If you use the blogging platform WordPress, you must be familiar with Permalinks. This is a simple but very effective feature you can use for Blog SEO which allows you to optimize the URL of your blog post for search engines as well as your audience.
Using optimized permalinks with keywords and keyword phrases related to your post not only gets your post ranked higher in search engines but also makes your site look professional. Besides SEO, this customizable feature also provides great user-friendly benefit which many WordPress users are not usually aware of.
So what is a Permalink?
Permalink is a permanent link or an URL to a particular blog post. When you publish your post, WordPress automatically uses question mark followed by some numbers as a default URL. This default URL looks very unprofessional. Luckily, you can create your own custom URL using the permalink feature. This is permanent and should not be changed after it has been set.
As you gradually build your blog by writing contents, you are going to link internally to other posts in your blog. On top of that, other bloggers and web developers who want to share your post, link to it by using the URL of the post. But when you change the URL, all the links result into hitting the error 404 page. This makes your post to lose the ranking in the search engines as the traffic cannot get to that page.
To use the permalink feature, your hosting has to be Apache server with mod_rewrite module enabled. Nearly all the Linux web hosting has this configuration. If not, you need to ask your web host about this. Note that Windows server does not support mod_rewrite. So make sure you have the right server to start with.
WordPress provides permalink options in the settings tab in the dashboard. After your permalink is set to the desired option, you can edit and customize it by clicking on the edit button right underneath your title where you edit your post.
There are different formats of permalinks you can use. However, to optimize your blog for the keywords you have used on your post, you should use the date and name based or custom permalinks.
Date and name based permalink is a popular option. This option inserts the date in which you created your post, in front of the post name. Your post name is created using your post title unless you change your post slug manually.
Using custom permalinks for blog SEO:
/%category%/%postname%/ is the best custom permalink structure you can use for search engine optimization. In this structure, you use the category in which your post is categorized and the name of the post which makes your post more optimized for the keywords you use in the category and the post name.
If you categorize your post in child categories as well then both parent and child categories will be displayed respectively. If your post is categorized in multiple categories then the one with top category ID will be displayed in the url. Category IDs are given to the categories in the order they were created. Be careful about assigning a new category to a post. If you assign a post to a new category and that new category happens to have top category ID then the whole URL of your post is going to change, effecting your search engine optimization.
If your posts are not well categorized then the best permalink structure to use is /%postname%/. This is to display just the post name in the URL. This can be used if you are not sure about which category you should put the post in.
/%category%/%postname%.html can be used if you want to show your posts as static html pages.
How to change your permalink ?
If your blog is well established then it is not wise to change the permalinks. However, if you are unsure about the categories you have picked for a post or you need to change the url of your post, then you can use 301 redirects to direct the old url to a new url. This is a SEO friendly way of redirecting your urls. To use 301 redirect you need .htaccess file. This is a file that Apache servers use for input from webmasters. This file is important for redirecting and should be put in the root directory of your site. If it is not available then you can create one using text editors like the notepad. To create a .htaccess file simply open a notepad and save it as .htaccess and upload in the root directory of your site.
To create a 301 redirect, open the .htaccess file and just type in the following:
redirect 301 /old postname/ http://www.yousite.com/new postname/
where the /old postname/ is your post name that you want to change and the new redirected url is http://www.yoursite.com/new postname/
Then save the file, upload it back in the root directory and test your redirects.
Do you think all this is too much work?…Well, you can also use permalinks migration plugin developed by Dean Lee which creates 301 redirects for you. This plugin helps you migrate from one permalink structure to another without any effect on your visitors or SEO.
User-friendly feature of Permalinks:
Permalink structures can also be used for their awesome user-friendly feature. If you use category or date based permalinks, your site’s visitors can search the posts based on the category or date.
For instance, if the category you have assigned to a post is blogtips and the URL of the post is http://www.yourwebsite.com/blogtips/permalinks-for-blog-seo/, your visitors can enter http://www.yourwebsite.com/blogtips/ in the internet browser to get all the post under the category blogtips.
Similarly if the permalink for your post is date based e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com/2010/09/12/permalinks-for-blog-seo/, your visitors can simply put http://www.yourwebsite.com/2010/ in the internet browser to get all the post written in 2010 or http://www.yourwebsite.com/2010/09/, to get all the post from September 2010 and so on.
How do you use your permalinks to optimize your site? Do you know of any other ways to use permalinks for your site effectively? Please feel free to leave comments to share your thoughts or contribute….Also, if you like this post or find it helpful Tweet it, share it in Facebook or any of your favorite social media outlets.
Here’s to your successful online endeavor!
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