Pretty Urls for your blog and Google

First of all a word of warning: Changing the urls of your blog or site will invalidate already existing links to your site. The following tips are meant for new blogs or really, really desperate cases. If you already know about SEO and Google friendly urls, here are the hacks to implement them on your site. If you want to learn more about SEO friendly urls, please read on 😉

SEO and Google friendly urls for your WordPress blog
Go to your WordPress Blog Dashboard and go to Settings>Permalinks. Here you can now choose how your urls will look. Again, don’t change that on an established blog that has a lot of backlinks as it changes the permalink structure of all your blog posts and the backlinks will be invalid, means they will return a 404 page!

I use “Custom Structure” and type in /%postname%/ which gives my blog posts this form:

Hospitalera.com/Post-Slug

Remember, each url for each blog post can be edited in “Edit Post”
“Permalink: http://sheseo.com/editable-part-of-the-post-slug”. This enables you to have your main keywords in the Url and a more catchy, but related title for your readers.

If you have an already established blog that needs a new permalink structure really, really badly, you might try out one of the many “Permalink Redirect WordPress Plugins” on wordpress.org. As I am not using one, I can’t, unfortunately, give you any recommendation. But if somebody here knows of a good one, please feel free to share it in a comment!

All this refers only to self-hosted WordPress blogs, not to those that are hosted for free at WordPress.com!

SEO and Google friendly urls for your blogger blogspot blog

You can’t remove the date from the blogspot url ;-( The best way I know of to make your blogspot url more SEO friendly, is to pay special attention that your main keyword for your blog post is in the title the first time you save your blog post. At this time it becomes part of the Url and can’t be changed anymore. After that, you can change the title to something more catchy, but make sure that the two (Url and title) are still related. If you re-save now your blog post you see that the Url hasn’t changed, but the post title has. Google Blogspot blogs are really not very SEO friendly, but they are free…

So here now is a bunch of background information about SEO and Google friendly Urls . I have also included some information that refers only to dynamic web sites / pages like those created by forum software and some CMS. Better get a drink or a cup of coffee now, as this will be a bit long 😉

What is a seo friendly url?
SEO friendly, also called pretty, Urls are, Urls, that are search engine friendly by containing no fancy characters and / or numbers and instead contain only your main keywords for the post. Pretty Urls are not only SEO friendly, they are also easier to remember for your readers. Not so pretty Urls are also often called “dirty Urls”.
Some dirty Urls can be as bad as
http://yourdomain.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2:test-article
Dynamic Urls like this are often created by advanced CMS systems and require a plugin and / or re-write that makes them more user, Google and SEO friendly. They also contain very little information about what the link is all about when a user hovers over it.
Hover over the following examples and tell me which one you are more likely to click? (They are just examples, they lead to nowhere!)

Example 1
Example 2

Dirty Urls are also a security risk, as they give potential hackers clues how your site is “wired” and which scripts it uses. In particular, queries that contain a question mark (?) can be exploited by hackers to try to perform a attack into your blog / site / web app. Other file extensions, such as .asp, .php, .jsp and others give away other, possible, entrance doors to dynamic web sites as they expose the technology used to run the web site / blog.

It is also easier to change from one application to another and to keep your link structure (and your backlinks!) intact when you use pretty Urls.

How to clean up Urls?
I would emphasise again, only change the permalinks of your site if it is brand new and / or a really desperate case as most of your backlinks will be broken in the intent. To minimize the damage you might want to customize your 404 page to convert it into an attractive landing page, that keeps visitors on your site and to do some re-directs for your most important pages, especially the ones that carry page rank and / or are preferred landing pages. For how to implement these tips for your own site, please refer to the documentation of the CMS / Script / etc. that you use. There are so many different ones around that it is impossible to know and cover all.

