DIY SEO: Step 1 – Customize Your Permalink Structure

This is the third post in our DIY SEO for WordPress series.

What Is A Permalink Structure?

A permalink is the URL of an individual blog post. To see what I’m talking about, click the title of any of your blog posts. What you’ll end up with is just that blog post, in its entirety, shown on that page. The address bar of your browser will reflect the URL (permalink) of that blog post.

You want your permalinks to make sense to both people and the search engines. If your address bar reflects something like:

http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=156

then you want to change your permalink structure to reflect your blog post’s title:

http://www.yourdomain.com/your-post-title/

See how much better the second URL is than the first? It makes more sense to you, doesn’t it?

Ok, but why does it make more sense to the search engines? Because one of the most important factors in search engine algorithms is filename, so it is important to use a permalink structure on your WordPress blog that will include your relevant search terms for that post. (I’m getting a little ahead of myself with that explanation, but just go with me here, ok? Somethings just need to be in place ASAP, and this is one of those things.)

What If You’re Using the Default Structure and Have a LOT of Posts Already?

I know what you’re thinking: You’ve been blogging for awhile now and you’re using that squirrelly ?p=153 structure and you’ve got all these links out there in the search engines and from other blogs and sites in this format. If you change it now, won’t it render all those links dead and useless?

Yup – sure will.

So why would I recommend you change your permalink structure midstream? Because you need to use an SEO-friendly structure and because I have a fix for you that will handle all those links using the old structure: Dean?s Permalinks Migration Plugin Version 1.0 Install this plugin and supply it with your old permalink structure BEFORE you change it.

Then, when someone clicks a link out there somewhere in the search engines, or on another site linking to you that’s using your old, SEO-unfriendly permalink structure, instead of getting a 404 error, it’ll redirect to the correct URL using the new structure (once you’ve changed it, of course.) Pretty slick, huh? Now you can change your permalink structure without worrying you’re going to break all the links you’ve already got out there in cyberspace.

Note, if you’ve changed your permalink structure more than once in the past (like a certain unnamed, didn’t-know-better-and-definitely-wasn’t-thinking-newbie-blogger has done before), this plugin will only be able to help you with THIS update to your permalink structure. But hey – correcting some of your links already published out there in cyberspace is better than not correcting any at all, or worse yet, not using an SEO-friendly permalink structure just because you’ve got so much content out there using an SEO-unfriendly structure. You’re not stuck, you can change and adapt, even now.

Besides, you can always update your 404 page template with a message to let people know that the content they’re looking for might actually still be there and how to find it. Here is an example of a modified 404 page implemented by the aforementioned unnamed, didn’t-know-better-and-definitely-wasn’t-thinking-newbie-blogger. Sometimes it’s best to admit you’ve made mistakes and offer a way to fix them, rather than leaving a bad impression and no fix. We’re all human, after all.

How to Customize Your Permalink Structure in WordPress

Go to Settings in your WordPress dashboard, and click Permalinks.

Click the radio button next to “Custom Structure” and enter: /%postname%/

Click “Save Changes”.

Now your post URLS will look like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/your-post-title/, which is much more SEO-friendly than the default.

Now, if you’re interested, there’s another plugin that’ll make your post URLs even MORE effective as far as the search engines are concerned called SEO Slugs. Check it out and read what it does for you. You might want to use it, too.

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