Today is Friday, 24th November 2017

WordPress SEO URL / Permalinks considerations

by Joost de Valk
Let’s answer some of the questions that continually pop up: what does the optimal WordPress SEO URL / Permalink structure look like? How should you use your URL’s, what should and shouldn’t you do with them. A lot of questions below, a lot of answers, most with a reference to a video or post from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam team.

The perfect WordPress SEO URL structure

I’ll be honest. I think it’s dead simple and that you basically have two options. The URL should end with the post name and could possibly be prefixed with the category. No other options really make sense.

This means you’d end up with a permalink structure as follows:

/%postname%/

or, with the category:

/%category%/%postname%/

Putting the date in the URL has very few benefits, if any. I’m not a fan because it “dates” your older results, possibly getting a lower click through over time. The reason the postname has to be in there is probably obvious, but still: it would mean you get another mention of the main keyword in your URL. This is also why my WordPress SEO plugin’s Page Analysis feature checks for this (example below).

WordPress SEO URL check

Should I use the category in my permalink structure?

If your domain name is short and your category names are short and descriptive, there can be a pretty big benefit in having the category in the URL. You should take care though; if your slug (the part of the URL that identifies the post) is long and you have the category in the URL as well, that might potentially lead to a very long URL which is harder to share and won’t benefit you as much in Google.

If you decide to use the category in the permalink, make sure to pick short and descriptive slugs for your categories, and to preferably pick only one category for each post. You might take some info from this video from Matt Cutts as well:

Should I add .html to my permalink structure?

I don’t believe for one moment that this would help you, even though this seems to be a long standing myth, neither would .php or other extensions. But… some people feel otherwise. Watch the video below, where Matt says that it has no effect on core ranking in the end but it “might” on other things, which leads some people to think it’s beneficial:

I’ve emailed Matt to see if I can get some more info out of him. Some other extensions though, might in fact hurt you, Matt has warned in the past about not using .exe in your URL’s, for instance.

Update: I emailed Matt and asked whether it makes sense to add .html for systems like WordPress. His response:

In general I wouldn’t. My WP has urls like http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/remove-result/ and that’s pretty ideal.

So. Case closed.

My blog is in Google News, don’t I need numbers in the URL?

In the past, Google News required you to have a unique number in the URL to be indexed. This is still true unless you have a Google News XML Sitemap, as you can see in the Google docs. The Google News module for my WordPress SEO plugin provides you with such an XML sitemap and there are a couple of other plugins that can do that for you, so you no longer need those numbers in there.

Should my focus keyword always be the first keyword in the URL?

It might help a tiny bit, but getting it in there is way more important than having it in the first few. Matt did a video on this too:

How many words should I use in my slug?

For a perfect WordPress SEO URL, your slug should be no longer than 3 to 5 words. From this interview with Matt Cutts:

If you can make your title four- or five-words long – and it is pretty natural. If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.

Should you change your URL structure for better SEO?

After saying that this is the best approach for your SEO, you might expect me to say that you should even change your URL structure for this benefit. While I might change it if it’s an “old style” URL structure like ?p= (and thus are not having the SEO benefits of the keyword in your URLs), if you’re currently using the date in the URL, changing it is not always a good idea. It really depends on how long you’ve been blogging under that URL structure and how competitive the market you’re in is. In quite a few cases, I’d do a lot of other things first before changing the Permalink structure, even when you’re not sporting the perfect WordPress SEO URL settings.

If you’re on Apache and you decide to do the redirect, having been on a /yyyy/mm/dd/%postname%/ structure before, you might benefit from this simple redirect which you could throw into your .htaccess file:

RedirectMatch 301 /\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/(.*) http://example.com/$1

Performance issues with this WordPress SEO URL structure

As the codex states, there are some performance issues with this permalink structure. Performance would be better when the URL structure contained the post ID, or started with a static thing such as /posts/%postname%/. To be honest, I couldn’t care less. If you’re not willing to invest in WordPress hosting a bit, you might as well not optimize for search. Next to that, the detrimental performance effect of a perfect WordPress SEO url setting is mostly gone when you install a proper caching plugin.

Conclusion: the perfect WordPress SEO URL

It really depends on your site what the perfect WordPress SEO URL looks like, but they don’t differ often. It helps if you make these considerations up front, but you can always make them later too, just be sure to do proper redirects from your old to your new structure.

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