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How to Create an SEO-Friendly URL Structure in WordPress

Updated on Nov 9, 2022

Permalinks are important for both on-page SEO and branding purposes. However, many marketers and SEOs overlook the importance of creating an SEO-friendly URL structure. In this post, we'll show you how to make an SEO-friendly URL in WordPress and why you need one.

This post includes:

Why are URLs Important for SEO?

Permalinks are important because, unlike title and meta description, you cannot change a URL later without compromising SEO and direct traffic. And because changing URLs in bulk is a skilled job, it will incur additional costs (if you are not a tech person).

Your URL structure should be such that it is easy for your visitors to remember them later and for search engines to understand the associated content.

That is why it is worthwhile to delve deeply into the subject of URL SEO best practices.

There are several technical aspects to ensure SEO-friendly URLs, which means that your URLs help, rather than hinder, your overall SEO effort. Let's get started.

Best Practices To Write SEO-Friendly URLs

Implement a Uniform URL Structure Throughout the Website

There are several options for selecting a logical permalink structure for your website. As an example:

So, which of these options is best for SEO? When making this decision, keep in mind that it is not about SEO but UX.

Even Google's Matt Cutts believes that what is best for the user experience is also best for SEO.

In other words, an SEO-friendly URL structure should match the information architecture of your site because this is how visitors will be able to find and navigate your pages.

For example, if your website's information architecture is similar to the one shown above, it would make sense to have your Paintings page's permalink set up as follows:

yourdomain.com/gallery/paintings

It assists users in understanding where they are navigating and search engines in understanding the content of your website. It's also critical to keep your URL path close to the root domain and free of folders.

Set up a consistent URL structure that serves your users well, and you won't go wrong with SEO. A jumbled structure, on the other hand, will make it difficult for both visitors and search engines to navigate your website.

On a related note, it’s better to choose subfolders instead of subdomains. Search engines have a tendency to treat a subdomain as an autonomous website in itself.

Use Your Keywords

Every page you launch on your domain should serve a purpose. Its purpose, whether transactional, informational, or administrative, should be clear from the start.

You'll want this page to be found by the right people (and crawlers), so do some keyword research and include relevant terms. The most descriptive of these should be included in the URL, close to the root domain.

We'll discuss multiple pages that broadly address the same topic later, but for now, consider the simple example of a page that clearly addresses one topic. Let's get some whiskey.

Even this isn’t quite as simple as it seems, though.

Should we spell "whiskey" or "whisky" as standard? Both are correct, with the former being an Irish spelling and the latter being a Scottish spelling. The Irish spelling has been adopted in the United States, but we'll need more evidence before proceeding with that as our preferred variant.

The Moz Keyword Explorer is ideal for this situation because it groups keywords together to provide an estimate of the search volume for specific topics. It's a good solution in this day and age of ambiguous keyword-level search volumes.

To www or Not to www?

Many people wonder whether they should use the internet or not. It is surprisingly unimportant whether to use URLs like www.yourdomain.com or just yourdomain.com.

You can use either option as long as you are consistent. This consistency should be reflected not only on your website's pages, but also in your WordPress settings.

Do You Need a .com?

Similar to the preceding example, I see many marketers and entrepreneurs fixated on obtaining a domain name that ends in.com. This is more of a branding issue than an SEO issue, and it is not covered by permalink SEO best practices.

If you're going to use a.com extension, do so if it makes sense to make your audience more memorable. SEO has no bearing on the situation.

Implementing HTTPS on your website is beneficial not only for SEO, but also in general. Installing an SSL certificate provides users and search engines with peace of mind as they navigate your website.

Your visitors will appreciate the fact that you've taken precautions to protect their information. It has been used as a ranking signal in SEO since 2014.

If you're still not convinced, consider that Google's Chrome browser began warning visitors about non-secure sites in 2017 by displaying a nasty symbol indicating danger.

When a visitor sees this red symbol near the browser URL bar, they will be less likely to inquire or purchase from you. They are more likely to leave your website without spending much time on it, which is bad for both SEO and your business.

Check your web hosting package or contact their support to purchase and install SSL on your website.

Separate Words with Hyphens

Google has repeatedly stated and encouraged webmasters to maintain a positive user experience. The easier a URL is to read for a human user, the higher its user-friendliness rating. 

Another important best practice is to separate the words with hyphens rather than underscores. This significantly improves the readability of a URL, which aids SEO. Search engines treat hyphens as spaces, as opposed to other special characters (such as underscores), which are treated as they are.

This may cause the Google Bot to become confused about the content of your URL (plus playing a spoilsport with your keyword).

