will be damaged.

If your site implements simple URLs, no matter how old you should change the URL structure.

You will still lose your social share count on all of the pages on your website, but the benefits of having a more relevant URL far outweigh that loss.

Now your URLs will look something like what you see in the search engine journal:

25 WordPress SEO Mistakes to Fix Better Rankings

If that’s not more important, make sure your instance of WordPress is automatically creating 301 redirects from the old URL to your new URL.

I recommend testing on a single page by writing down the current (soon to be old) URL, updating to a new one, and then trying to access the old one.

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If you don’t get redirected to the page in the new location, pause your efforts and do some research and troubleshooting to make sure you have automatic redirects or a plugin to use them for every page URL you change configure manually.

3. Site architecture and URL structure

Now that we’ve overridden the basics of achieving a global format for the URL and choosing a permalink structure, it’s time to map the URLs to our site.

The ultimate goal is to align URLs with the content topics and keyword focus of each section or page.

Follow your sitemap and main navigation to organize your URL strings based on directories where you want content to be stored.

Don’t be afraid to go vertically into your website as the topic becomes more specific.

  • Ecommerce example: example.com/products/product-category/sub-category/product-name
  • B2B example: example.com/services/sub-service/service-detail-page

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4. Rewrite your URLs to make them SEO friendly

Here are some tips and tricks for writing and rewriting URLs in WordPress:

Keep URLs focused

Remove all irrelevant words and focus on your target keywords.

“Stop words” are words that do not add value to your readers (e.g. “a”, “the”, “of”).

These won’t harm you if included in your URL, but they won’t help you either as they don’t add value to your readers and will make your URLs longer.

So a URL like http://example.com/burning-man-sunrise-party is better than http://example.com/the-burning-man-sunrise-party-we-went-to-was-awesome.

Keep URLs short

The URL length is not a ranking factor.

You can do this by following the first point above. The key here is to use the most focused keywords possible in the URL and avoid unnecessary words.

Keep your URL formatting consistent

When you use hyphens (“-“) to separate words in all of your posts, don’t use underscores (“_”) to separate words on your pages.

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Stick with the way WordPress does it – use the traditional hyphen to separate words in your URLs.

Summary

There is no single way to make the best SEO friendly URL.

This depends a lot on the type of website you are running, your niche / industry, and what your visitors find valuable.

Optimizing your WordPress URLs is incredibly important. Include all of the key keywords to make it clear what the page is about and you should be ready to rumble the SERPs.

More resources:


Photo credit

All screenshots by the author, October 2020

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