Is your current SEO strategy underperforming? Maybe it’s because you haven’t checked if your WordPress website’s URL structures are SEO-friendly.
Why is this important?
URL structures that aren’t SEO-friendly will be hard for search engines to understand. Here’s an example of a URL structure that isn’t SEO-friendly:
The guiding principle in making SEO-friendly URL structures is that the main beneficiary – the person using the page – must be able to read and understand the URL to know what the page is all about.
If a human being can understand what the page is all about based on how the URL is structured, then, so can the search engine. As far as Google is concerned, if the URL structure isn’t good enough for the site user, “it’s not good enough for us.”.
In this article, we’ll share with you the best practices to come up with SEO-friendly URL structures for your WordPress website.
By learning and understanding these best practices, you’ll be able to fortify your SEO strategy and gain an advantage over competitors whose websites don’t have pages with URL structures that are friendly to search engines.
What Are URL Structures In A WordPress Website?
URL is the acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. Also called a permanent link or a permalink, it’s the page where you can find the resource you’re looking for. In simple terms, the URL is the Internet address of the page that you want to visit.
The web pages of a website – Home Page, Products and Services, About Us, Blogs, Contact Us, or Shop, for e-commerce websites – all have their URLs.
If your WordPress website was created in versions before WordPress 4.2, the permalinks of its web pages were automatically set by default.
The permalinks of those web pages are not SEO-friendly. The URLs used numbers and special characters that don’t help search engines and users what the pages are about.
Search engine crawl bots will have a hard time determining the relevancy of these pages to the search queries.
How SEO-Friendly URL Structures Give Your Pages An Edge
Pages that have been indexed by the crawl bots will appear and be ranked in order of popularity on the SERP. The pages will be distinguished by their URL. The question is:
“Which URL will be clicked on by the user?”
According to a recent study by Backlinko, the number 1 position in the SERP generates a click-through rate of 27.6% and is 10x more likely to get a click than the URL in the tenth spot.
Yes, the number 1 ranked URL will have the biggest advantage. But is SERP ranking the only factor used by people to decide on which URL to click?
No. We’re sure you can identify with our example below.
Let’s assume you want to buy some power tools for the newly set-up workshed at the back of your home.
You run the following search query:
“Best home power tools”
Within seconds, you get the first page of the SERP from Google. These are the websites with pages that contain the search keywords “best home power tools”.
The initial reaction is to go to the first website listed on the SERP. Right below the title of the website is the permalink of the web page that has the information for the best home power tools.
If the permalink reads…
… would you click on it?
Some people would not click on the link even if the website is in the first position of the SERP because the permalink doesn’t accurately describe what the page is about. If you’re like this, then, chances are you’ll go down the list of websites.
Eventually, you come across a website with the following permalink…
The permalink contains the information you’re looking for plus it gives you an idea of how many products are being recommended by the website. It won’t matter to you that the website is in the fifth position in the SERP – you will click on it.
SEO-friendly URL structures or permalinks are important for your WordPress website because they help the user and the search engines understand what the specific page is about. They will encourage users to click on the links and impress search engines enough to give your website a boost in the search rankings.
5 Best Practices For WordPress SEO-Friendly URL Structures
If you want to learn about the types of permalink structures that are available in WordPress, you can read our article “Maximizing SEO Potential With Custom WordPress Permalinks”.
It would be a good idea to read that article to develop a better understanding on the different ways permalinks can be created.
In this section, we’ll share with you our best practices for creating URL structures that will make it easier for search engines to find and index your pages.
1. Include Keywords
The smart use of keywords is an integral component of SEO. Keywords are the words and phrases used by information-seekers to launch a search query. In our example above, the keywords were:
“Best home power tools”
Keywords aren’t only used to optimize content. They can also be used to optimize URL structures. All you have to do is to include them in your web page’s URL.
But the keywords aren’t what you think are the popular search words and phrases used by information-seekers. Making assumptions can result in costly mistakes.
Be more precise in your approach by taking the time to do keyword research. If you’re not familiar with keyword research, read our article on the best keyword research tools.
Another benefit of Keyword research is that it helps you identify what topics your target market is interested in.
For example, you’re in the business of selling gardening supplies. Google Trends can help you identify the topics that garden hobbyists and horticulturists are currently interested in.
Let’s say you used Google Trends and your research yielded the following topics as “trending” among horticulturists:
- Organic pesticides
- Worst plant pests
- Pest control
- Best natural pesticides
- Pest plant care solutions
You can write blogs about these topics and support them with SEO-friendly URLs that include the popular search keywords:
- “5 Best Organic Pesticides To Keep Your Plants Safe” – www.plantlife.com/5-best-organic-pesticides/
- “7 of the Worst Plant Pests to Watch Out For” – www.plantlife.com/7-worst-plant-pests/
- “Pest Control Made Easy” – www.plantlife.com/pest-control-made-easy
- “10 Best Natural Pesticides For Your Home Garden” – www.plantlife.com/10-best-natural-pesticides/
- “What Are The Best Pest Plant Care Solutions For Your Home?” – www.plantlife.com/best-pest-plant-care-solutions/
Keyword research takes time but it’s worth the effort. As an entrepreneur, your time should be allocated to running the core areas of your business.