For special instructions for blogger and wordpress blogs, see first part of this post. Here I go more into detail about the different parts of the Url and give you enough information to make a decision about the future permalink structure of your site or blog. Not all this information is applicable to each and every site. So choose what you need and skip over what you don’t need 😉

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple (and) Short
Your first aim when thinking about your link structure is to get a short and simple Url, that is easy to remember and doesn’t contain any superfluous characters like the famous p=123 wordpress uses by default.

Design it right from the start
You have to think about your link structure before you write the first article for your site. Think about good short names for directories, folders and file names. For example call the image folder “images” instead of “mybestvacationshoots”. Also avoid abbreviations that are meaningless, “/images” is better than “/ima”.

Stay away from fancy characters
To create a good, SEO friendly, Url just use letters, hyphens to separate words and perhaps numbers where appropriate. Avoid all other characters if possible.

Keep cases consistent
It is best to use, by default, only lower cases in your Url. Some web servers distinguish between lower and upper case and some not.

Don’t give clues about the scripts that run your site
Whilst this is impossible to implement for a Blogger or WordPress blog, it can be done for most other CMS and especially for custom scripts. Please refer to your documentation to learn more.

Convert dynamic Urls to static looking ones
Search engines read and spider static Urls far better than dynamic ones. Some spiders are completely unable to read Urls past the question mark (?)!
Such dynamic Urls are often created when a database driven CMS or Script is used, for example in forums. Some search engines have problems to properly index past non-standard characters, such as ? or %. Sometimes everything past this characters is neglected.

http://yourdomain.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2:about-seo
http://yourdomain.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2:about-me

Both Urls are read by those search engines as

http://yourdomain.com/index.php

and give the search engine the impression, that you have a bunch of duplicate content on your site, something what you really, really don’t want to happen!!!

Javascript and SEO problems
If you use javascript to pull content from other sites and sources, check your page source and make sure, that the content appears also in that view. If content doesn’t appear in the page source it is most likely that spiders don’t see it either. Alternatively you can use SEO Browserto see your web site with the eyes of spiders / bots / slurps and the like.

To avoid all these problems look for SEO plugins and scripts for your dynamic site in the documentation. Look for words like “Seo+Url” in your documentation or google a query like “Your CMS+SEO+Url”.

Alternatively, if you are savvy enough for it you can use the .htaccess file and modify it. Or you can use Mod_Rewrite if you are on a Apache, Linux or Unix server. Again, look up your documentation or ask your web host about it. If you have only a few pages, you might try to do it by hand using a 301 (permanent) re-direct. This can be done painlessly via the cpanel of your web site / host.

Don’t forget about the keywords!
Whatever method you use, make sure that the new, SEO friendly Url contains the relevant keywords for your page / post / article. A good, Google and SEO friendly Url contains the main keyword in your domain name (Think of that before you buy a domain!) and other important parts in the secondary parts of your Url. Something like this is close to ideal:
http://main-keywords.com/secondary-keywords

Depth of link structure
Google doesn’t like to digg! OK, forget about the pun, truth is Google prefers to have all urls easily accessible in maximum 3 levels depth. That doesn’t mean that Google doesn’t index pages that are buried deeper, but will do so less frequently and with less enthusiasm. This is one reason that I have a site map here on my blog.

Site maps are a great way to present everything to Google in a minimum depth!

Avoiding duplicate content
When thinking about your link structure think also about duplicate content! The following two Urls point to the same web page, making Google think that your web site is full of duplicate content and Google doesn’t like duplicate content at all!

http://main-keywords.com/category/seo/single-post
http://main-keywords.com/tags/seo/single-post

Make sure to set the category and other similar pages to no-index to avoid the suspicion of duplicate content in Google’s eyes. Or don’t include tags, categories etc. at all in your link structure, as I did here on this blog.

Any more ideas, suggestions, questions? Please leave them in a comment!

If you like this blog post and found it helpful, why not share it with your preferred social network? Handy links and bookmarklets above ^^^ 😉

57 comments to Pretty Urls for your blog and Google

  • Excellent advices!
    I pay a lot of attention to the url structure. This is so important that all this work and care is really needed. If you make sure you have your keywords in page title and url than you can count on good ranking.

