In the increasingly competitive world of e-commerce, digital marketers are always on the lookout for a process or a tool that can give their SEO strategy an edge over everyone else.
The truth is, digital marketers won’t have to look very far. One of the most effective but overlooked tactics in SEO is the use of custom WordPress permalinks.
What Is A Custom WordPress Permalink?
Put simply, permalinks are the unique URLs that are created for each page on your website.
For example, on our website, the permalink to our home page is:
But the specific permalink for our blog about developing a morning routine is:
WordPress creates the permalinks for your web pages based on the type of permalink structure you select. However, WordPress lets you create a permalink that’s customized to meet your purpose and objective.
There are 6 types of permalink structures available in WordPress:
As its name implies, this type of permalink structure is basic and barebones. There’s not much information that’s provided to the user.
An example of a Plain permalink structure is:
By default, the URLs of your website’s pages will be set using the Plain permalink structure. You can change this simply by going to your Settings page.
For your website to be found and clicked on, you want the URL to have a bit more information. The Plain type of permalink structure won’t get the job done for your website.
2. Day and Name
The name of the blog post or page and the date of publication is used to define the URL.
The advantage of using this type of permalink is that it tells the site user if the post is relevant and can provide useful information for his search inquiry.
However, the disadvantage is that if the site user comes across a possible reference from your website but the date of publication is shown as “2014”, he might perceive the information as outdated and abandon the search.
3. Month and Name
This type of permalink is similar to “Day and Name” except that only the month is indicated in the URL.
Thus, it has the same advantages and disadvantages as the “Day and Name” permalink structure.
Usually, site users would still acknowledge and accept information that’s 2 years old. Any publication that dates farther back than 2 years is widely considered outdated.
Of course, nothing beats current and up-to-date information.
The Numeric permalink structure is similar to the Plain permalink structure in that it doesn’t provide much information.
In this example, the permalink uses the ID number of the page or 122 as its “slug”. In web design, a slug is the last part of the URL that defines the page.
The advantage of the Numeric permalink is that it shortens the URL. But without much information, the Numeric won’t give your optimization efforts much help.
5. Post Name
The Post Name permalink structure is often regarded as the go-to permalink structure because of its simplicity and cleanliness.
As a general rule, it’s better to keep the slug down to 3 to 5 words so that site users can comprehend and remember much easier. Thus, we can edit the permalink as follows:
You will note that the keywords “SEO”, “custom” and “permalinks” are included in the slug and will surely help search engines find and index the web page if there are search queries about the topic.
6. Custom Structure
WordPress understands that customizing websites is an effective way of enhancing User Experience (UX). The custom permalink structure allows you to create a URL that can give more value to site users.
For example, if we wanted to give our site users access to our picks for best WP plugins, we could create the following URL and use it as a link:
With the custom structure permalink, you can anticipate the next steps or possible responses of your site users and create the URL that corresponds to their needs.
How To Create A Custom WordPress Permalink
Going back to our examples of permalinks, let’s break down the components of a permalink:
- The domain name – mountaintopwebdesign.com
- The category – In our example, the category could be included as blog or “mountaintopwebdesign.com/blog/9-tips-to-develop-a-morning-routine”. But we chose to keep the permalink short.
- The slug – The final section of the URL or “9-tips-to-develop-a-morning-routine”.
As mentioned in the previous section, WordPress lets you create a permalink that’s customized to fit your purpose and objective.
Thus, if you’re not impressed with the other 5 permalink types because you don’t think any one of them can support your goals, you have the option to customize a permalink for your website.
And creating a custom structure permalink is easy!
But before we discuss the simple steps in setting a custom structure permalink for your website, you need to learn about the 10 structure tags that you have to choose from to customize the permalink to your needs.
The structure tags provide the definitions of how your URL can be structured. These structure tags are as follows:
- %year% – The 4-digit year the post was published
- %monthnum% – The 2-digit month the post was published
- %day% – The 2-digit day the post was published
- %hour% – The hour of the day that the post was published
- %minute% – The minute of the hour that the post was published
- %second% – The second of the minute that the post was published
- %post_id% – The unique ID number of the post
- %postname% – The final version of how the title appears in the slug (“maximum-seo-custom-wp-permalinks”)
- %category% – The category of the post
- %author% – How the author’s name appears on the post
To customize a permalink, go to your Admin Dashboard and access Settings > Permalinks.
Once you click this, you will be taken to the Permalink Settings page. You will see the 6 different types of permalink structures that we discussed earlier.
Click on “Custom Structure” and you’ll find the 10 structure tags below the field identified as “Available Tags”.
From here, simply choose the structure tags that you want to describe your permalink.
Let’s say you want to customize a permalink that includes the year, month, and title of the blog post.
The customized permalink structure would look like this:
The permalink would be a URL that reads as follows:
When you’ve selected your structured tags, just click “Save” to generate the custom structure permalink.
