Permalink for SEO

What is a permalink?

A permalink, also known as a permanent link is simply the full URL you see when navigating through your website. Search engines also see them. It is called a permanent link because it remains the way it is throughout the lifetime of a page. You can include anything you please in your permalink but it best to stick to a simple one. A simple permanent link makes a URL easy to understand and share.

How permalinks affect SEO

A permalink has different parts that tell a web browser which page to navigate to and display on your screen. In essence, there are about 5 distinct parts of a URL:

The protocol

Is the part of the URL which tells the browser to transfer data over the internet. Http/Https is the protocol. The first part of the URL shows which protocol the browser must use. Usually for websites it is the HTTP protocol or its protected variant, HTTPS. The Web needs one of these two, but browsers also know how to handle other protocols such as mailto: (to open a mail client) or ftp: to handle file transfer, so don't be shocked if you see such protocols.

The domain

After the protocol, the domain follows. This is where your site becomes active and navigated to. Sometimes you may see the port, which is often omitted because it is a redundant signal of the protocol.

File name or post name

Indicates where on your website, the user is navigating to—for example, navigating to a product page or blog post. It is also the part the tells crawlers where to go.

A set of parameters

Next is a set of parameters. You can think of this section as a conversation between a search engine and your website. If you use robot.txt for your SEO or canonical tags, this is exactly where the magic happens.

The anchor

This is simply a shortcut that enables a user to hop to the desired section of your content immediately upon landing in. With permalinks, you have the option to decide which elements you want to have on your website, and that is where the debate on optimizing permanent links begins. 

Formats a permalink can take

Permanent links can take different formats. Your WordPress dashboard can reveal the various options it can take:

permalink options

But why all these options? First, Google considers all those URLs on your site as a ranking factor. This is to mean, the permanent links plus the structure you settle on are ultimately an SEO signal. And since a URL plays a key role in revealing what content of pages is all about, then it is crucial to make sure your permanent links are contributing instead of hurting. 

Most people prefer to have their permalinks customize to match the title of their content. See the screenshot below. This is one way of signaling how reliable and relevant your page is to Google crawlers. However, there are a few technical aspects that you need to consider to ensure your permanent links are contributing to your overall SEO strategy. Here are 6 tips that will make sure your URLs are boosting your SEO and helping you reach the first page of Google.

Maintain a consistent structure

With several different options, which is best for your SEO? Use default settings or any other option that pleases you?  The best approach to choosing a structure for your URLs is to think of it like you would your website architecture. When building your website, you do everything to ensure users can find everything they came for. 

You should apply the same approach when it comes to URL optimization and structure. In fact, when permanent links follow the same format as that of your website, it becomes easier for both users and search engines to use your website better. 

Pro tip! Merging your site architecture with your permalinks structure allows you to create a much more in-depth content structure, which allows every aspect of your website to flourish. 

Use a keywords rich URL

Once you have settled the issue of URL structure for your permanent links, it is time to start thinking about how to include keywords in your URLs to boost your SEO. This is possible if you have a sound and consistent keyword strategy. With a good keywords strategy, it will be easier to use the most relevant keywords in your URL that signal to Google what your page is all about.

Use shorter URLs

Most URLs on a number one ranked page are only 59 characters long. The same study also revealed that shortening the URL of a page and shortening the title has a positive impact on ranking. That means there is a need to aim at using a shorter URL structure to help your SEO. Experimenting with different lengths until sure of which length works for you is very crucial. 

You don’t always need a www. or a .com

Yes, these common tags are not a must for permalink SEO. There is even a study that found that pages with a .com had a stiffer time ranking on the front page of Google than other domain name extensions. It would be, therefore, great to avoid purchasing the .com version of your domain. 

Besides, using “www” is up to you as well, but it is a good idea to maintain consistency across the board. Whether to use or not to use depends on what you set as your domain in Google Search Console. Simply choose the website settings option on your dashboard and then decide whether your website's preferred domain is with or without www.

If you want to maintain consistency, you can remove the “www” extension on the general settings of your WordPress website. Once you do this, Google will understand that it should display your website without the “www extension.”

Pro tip! Removing the “www” extension and using a domain that doesn’t include the traditional .com are some of the ways of keeping your URL shorter.

Avoid using dates in your URL

Adding dates in URLs can result in a sharp decline in organic traffic. In fact, most SEO agree dates in URL are never very helpful. Keep in mind that most people prefer the most recent posts. That means having dates on your URL can affect your organic traffic as well as your bounce rate in the long run. If you please adding dates, then make sure to update your content regularly to keep it fresh and relevant to your audience.

Remove stop words from your permalink

This includes words such as “and,” “which,” “before,” “at,” etc. They don’t help search engines understand what your content is about hence a waste of valuable space. Removing them gives you more space for keywords. 

Start using HTTPS

It is generally a good idea to use HTTPS when it comes to your website. This protocol uses SSL certificates that give web users peace of mind when sharing potentially classified data on a site. HTTPS is also vital to your permanent link because it is a crucial SEO signal. In fact, recent changes have made HTTPS more essential than ever for online brands. For example, Google’s alerting system creates highly visible notices (red pop up in the URL bar) that warns users about the security of websites they are on. 

If your website displays these alerts more often, ultimately your SEO will be hurt. So make an effort to add HTTPS on your website. Encrypt is one of the services that can help you here. It uses a sophisticated system of checks and verifications to distribute SSL certificates that help keep your business and your customer safe.

Permalinks should be permanent

While it is possible to alter the structure of your permalinks if you do so be ready for the consequences —which will seriously hurt your SERP placements. You can avoid this by doing it right the first time!

Keep your URL formatting consistent across posts and pages

Make sure to stick to one format style. For example, if you use hyphens in your URL “-” to separate words on your pages, don’t use “_” to separate words on all your posts. I recommend sticking to the hyphens versus underscores, using of a traditional dash to separate words in URLs.

Don’t allow CMS to create your slug for you

By default, most CMS like WordPress will create a long slug for you. See the example below. You can shorten it by removing everything added except the keywords. Here is the full slug WordPress added: 11-best-tips-for-creating-lead-magnets-that-build-your-list-fast After removing everything else you get: “Creating lead magnets.”

What to do if you can’t change your URL structure

As mentioned earlier, you need to be very careful about altering the structure of your URL as existing SEO can take a hit. However, there are a few things you can do to allow altering your URL structure without losing existing organic ranking. Do this:

  • First, make sure you are certain of the new structure
  • Make the necessary changes in WordPress
  • Create 301 redirects to make sure old content is redirected to the right URL. Note that 301 redirects don’t lose page rank. 
  • With Pretty Links add your old permalink or target URL, and then amend it to the new Pretty Links Version.

Tip! Once you change your URL structure, consider focusing on other SEO matters that can help you climb the search engine rankings.

How to edit a WordPress permalink

WordPress gives you an option to edit the permanent link of your pages and posts. Once on your dashboard, from the page or post edit screen, hit “Edit” next to the permalink. Now change the text to include your post title, SEO keywords, and other relevant information.

Wrapping up

Permalinks are crucial for your website SEO, and their impact is lasting. For that reason, there is a need to have them structured the right way the first time. While it is possible to change the link later, the consequences may hurt a lot. So focus on doing the right thing from the start!