So far in this WordPress 3.9 crash course, we’ve created a couple of pages and set up our Reading Settings. Now what we’re going to do is work on some Search Engine Optimization. The first thing to do is come over to our Settings and go to Permalinks.
Permalink Settings and URLs
Let’s go back to Sandy’s blog and look at a URL on one of her posts. It’s bakedbeetchips. If we look at the “Hello World” post here on this site we started, you’ll see that the URL for this is ?p=1. It’s a horrible URL because it’s a useless. It’s a URL that doesn’t mean anything.
But WordPress has a system called Permalinks that allow you to set up how you want your URL structured when you create your site. Let’s go to a sample page. Notice that this says, ?page_id=2. You have some choices as to how you want to structure this.
URL Structure Choices
You have these choices.
- Day and the Name of your Post
- Month and Name of your Post
- Post Name only and
- Custom Structure
Why You Shouldn’t Use the Post Name Only
I’ve heard a lot of people recently say that using the Post Name by itself is the right way to do it but they are wrong. You don’t want to just use the post name. If you do you are violating one of Google’s main admonitions to website owners and that is they say use a structured URL.
Unfortunately, my friend Sandy here has made a mistake with her URLs because she actually could have a structured URL that would read recipes, snacks, baked beet chips but because she listened to somebody other than me about how to set up her URLs all of her recipes have no structure behind them.
Best Choice: Custom URL Structure
From an SEO standpoint it would be way better if it said recipes and snacks in front of the name of the recipe. But because of the way she configured her permalinks, it doesn’t. But if you pay attention to me you’re not going to make that mistake.
We’ll come over here but before I select custom structure I’m going to click post name. That starts putting the content in for me and then choose I’ll custom structure. Here’s what you’ll type in: /%category%/%postname%/. So it looks just like that.
Effective for SEO
This is the most effective SEO for your URLs and the right way to do your permalinks. Now what we’ll get are permalinks that look like this, for example, byobwebsite.com/seminars/thesis-theme-2-0-seminars/how-to-customize-the-post-box-in-thesis-2-1/. This URL is structured in such a way that it complies with Google’s recommendations.
Allows People to Understand What the Post is About
If you’re just reading this URL you can tell what this is going to be about. And if you didn’t know that baked beet chips was a recipe you might now know what this is about, right? Her SEO would be way more effective if she had a structured URL instead of just post name. I’m going to show you another example of this.
Using Categories in Your Permalinks
I have this site that I use for demonstrating categories. On the blog I’ve got all these different posts about fruit. I have a bananas category and if I go to this banana, you can see it says bananas/veinte-cohol-banana. So bananas is the category name and that’s the post name.
Let’s go over here to apples. I actually have yellow apples, green apples and red apples. So if I come over here to the Irish Peach post, you can see it’s apples/green-apples/irish-peach.
We’ll talk about how categories work and how to use them but this is a critical component even if you’re not using blog posts. If you’re not using blog posts but you have parent pages and child pages you’ll still get this hierarchy. And it’s this hierarchy, this structure, that Google wants to see.
You won’t get that if you just choose post name. Not to belabor the point but putting category and post name as your custom permalink means that your URLs will be structured in the way that Google recommends.
I encourage you to look at the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. This is the actual name of their document and here it is. Number 3 in the guide is Improving Site Structure then Improve the Structure of your URLs. You can see that they are very focused on this and everybody who just uses post name is ignoring what Google says you should do. We’ll be talking more about the Starter Guide coming up in Styling Content for Readability Using Headings and Lists.
Check the Search Engine Visibility
There’s one other thing you need to do though and that is you need to come over here to Reading Settings and make sure that you don’t check the box after Search Engine Visibility which says “Discourage search engines from searching this site”. If you check this, it means that search engines will not index your site.
As it says, “It is up to search engines to honor this request” but Google won’t index your site which means it won’t be visible.
Those are the two things you need to do in order to make sure that your site is properly prepared for Search Engine Optimization.
What Should You do if You’ve Already Published Posts or Pages?
Dana says, “I have a dozen posts that have been published, what happens if you change that?” Well, you should change it as soon as possible. You should set up a sitemap with the sitemap plugin, you should register that sitemap with Google webmaster tools so that webmaster tools knows the right path to those things and then let them be found. You can learn more about this watch the videos from our Integrating Your Site with Google lesson.
If you have 300 posts which means you have a well-established site already then what you’re going to want to do is use a system of 301 Redirects that tell search engines how to redirect from the old URL to the new URL. But that’s not really a beginner task so if you’re at the beginning of your process changing it now is absolutely possible and just go on from there.