You might have heard people talk about permalinks, or permalink or URL structure. I’m guessing most of us know what a URL is (a website address, basically) and that’s all that a permalink is, really.
Permalink or URL structure refers to what’s included in the permanent links to pages or posts on your website or blog. If you’ve never set up a blog or website (I use WordPress), you’ve probs never given URL structure even a second’s thought. And if you’ve set up a blog or website recently, there’s a chance you still haven’t come across URL structure. If you have you might have just assumed, like I did, it was one of those things to leave set as default (for fear of breaking stuff!)
But here’s the thing; if you plan on running your website or blog for a while, you need to think about your permalink or URL structure right from day one. A lot of bloggers (just like me) don’t and end up regretting it a year down the line when they realise they need to change it.
Faffing about with your URL structure isn’t one of the most exciting things we get to experience as bloggers and content creators, but it is one of the most necessary.
Let me tell you, changing your URL structure after years or even months can be ball ache. It’s certainly do-able, but it’s way preferable to get it right from the offset.
Here’s what you need to do.
On your self hosted WordPress (.org) dashboard, go to settings on the left menu, then permalinks. WordPress usually defaults to the ‘day and name’ setting.
What this means is that all your URL’s will look like this;
See that ugly date bit in the middle? That’s the date I published that post. The problem with this URL structure is not so much that it doesn’t look very appealing (but it really is ugly), but a whole host of other things you might not have considered.
Having the date right there in the URL suggests that today, when you’re reading this post, that one is no longer relevant. But in reality, that post could still provide value to tons of people.
People are less likely to click on a search result in Google that visibly shows as years, or even several months old. Not only that, but it makes the URL’s for your posts difficult to remember, not only for yourself but for your audience too.
If you are creating evergreen, timeless content for your blog or website, you want it to always be seen as relevant. Removing the date from the URL structure helps with that. To go even deeper, the less people who click on your link in a google search (because it says it’s old) the lower your click through rate will be. Google uses click through rate (CTR) to form page rankings, so you really want to think about that.
So what URL structure should I use then?
My advice is to go as simple as possible. For example, the link for this site that I talked about earlier has been changed to this;
It looks more visually appealing, it’s easier to remember, and it doesn’t date my content.
This URL structure is simply listed as ‘post name’ within WordPress. It’s effective and does the job.
Some people choose to have the category in their URL structure, which would look like this;
In my opinion, I don’t really see a need for this. That being said, if your blog or website name isn’t too long, and you really want your category in there, then go for it! It’s yours to do with as you please, after all!
What if I’ve been blogging a while and I want to change my URL structure?
I got well over a year into my blogging journey before I realised that my URL structure wasn’t doing me any favours. The only way to ‘fix’ it by then is to set up a permanent redirect for all the old posts to change them to the new format.
It’s not actually as scary as it sounds, and only took me a few minutes. BUT, every now and then the redirect html coding falls off my website, and I only find out when someone tells me they landed on my 404 page when trying to read a post. That, in itself, is a total pain, especially if I’m not at my PC and can’t fix it quickly.
If yo haven’t already experienced the itchy brain effect when you want or need to do something with your blog or website but can’t, I can pretty much guarantee that you will soon! When I know that my links are broken and people can’t access all my content, I struggle to concentrate on anything else until I know it’s fixed. A bit like going to work and knowing you’ve left your kids at home poorly with their Nan (yes, I just compared my blog to my kids…)
I’m not tech minded, should I just leave it?
You can leave your URL structure well alone if you want to. It won’t do you any favours, but ultimately if your content is amazing and you’re getting great views, engagement, and as much work as you need, then by all means leave it alone.
If, however, you’re not getting the click throughs you think you deserve or want, brands aren’t finding you, and no one reads your blog or visits your website, then I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds 😉
To change your permalink or URL structure, the first thing you need to do is go into your settings and choose the new structure you want to use. Then head over to Yoast who have an amazing tool to generate the redirect code you need – no faffing about with code that makes no sense!
Once you have your code, you’ll need to find Yoast SEO in your WordPress menu (if you have Yoast installed, and if you don’t you should) which is usually just under Settings. Choose tools, then file editor.
Just underneath where it says # BEGIN WordPress, paste in the code that Yoast generated for you. Check your old links by typing one of your links using the old structure into your browser. You should see that you are automatically and seamlessly redirected to the new URL structure. Most average users wouldn’t even notice they’d been redirected.
Just a note, as I was getting the info together for this post I found that my redirect had dropped off and had to add it back in again. Oh how I wish I’d have known then what I know now!
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