How Custom WordPress Permalinks Maximize SEO Potential
Permalinks improve SEO because they help search engines understand what the page is all about by providing information. If you customize the permalink, you can give SEO a big boost because you can use high-ranking keywords to describe the information in the URL structure.
Keywords are a staple in the SEO toolbox. Search engines are able to find and index content that is relevant to the inquiries of users by scouring the Internet for high-ranking keywords.
If your content isn’t embedded with keywords, it won’t matter if they read as if they were written by Jeff Bullas, Heidi Cohen, or Jeff Goins who are widely considered as 3 of the best content writers today.
Without keywords, your content won’t be found.
And the same can be said about your web pages – they must be supported by SEO-friendly URLs or permalinks.
In the previous section, we showed you how to set up a custom structure permalink. Now, let’s get into the details and learn how to come up with a custom structure permalink that’s SEO-friendly.
1. Use the Right Keywords in Your Permalink
Now you know how important keywords are in optimizing your website. But how do you find the right keywords?
The simple answer is to do keyword research. However, finding the right keywords might take a bit more time and effort. The good news is that we’ve written an article on how to do keyword research.
After you’ve read the article, find out what the best tools are for doing keyword research.
Or give us a call or drop an email and we can do keyword research for you!
Having the right keyword in your permalink structure gives your URL a ranking signal. It will help the search engines find the page whenever someone launches a search query with the keyword.
As a general rule, if your purpose is to get more eyes on your web page, the best keyword to use is the one with the highest monthly volume of searches.
Let’s say your keyword research about the topic “digital marketing” yielded the following results:
- Business – 1,000,000 searches per month
- SEO – 100,000 searches per month
- Digital Marketing – 10,000 searches per month
You can create a blog with the title, “20 Best SEO Tactics To Grow Your Business” and then use the %postname% structure tag. The custom structure permalink will look like this:
The custom permalink contains 2 of the highest-ranking keywords and although we edited the title down to just 5 words, the URL still tells the site user what the post is about.
2. Focus on Evergreen Permalinks
Evergreen is a term used to describe content that’s fresh and constantly updated. The majority of people who search on the Internet would prefer to reference updated content rather than information that’s 5 to 10 years old.
For this reason, we recommend caution when it comes to adding dates or years to the custom permalink structure.
If you created a permalink for a post back in 2010 and didn’t bother to edit the year because there weren’t any significant developments in the succeeding years, keep in mind site users aren’t aware of that.
All they know is that 2010 is more than 10 years ago and perceive the information as outdated.
3. Overlook the Underscore and Use Hyphens Instead
Why? Because Google said so.
Google prefers the use of the hyphen instead of the underscore. For Google and other search engines, hyphens are easier to identify than underscores.
Likewise, WordPress also recommends the use of hyphens over underscores.
4. Get SSL Certificates
Who knows what type of cyber-evil lurks on servers?
SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a program that encrypts information as it leaves the user’s browser and is transmitted to the destination server.
With SSL, site users will feel more safe and assured that their personal information will be protected from cybercriminals.
To be clear, SSL isn’t a guarantee that site users are 100% safe. Like other protocols, it’s just another layer of protection.
But for Google, having a website covered by SSL certificates is enough reason for the search engine to declare it safe and a boost in the search rankings. Remember, having an SSL certificate is a ranking factor.
Conversely, a website that isn’t covered by SSL certificates will be flagged unsafe and will have the tag “Not Secure” or a padlock with a slash across appear prior to the URL.
Any potential site user who sees the “Not Secure” message might not even think twice about abandoning the search. That’s bad news especially if you own an e-commerce website.
5. E-Commerce? Categorize Your Permalinks
E-commerce is a booming industry and because of that, shoppers are becoming more discerning when it comes to patronizing online retail stores.
The key to success is providing users with a smooth, worry-free, and convenient shopping experience. One way to make shopping a breeze is to create categories for your products.
For example, you have an e-commerce store that sells fashion apparel and you want to direct site users to specific categories such as “cargo pants”.
- Go to Admin Dashboard
- Choose Settings
- Access Permalinks
- Choose “Custom Structure”
- Click on %category%
- Click on %postname%
The URL will appear something like this:
Site users will quickly know what the page is all about. For Google, it’s further proof of your commitment to maintaining excellent User Experience (UX). Categorizing your permalinks is a smart way of ranking for keywords; in our example, “cargo pants”, and maximizes SEO potential.
Fortify your SEO strategy by customizing permalinks. Not only will it make your website URLs more visible to search engines but breaking the link down into specifics will also help site users know if they’re on the right page.
It’s easy to customize permalinks. But if you want to fully maximize its benefits, allow us to do it for you. When we design and develop websites for our clients, we know the importance of enhancing visibility on the Internet.
Contact us now and let’s get started on your website!
And if you enjoyed reading this article please feel free to share it with your community.