Question: What is the best permalink structure for WordPress? My company has setup their WordPress permalink structure using a year/date structure and I don’t think that’s the ideal solution. What do you think?
Mary ~ Bethesda, Maryland
Mary, this is a great question and one that, ideally, is given proper consideration before companies setup their website.
However, as you are experiencing right now and as I have seen countless times, WordPress website owners do not give sufficient thought to this and they end up with a bad permalink structure that then needs to be fixed later on.
There is only one correct WordPress Permalink structure.
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of a great URL structure and then review the various WordPress Permalink options.
Hopefully, it will become very obvious why there is only one optimal URL structure for your WordPress website and why any other choice, including the default WordPress permalink structure, is incorrect.
Characteristics of a Great WordPress Permalink Structure and Why Good URLs Matter
When we choose our WordPress permalink structure, we are deciding what will be the URL’s of all of our website content (An URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is just your website address. Eg. The URL of this post is: https://theseosystem.com/best-wordpress-permalink-structure/).
This is a hugely important and consequential decision.
I once interviewed a candidate for an online marketing position and I always ask this question: “If you have one motto that you follow in your work, what would that be.”
This particular candidate answered: “Do it right the first time.”
I hired him on the spot.
“Do it right the first time.”
If possible, you always want to do your URL structure right the first time because, to change it later, can cause massive headaches.
In fact, you risk losing your organic rankings in Google if you change your permalink structure later on. You can read about all of these potential problems here.
So, how do we do it right the first time?
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of a great URL structure for your website to answer this question.
#1: A Great URL Should Contain Keywords (As Far to the Left As Possible)
The end goal of all web content is to get as many visitors as possible. Otherwise, why bother, right?
Well, when we look at the 2018 edition of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors, we see that having the keyword in the URL is a ranking factor:
Also, other studies have shown that you want the keywords to be as far to the left in your URL as possible.
#2: URLS Should Not Have Dates!
The best way to illustrate to you why URLs should not have dates is to show an example.
If you are searching for “Kindle Review”, what do you think when you see this URL?
Dates in URLs are bad because they easily expose dated material.
And, like it or not, we live in the “now” generation and nobody is interested in something written in 2010 even it is still pertinent today.
And, if it is pertinent today, why have your readers judge you based on a date in an URL?
Also, you will often read how how updating your old content can help with your rankings. So you certainly don’t want to have your updated content reflecting its original creation date in the URL.
See this article on Google & RankBrain to learn how “dated” content can adversely affect your SERP results.
#3: URLs Should Not Have Categories
This is one point over which we could have a healthy debate: Your WordPress Permalink post structure should not contain categories.
We can all agree, at the very least, that you should not include the word “Category” in your URL so here is how to remove “Category” from your WordPress URL structure.
But, why do I think that removing categories from your URL structure is a good idea?
Well, despite your best intentions and certainty, your categories will likely change over time. I’ve seen this at a number of companies.
And, what happens to your post URLs when you change your categories?
Yep, all of your post URLs change and you could potentially lose your Google rankings.
So, in the end, it’s simply not a good idea.
#4: URLs Should Be Short
All of the studies suggest that your WordPress URL structure should be shorter rather than longer.
Will a long URL eliminate your chances of being able to rank in Google? Absolutely not!
Take a look at the URL of this Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/07/03/how-seo-and-content-marketing-work-together-to-fuel-your-online-success/#5c4a2b5f16bf
I would say that qualifies as a long URL, no?
But Forbes can do this because (deserved or not) they have authority in the eyes of Google and a long URL will not hurt them.
However, take a look at the URL above for Brian’s Dean’s Google Ranking Factors article: https://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors
Brian, as a one man show, garners the top spot for many of the most competitive keywords.
And he uses short URL’s…so you should too!
#4: Permalinks Should be Permanent!
Every year, I have several companies call me and ask about changing their WordPress Permalink structure.
Why? Because they chose wrongly the first time.
If you add dates or categories to your WordPress URL structure, I can practically guarantee that you will want to change this later on.
And this can have heavy consequences with your SERP placements!
So, read below to find out your best Permalink setup and stick to it.
That way, your Permalinks will actually be permanent!
WordPress Permalink Options: The One Right Choice
By this point, you may have already divined the one right answer to this question.
But, if not, let’s take a graphical look at the WordPress Permalink interface and illustrate all the wrong choices AND the ONE right WordPress Permalink choice:
Let’s just end with one final comment.
You may think that web-searchers do not care at all about the URL of a webpage.
But that is entirely untrue.
As we see in this quote below from Rand Fishkin’s article 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs, the URL is a HUGE factor for users when deciding if they are going to click to your website.
So do it right the first time!
Comments: What is your company’s WordPress Permalink structure. Do you incorporate dates and categories or just post-name as suggested above?
Have you ever had to change your WordPress Permalink structure? How was this experience? Sound off in the comments section below. I respond to all comments that come in. Cheers, Richard
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