I began this post several years ago and somehow I forgot to finish it and it ended up in my draft list. I found it a few weeks ago while I was looking for another article. As I was doing a tutorial on how to add links in WordPress I used it as an example in my video. I thought I ought to finish it so made a note in my calendar to finish it today, as I really feel the need to stress the importance of using search engine friendly permalinks on your WordPress website.
For several years now, I’ve spent a lot of time customizing clients’ WordPress websites so they can edit their own pages. In the process, I’ve had to install and set-up several installations on their behalf. So I’ve become very familiar with the settings. One of the first things I do is to change the structure of their permalinks so that they are search engine friendly. I also use a custom permalink so that the URL is as short as possible. Nothing worse than having to remember a long URL.
So what is a permalink?
A permalink is a URL that points to a specific blog entry and is used to direct readers to a particular article or page rather than the home page of the blog or website.
The default permalink for a WordPress post or page uses post ID numbers. An example would be http://www.yourblogname.com/?page_id=158.
You will see the post ID when you preview a post or page. You might also see the post ID appear under the Title field when you begin adding content if you forget to add a title first.
So what’s wrong with leaving it with the post ID?
- If a visitor bookmarks a URL that uses the post ID as its permalink, they are not going to know what the blog post is about when they comes across it later
- It’s not search engine friendly i.e. it doesn’t include any keywords. There is nothing in the URL to indicate to Google what the post is about.
What is a search engine friendly permalink and why do I need it?
A search engine friendly permalink differs from the default permalink in that it actually includes the title of your post or page—or a custom “slug” that you create yourself. An example of a search engine friendly URL would be https://yourdomainname.com/your-post-title/ (or https://yourdomainname.com/your-custom-slug/). In some cases, a permalink may also include the category, author name or parent page associated with it.
An example of a search friendly permalink on my website is:
Without the search engine friendly permalink, the page ID is shown instead:
See the difference?
The first example includes keywords, it includes the page title as well as the parent page title. Because it includes keywords, it is likely to rank higher for those keywords than other websites that use the post ID (if all else is roughly the same).
A custom URL is not only search friendly, it looks much better too, making it more inviting to the prospective reader.
If your page title is too long, you can shorten the URL by creating a custom “slug” and exclude stop words (such as the, it, and, from etc.) which Google tends to ignore unless relevant to the keyword phrase. The custom slug can be just the primary keywords or key phrase for the page as in my own website example above.
Did you know?
No matter how many times you edit a post or page, or change the title or slug, it will always have the same post ID number. This fortunately means, if you change all your URLs to custom permalinks after sharing them, visitors will still arrive at the right page.
However, if you share a custom “slug” and then change it, you will need to redirect the original URL to the new one so visitors don’t land on non-existent pages.
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