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Improve SEO by optimizing your permalinks

Permalinks are the permanent web addresses for your individual blog posts. One of the great features of WordPress is its extremely easy and flexible to make your permalinks into pretty much anything you want.

When considering how to setup permalinks, you want to put some thought into how you want the web addresses on your website to look to both your users and your search engine spidery friends.

By default, WordPress numbers your blog posts and includes those in the permalinks. The problem with numbers is that they don’t convey much information to anyone and instill dread in people that come across a naked link and get anxiety about what may be found on the other side.

Doesn’t a link like this look scary:

http://www.yoursite.com/?p=234

On to the wonderful things a permalink should do

A permalink should:

  • Convey information about what to expect on the other side of the link. This puts people at ease and keeps the fear of the unknown at bay when they see your link in the wild – such as in the little green print below a Google listing.
  • Include keywords relevant to the content of the page. This can provide benefits in search engine ranking. Even if Google waters this down due to spammers some people will link to you with your full URL. In those cases, you are more likely to get some good keywords into the link text which is an SEO plus.
  • Use dashes instead of something like underscores to serve as spaces between words as Google views dashes as word separators and equivalent to a space.
  • Be short. Short web addresses are not only nicer on the eye, they don’t get cut off and rendered unclickable when passed around in emails.

You want to get on changing your permalinks quick before Google starts indexing you and people start linking to you, otherwise you run the risk of the default WordPress permalinks seeping into the network at large and causing you all kinds of SEO pain down the road. This is the very first thing I do in a new WordPress install.

Let’s make these links warm, fuzzy and superfriendly

To change your permalinks, go to Options > Permalinks in your WordPress console, choose Custom and include a pattern like this one:

/%postname%

You should have something that looks like this:

Configure your permalinks in WordPress

This will lead to URLs that look like:

http://www.bizquarium.com/optimize-your-permalinks

When writing your posts…

… you’ll want to edit the thing called the post slug on the Write New Post screen to show the text you want for the permalink. In this case, I chose optimize-your-permalinks. If you leave this out WordPress won’t crash and burn – it will just dashify your title and effectively turn it into a post slug. In many cases this is fine, but if the titles of your posts are long or a little mysterious then letting it happen automagically won’t be optimal.

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