Avoid Dates/Numbers

When you insert a date in the permalink structure, you’re not only significantly increasing its length but also your effort because you may need to change it later to stay relevant.

Lowercase Helps the Case

Always use lowercase letters while writing URLs. Modern servers don’t treat a URL in lowercase any different than one in uppercase. However, some servers may often show a 404 error or even do a redirect on such URLs.

So one of the best practices is to stick to using lowercase letters for your permalink structure.

Reject Unsafe Characters

If you want to create an SEO-friendly URL, make it a point to stay clear of unsafe characters. These include spaces, \, <, >, {, }, #, %, * etc among others.

For example, the problem with using space is that there are chances that spaces may disappear or may be missed by the users while typesetting.

So why put in the labor when you are better off without them? As a part of my list of permalink SEO best practices, I suggest avoiding or minimizing the use of unsafe and reserved characters.

When it comes to your URL length, you should always incline towards being more concise. 

According to a study by Matthew Barby, the average URL length for pages that rank on #1 spot in Google search results is only 59 characters. This is also reinforced by people like Matt Cutts (head of Google’s webspam team) and Neil Patel.

Furthermore, the study included an experiment that demonstrated that shortening a page's heading and permalink brought it to the front page of Google (though this is not a universal case).

However, the lesson is clear: shorter URLs can have a significant impact on your ranking. The shorter your URL, the more brand searches you'll get and direct traffic from visitors who remember it.

Aside from using only your focus keyword in your URL, another thing to remember is to avoid using stop words. These are words like "to," "with," and "of," which occupy unneeded space in our permalinks.

For example, instead of creating URLs like this:

  • yourdomain.com/weight-loss-with-pills/
  • yourdomain.com/travel-in-singapore/

It’s better to have SEO-friendly permalinks which look like this:

  • yourdomain.com/weight-loss-pills/
  • yourdomain.com/travel-singapore/

This URL SEO best practice may appear to make your permalinks a little strange at times, but it is ultimately more beneficial and easier. Also, avoid repetitions while we're on the subject. Another error that can increase permalink length is repeating words in your URL.

Say No to Dynamic URLs

You may have come across URLs that appear to be a puzzle. The URLs are structured in such a way that you have no idea what the page is about unless you visit it.

Static URLs are preferable to dynamic URLs.

Static URLs are preferred because they include keywords that help users (and bots) understand what the page is about simply by looking at it.

For example, instead of creating URLs (Dynamic URLs) like this:

yourdomain.com/dp/?id=745373&sort=date

It’s better to have SEO-friendly URLs (Static URLs) which look like this:

yourdomain.com/seo-growth-hacks/

Implement Canonical URLs

A web page may have multiple URL versions at times. As a result, the SEO value is distributed among these various versions. You tell search engines about your preferred version by using a canonical tag. Furthermore, you allow the SEO value of these various versions to be consolidated into a single URL. That canonical URL would then appear in the search results. Canonical URLs can be defined using WordPress plugins such as Yoast, as shown in the screenshot below.

You already know how important it is to have a proper URL structure for your website's pages. Let's see how you'd accomplish that in WordPress. The bad news is that if you use WordPress as the CMS for your website, the default permalink structure is not optimized for humans or SEO.

The good news is that you can change the permalink structure of your website with just a few clicks.

Navigate to Settings → Permalinks on the left sidebar menu in your WordPress Dashboard.

You'll see various options on the permalink settings window to choose from and set as the default URL structure of each page/post on your website.

Considering the best possible SEO and user experience, I’d recommend that you select and save the Post Name option.

Once you have applied this setting, all you need to do is determine the slug for each post or page you create. A slug is a part that comes after your domain name in the URL. For example:

  • https://yourdomainname.com/[slug]
  • https://yourdomainname.com/seo-trends

In the above example, your slug is “SEO-trends.”

Although WordPress will generate unique slugs for your posts and pages, you'll be better off handling this yourself.

Go to the Add New or Edit window to set a slug for a post or page. Then, in the document settings, look for the permalink option.

Enter the slug you want to use for the post or page, and you'll have an SEO-friendly URL in no time.

Conclusion

Creating an SEO-friendly URL structure for your WordPress website is an important step in making it easier for search engines and readers to navigate and understand your website. Fortunately, WordPress makes it simple to select an SEO-friendly URL structure, and it also allows you to customize it slightly to meet the specific needs of your website. However, keep in mind that search engines want you to create a URL structure that will benefit human visitors, so keep it as short, simple, and informative as two to four words can be.

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