- Sep 22, 2020
- by Brad Litwin
Every site owner wants to see their page sitting at the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). However, getting there involves many moving parts: keywords, post titles, and much more. In the scramble to nail down all these factors, it’s easy to let something slip through the cracks, such as your pages’ ‘permalinks’.
A strong, search optimized and friendly URL format makes it easy for users to share links to your site, and helps search engines find, scan, and rank your pages. This, in turn, leads to higher rankings on search engines and increased traffic to your site.
In this post, we’ll walk you through exactly how to get your site’s permalinks spruced up for search. We’ll then share some best practices for optimizing your URLs and landing those coveted top spots. Let’s get started!
An Introduction to Permalinks
A permalink is simply another name for the URL of a page on your website. It’s the string of text you type into the address bar to navigate around the web. These links never change – unless you deliberately change them – hence the name.
Typically, a permalink will include the site’s Top-Level Domain (TLD) as well as a description of the specific page it points to. A good example is www.a2hosting.com/blog, which brings you to – you guessed it – the A2 Posting.
The format and contents of your permalinks are important for a couple reasons:
- They act as the address for your site. A clean, memorable permalink makes it easier for users to return to a page they like, or share it with others. Strong permalinks also tend to stand out more in SERPs.
- Permalinks help search engines find and index your pages. Concise, descriptive permalinks make it much easier for a search engine to match your page to a query. On the flip side, weak links can cause your pages to get buried at the bottom of a SERP (if it even makes the first page).
There are several formats for permalinks that can provide great benefits for User Experience (UX) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) Unfortunately, these typically involve changing the default setting, which is easy to overlook.
How To Maximize Your SEO With Permalinks
The default permalink structure on many sites, WordPress being a relevant example, includes a page ID number, for example: www.website.com/?p=123. This isn’t helpful to visitors or search engines, because it tells them nothing about the contents of the page. Users will never remember which page they’ve visited, and because the link looks like spam, there’s a good chance it will be ignored.
Leaving the permalink format set to this default is a sure way to undermine any SEO strategy. Fortunately, a Content Management System (CMS) will offer a choice of permalink formats that can be quickly applied to every page on your site.
Some common permalink formats include:
- Post name. This format simply uses the post name you assign the page as the URL, adding it after the website’s domain name. For example: www.yourpage.com/post-name.
- Day and post name. Includes the full date before the post name. For example: www.yourpage.com/2020/7/12/post-name.
- Month and post name. Same as above, but with just the year and month.
- Custom. The choice here is up to you.
A post name or custom format is generally the way to go for both readability and SEO purposes. Using the post name ensures the permalink is descriptive and relevant to the topic discussed on the page. Having keywords in the URL also helps search engines properly index and rank the page, which in turn helps bump traffic.
In contrast, a custom format lets you make your links even more concise and targeted, while setting up a consistent structure that’s easy to navigate and memorable for users.
5 Tips for Highly-Optimized Permalinks
Now you have a basic understanding of permalink structure, let’s take a look at five specific tips you can implement on your site to improve SEO.
1. Include Relevant Keywords
As you may have deduced so far, your permalink is another opportunity to boost your SEO. As such, look to slot your chosen page keywords into your permalink. If you don’t know what your most important keywords are, SEO tools like Yoast SEO can help you find out.
If you’ve opted for a custom permalink format, make sure to include the most relevant keywords for the page or post in question. In addition, if you’re using a format based on the post name, make sure that includes your most important keywords.
This will ensure the permalink is relevant to the page topic, and gives you some extra keyword density for search engines.
2. Use Hyphens in Your Links
This one is simple to understand. Good permalinks rely in part on readability, and one including multiple words should be easy to read.
As such, separate the words in your permalink with a hyphen, instead of letting them run together. For example, use www.yourpage.com/this-post instead of www.yourpage.com/thispost.
This makes the permalink much easier to read for human users, and can also help search engines process the link.
3. Keep Your Links Short
The links that rank most highly on SERPs average about 60 characters. As such, this also a good target for your permalinks.
Even if you can’t hit that target specifically, shorter links are likely to have less fluff and stronger keywords (since space is at a premium). What’s more, they’re also easier for users to read, remember, and share.
To make your permalinks shorter, remove unnecessary words, especially stop words such as “of,” “at,” “to,” and “from.” Also, include only the most vital words for describing the page. For example, instead of www.yourpage.com/how-to-improve-permalink-SEO, use www.yourpage.com/permalink-SEO.
4. Avoid Dates in Your Permalinks
You’ll often see permalinks include a year in the form of a year, especially for listicles such as “Best WordPress Themes for 2020.” On the face of it, this makes sense.
However, dates in permalinks have relatively little SEO value, and in fact can hurt your organic traffic quite a bit. Here are a couple reasons why:
- They lengthen the permalink, which we’ve learned is bad.
- They add an ‘expiration date’ to otherwise evergreen content. Readers may see the date and think the page contains outdated information, even if it’s still entirely relevant.
For these reasons, stick to a simple post name format, or build your custom format without dates. While you may get away with using dates within your ‘slug’ (i.e. the descriptive element of your permalink,) this is only going to be suitable for a handful of situations.
5. Stick to a Consistent Structure
Our final tip, doesn’t necessarily have a major impact on SEO, but it does greatly enhance UX. Simply put, keep your permalink structure consistent on a site-wide basis.
This gives readers something to expect, and lets them easily understand where they are on your site at any given time. This will make it easier for returning users to navigate your site, and can boost organic traffic to your pages.
As such, regardless of what format you settle on for your site’s permalinks, make sure it’s consistent across the entire site. To ensure consistency, decide on a permalink structure before diving into other details. It’ll pay off in the end.
Permalinks are a crucial aspect of proper SEO, but unfortunately many site owners don’t give them the attention they deserve. When properly optimized, they can be a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal and help propel your pages to the top of SERPs.
In this article, we’ve provided five tips for optimizing your permalinks. Let’s recap them quickly:
- Include relevant keywords.
- Use hyphens to separate words.
- Keep links as short as possible.
- Avoid dates in your permalinks.
- Stick to a consistent structure.