  • nice post, i think that this could really make a difference, thanks for sharing.

  • Thank you very much for that warning because that would be incredibly tragic for anyone to invalidate all of their hard work in back links that they had already built up! I think that many people are not aware of that if they suddenly change the URL of their site.

  • Hi SY;

    This is Vicki the Great grandmother (boy that sure is sticking!! but it is true)

    I have been deeply touched by the response to Griz’s call for help on my behalf. I really thank you and appreciate everyone of you and your comments (unfortunatly some of you did’nt leave full information so I couldn’t thank you online so I left a note on my blog)

    This is a very nice and informative blog and I will be back also when I can come up with some decent questions I promise you all I’ll be picking your brains, in the meantime Thanks a bunch and bless you all.

    Vicki.

  • hospitalera

    @Google Hacker
    Yes, it is important to think about this before you even start a new web site or blog.

    @David
    It does!

    @Chuggin
    You are right, I put the warning several times in as many people just “scan” posts and don’t read them entirely 😉

    @Vicki
    You are welcome! I will send you a short email so that you have my address if you need it. Btw, did you notice this text
    “This site uses KeywordLuv. Enter YourName@YourKeywords in the Name field to take advantage.”?
    Each time you comment on this site it can be a good backlink for your own one if you use it right. Just enter
    Vicki@your main keyword(s)
    into the Name Field 😉
    SY

    @

  • I’d recommend the Platinum SEO plugin. Amongts it’s other features it has an option to automatically redirect using a 301 redirect. This should mean any links pointing to the old URL will now redirect straight to the new one, along with all the ‘link juice’.

  • hospitalera

    @Ste
    That sounds like a great plugin for everybody that started a blog and then learned about SEO later and now wants to change things around a bit. SY

  • Pretty url’s are important for both seo and for remembering. Often I go to sites by memory and having a post name that is easy to remember keeps me coming back~

  • hospitalera

    True, especially if you use FF as a browser that “remembers”keywords in Urls you have previously visited, SY

  • very nice advice for new blog like me thanks 🙂
    .-= alfon´s last blog ..Lets Learn to Better Understand the Side Effects to Quitting Smoking =-.

  • hospitalera

    @Alfon
    You are welcome! SY

  • Keywords are very important if you want to get the most out of your relevant links in the search engines to help your rankings.

  • hospitalera

    @George
    Yes, I guess you mean anchored keywords / text links, SY

  • A keyword rich url really can make a big difference, but the best url are usually already taken. It’s not essential though, you can still rank highly whatever your url, it just takes a bit more work.

    So I think it’s worth thinking about when coming up with url ideas but if you can’t get the url you want or you don’t think it sound right then you don’t need to be too concerned.

  • hospitalera

    @Anders

    There is always a way to get your keywords into the url of a blog post or sub page, SY

  • this is very informative. thank for sharing it.

    I like the wordpress part as I am starting to learn more about it.
    thanks again. 🙂

  • hospitalera

    @ austinjames
    You are welcome, SY

  • Self explaining Url’s are the best – for sure. But I think your warning at the beginning is placed at the best position. If one starts renaming all URLs he will more damage the blog then help it.
    .-= Betty@Kreditrechner´s last blog ..Sofortrente Rechner =-.

  • hospitalera

    @Betty
    Yes, it should be something that you consider BEFORE publishing the first word on your blog or web site, SY

  • Thank for the nice tips, I am facing the same problem currently I am using static url on my wordpress blog and I tried changing the permalink structure but some error occurs beacuse my blog is hosted on windows server, do you have any solutions for it?