As an option, consider outsourcing content writing to Mountaintop Web Design. Not only will we create content but we’ll also perform keyword research and use the best keywords to spruce up your URLs.
2. Focus on Creating Clean and Easy-to-Understand Structures
If you noticed, the URL examples from the previous section clearly describe what the web pages are about. It’s important to make your URLs clear, simple, and easy to understand because it contributes to creating an excellent User Experience (UX).
Likewise, as we mentioned earlier, focusing on clean and simple URLs that are easy to understand will also help the search engines assess if your web page fits the search needs of the user.
Here are some tips on how to come up with clean, simple, and easy-to-understand URL structures:
- Use hyphens to differentiate words. Don’t use underscores because search engines have difficulty identifying this character.
- Avoid using dynamic URLs that read like a mathematical formula. Remember, WordPress automatically generates the URL structure for your web page.
- If it reads www.plantlife.com/?=12345&sort+date, change it.
- To be safe, use lowercase letters when creating URLs. Using uppercase might be okay but some servers might get “confused” when they come across a combination of upper and lowercase letters. If this happens, a “404 Error” notice might appear or the user is redirected elsewhere.
- Avoid using weird characters like “&”, “%”, “#”, and “=”. They don’t serve any good purpose and will only confuse the search engines as well as the user.
How about numbers?
Our previous URL examples have numbers – “10”, “5”, and “7” but these were used to describe the web page more accurately. Don’t include numbers and their sequences – “12345” or “16725” – because they will only confuse the search engines.
3. Stay Consistent
Sometimes you’ll come across websites with permalinks that use “www” and some that don’t. Similarly, some permalinks don’t include the domain name.
Do these details matter when it comes to having SEO-friendly URL structures?
No. For the most part, the decision to use “www” or to add the domain name, especially if it’s a “.com”, is a branding issue. If you don’t want to use “www” or include your domain name to keep the permalink short, is entirely up to you.
What’s more important is to remain consistent throughout the website. If one page doesn’t use “www” or has the domain name, do the same to the other permalinks on the website.
You don’t want your site users wondering why some pages have different URL structures than others.
4. Keep Your URLs Short and Concise
As we just mentioned in the previous section, it’s advisable to keep your URLs short.
A study made by Matthew Barby showed that URLs that consistently ranked in the number one spot in Google’s SERP had an average of 59 characters. Other experts in the field of SEO such as Google’s Matt Cutts and Neil Patel agree with Barby’s study.
Keeping your URL short makes it easier for the user and the search engines to understand what the page is about. We can see a clear pattern here that you should never make things on your website complicated for the user and Google.
You might have noticed that in our examples of SEO-friendly permalinks, we didn’t use stop words such as “to”, “for”, and “with”.
Stop words will unnecessarily lengthen your permalink. Also, it’s not common for people to write a search query with a stop word. Instead of “best burger for vegans”, they’ll just write “best vegan burger”.
5. Friendly Reminder… Get SSL Certificates
If you’ve already read our article about the types of permalinks and how to customize one for your web page, you’ve no doubt come across our tip that you should get SSL certificates for your website.
Without the risk of sounding repetitive, securing your web pages with SSL certificates will help your chances of moving up the search rankings for 2 reasons.
First, SSL is an encryption code that protects your data from being stolen once it’s transmitted from browser to server. People who see “https” or the padlock icon before the permalink will feel safe visiting and interacting with your website.
Second, having SSL certificates is a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm. If your website isn’t covered by SSL certificates, it will be marked “Not Secure” by Google.
Yes, getting SSL certificates entails additional costs. But the extra expense is worth it.
You’ll easily recover the cost because people won’t hesitate to visit your site. They’ll see you as an entrepreneur who cares about the safety of his customers and will feel more encouraged to support your business.
There are close to 2 billion websites on the Internet. This number is expected to rise as businesses and consumers continue to embrace the online lifestyle.
The question is, with so many websites, how can your website be seen by your target audience?
Enhancing online visibility is the goal of SEO. But optimization isn’t just about creating content that’s embedded with high-value keywords and the right backlinks.
To have an effective SEO strategy that delivers results, you have to cover all the bases and that includes creating URL structures or permalinks that are highly visible to search engines and descriptive for site users.
Having SEO-friendly permalinks can shift the user’s decision in your favor if your URL isn’t ranked in the top 3 of the SERP.
While appearing at the top of the SERP is a big advantage in terms of CTRs, not all people are easily swayed by rankings. Some prefer to patronize websites that make it easier for them to find the information they need.
By focusing on creating SEO-friendly URL structures, searchers will understand what your page is about and know immediately that clicking on your permalink is the right choice to make.
Are you thinking of investing in a website for your business? Are you disappointed with your current website and want a redesign? The first step is to give us a call. We’ll give you a free 30-minute consultation.
Then, let’s talk about website design and gameplan our SEO strategy.
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