  • hospitalera

    @Rohit
    Can you be a bit more specific? What is the “some error” that occurs? SY

  • when I do that and save it it says page not found and my all older posts also show the same thing page not found error 🙁 I have posted this matter in some forums also and tehy said its because of my blog hosted on windows server

  • hospitalera

    @Outsourced Software Development
    Have you contacted your web host about it? Do new posts show up correctly? If yes, and only old posts are affected you could try to re-direct all of your old posts to the new urls. But that will be a major task ;-( SY

  • The worst scenario is sometimes I have seen PHP session ids along with the URL’s in certain websites and no 301 redirects done at all.. I am wondering how web development companies miss these very basic seo tweaks? The fate of their clients would be much more pathetic. If not done on own website how can you expect it on clients website 🙁
    .-= Mack@Green Valley Homes´s last blog ..Commercial Real Estate Bubble =-.

  • hospitalera

    @Mack
    Then better don’t look at the forum here, I never managed to get those urls pretty 😉 Often it is simply a case of neglecting ones one work for clients’ work. I always try to look at portfolios to see what firms / companies / designers have done for others. But yes, in an ideal world the seo company should have a perfectly seo’d web site themselves, SY

  • I’m suprised how many blogs I go to that use the default link structure from WordPress.

    Even more suprised that the default WordPress link structure is still that dynamic ?p=47 type link.

    Whenever I setup a new blog (or minisite for that matter) that uses WordPress, changing the permalink structure is near the top of my checklist. Along with installing the All-in-one SEO plugin.
    .-= Paul@Xbox 360 Wireless Adapter´s last blog ..MadCatz Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Adapter – Black =-.

  • I have never given any thought about what you have mentioned in your article until now. It does make sense. Im kinda young in this backlinking business type. I just started 2 mos ago. Would it be ok if you leave a contact detail in case i wanted to ask more. Thanks!
    .-= John@Provillus Review´s last blog ..Who Makes Provillus? =-.

  • I’m kind of torn between putting the category before the /%postname%/ or not… I’ve heard arguments from experts attesting to the effectiveness of both padding and not having the category in the URL. Anyone have any concrete results, not just theory?
    .-= Marie@cricut cutting machine´s last blog ..The New Design Studio From Provo Craft =-.

    • hospitalera

      Marie, first, whatever you do to the permalink structure of your blog / site only do it to new blogs / websites!!! If you change the perma link structure of an established blog you will end up with a lot of broken links, both external and internal! As for how and if to use categories in the url or not, that depends on your niche / subject of the blog. If your niche keywords are already in your domain url then I would not add the categories, if your niche keywords are not, I would do it perhaps. But that is just me 😉 SY

  • Another recommendation is to add a numeric value to the link structure. This helps a lot in searching the blog post in database specially if you have thousands of posts and pages in your blog.

    • hospitalera

      Hm, I am not sure if I ever reach having thousands of posts on this blog. In all cases, I would suggest to add the numeric value only at the end of the url, to keep it out of the way of the keywords 😉 SY

  • Jim

    Thanks for the info, I figured this out a while back. If you make your own site, the FTP will tell you if u need to change permalinks and will sort of force you to do it.

    • hospitalera

      I am not really sure that we are speaking about the same thing. I am speaking about the permalink structure of WordPress blog posts and you? SY

  • Pretty URL’s are great! To get really high results in Google, you should match the keywords in your URL with the H1 on the page AND the title of the page! This way, Google will immediately see what the global subject of the page is. I’ve learnt now that it’s all about synchronicity!

    • hospitalera

      Be careful, being too synchrone can raise a warning flag with Google, always allow for a bit of chaos to make things look naturally, SY

  • yes, keyword-rich URLs are not only important for Google but also for your visitors. This way they can easily keep the subpages in mind and come back to you.

    • hospitalera

      Lol, I think they are more likely to bookmark something they are really interested in or to subscribe to the site / blog for updates then to memorize titles 😉 SY

  • Photographers in Bromsgrove

    Great tips there. I like the K.I.S.S one especially, I was thinking of a URL for my blog but the only idea I could come up with was really long and complex so now I’ll give it another bash and find something less complicated and more memorable. Also, thanks to the other posters for their advice.

  • hospitalera

    @Photographers in Bromsgrove
    I think you mis-read the blog post some how, I didn’t write about how to choose a domain name, I wrote about how to make the whole url /permalink structure of your site more search engine friendly. SY

  • Metal Shed

    Well written article, some really good advice. It’s so important to keep keyword-rich URLs on your site, keeps the site fresh in the memory. Anything that is too hard to find will lose you visitors. Most people on the net are not that loyal, if they can’t easily find your site, they’ll simply click on a different one that comes up.

  • Blake

    Also, both for SEO purposes and for visitor usability, I like to add category tags to my WordPress posts. That way, you can give your visitors (both search engines and humans) better access to your articles. Moreover, doing this will double the amount of pages that you have, making your site more attractive to the search engines, which can ultimately lead to higher rankings and more traffic.

    So, take the extra ten seconds to tag your posts. You might want to go back to your current posts and tag them with the “quick edit” function. You can then put links to all of your major tag categories within your navigation, like the following:

    MySite[dot]com/tag/ON-PAGE-SEO

    MySite[dot]com/tag/ARTICLE-MARKETING

    MySite[dot]com/tag/EMAIL-MARKETING

    MySite[dot]com/tag/WEBSITE-BUILDING

    MySite[dot]com/tag/GOOGLE-ADSENSE

    • hospitalera

      Blake,

      the two methods are not contradictory, you still can use tags in your posts to “interlink” them and keep clean urls, by not including them in the url. As for doubling the amount of pages you have, as the content is the same on this pages, Google will most likely disregard them and even might give you minus points for double content. SY

  • A number of years back, in the early days of WordPress, we had a disaster with this one. No 301’s and one of our developers climbed in and decided to make the url’s keyword optimized, not a bad idea at all, but disastrous execution and not something I would wish on anyone. This article goes to lengths to point out those pitfalls – and trust me, make sure you’re clear what you’re doing first.

  • Ahmedabad Climate

    Another thing to note here is that, not only proper URLs are readable by search engine robots, but also readable by human. Just by looking at the URLs, they will instantly know what the link is all about.

  • FreeMicrosoftpoints

    Thanks for the info, I found it extremely useful. I am curious to know if you can answer this is what type of result will this have on your SEO? Rank higher? Better links?

    • hospitalera

      @FreeMicrosoftpoints
      Actually I think I wrote extensively about this in the blog post, if you tell me exactly which point you don’t understand I might help you better, SY

  • If you are after SEO benefits then I cannot agree more than optimizing even the URLs of every web page. I personally use /%postname% on my permalinks. Notice ezinearticles – i have observed that they implement this type of URL structuring. And they are one of the best optimized websites out there. Write a single article that is well optimized for a long tail keyword and you’ll find it on top of the SERPs in only days upon approval. I’ve tried it several times already.

  • I use the category to include my main keywords. This can be setup in the permalink ex: %category%/%post-name%

    Also avoid using the underscore’_’ character as this is not as friendly as a hyphen.

    Otherwise, this is a great post and quite helpful.

    • hospitalera

      @Brian
      Any source to support the idea that the hyphen is preferred by the search engines? And why? SY

  • Although it might look like a spam I should say that this article is great. However, it seems that you miss one main point of SEO – link building. I am pretty sure that you had mentioned some tips about this in your other postings and I would be really happy if you give me links 🙂

  • hospitalera

    Here you go: http://hospitalera.com/how-to-write-your-own-backlinks/ And in case you are looking for more info, here the link to my site map: http://hospitalera.com/a-rather-boring-disclaimer/ Hope that helps, SY

  • Ah i see, even your URL’s is a Google friendly. However, changing URl’s for new blogs will make your site invalidated. By the way thanks for sharing this great info.

  • Great tips. I don’t think I have picked a great URL for my site in terms of keywords, no one would ever get to it the way someone might try ‘hotels dot com’ or a site like that. I was going for memorability, something that people would remember as a brand when it got bigger.

  • On the same point, I use a plugin called Pretty Link. It’s great because it allows you to mask your affiliate links with ‘pretty links’.