Making Your WordPress URLs Work For You

WordPress URLs by default aren’t real helpful. They give your visitor no information about the page. They add nothing to the information in your search listings. And they tell the search engines nothing about your page. That’s three wasted opportunities and it’s dead simple to fix.

The Problem with the default WordPress URLs

By default, every page in WordPress will have a URL like What you want is a URL like for your collection of Elephant Jokes because of course there is nothing funnier than elephant jokes and nobody who sees that URL will be able to resist the urge to click it. Nobody. Some WordPress user add additional parameters (and I did so in the past), so that it looks like if it’s posted on June 7, 2020 (I predict a resurgence in the popularity of elephant jokes in the 2020s). That’s fine, but there is a drawback in that you probably don’t want people navigating back up to by editing your URL because that URL may be a dead end or, at best, list the articles published on that date. So Google’s top “search quality” engineer, Matt Cutts, suggests simply using the post name. If you will have a carefully categorized, hierarchical site, where posts will typically belong to just one category, it may make sense to have the category in the URL (again, more information for your visitors and in your search results). Otherwise, probably not.

Why Change Your URL Schema?

Some people call these type of URLs “search-engine friendly” but in reality, the search engines can handle a URL in the default form just fine. However, this method lets you achieve a few things:

  • You give keywords and context to the search engines (SEs). This isn’t going to automatically rocket you to the top, but it will help the SEs a lot in determining what the main point of the page is. I’m not smart enough to game the search engines and I also believe that long-term, it will just become harder and harder anyway. That said, like any writing, you don’t want to make it purposely difficult for the reader. So you use this to give one of your “readers”, aka Googlebot or the Yahoo! Slurp or the MSN engine, a little help in understanding your message.
  • You give keywords and context to your users. I often look at a URL before I click on a link. I use this information all the time and appreciate a well-chosen URL, whether displayed at the bottom of my browser or in search results. However, where this really helps your potiential audience is in the case where someone does something like paste a URL into an email or forum. Which of the following is more useful to you as a reader:

    Definitely the second one. It saves you time—if you don’t want to read elephant jokes (and why would you so hate elephants?), you don’t waste your time clicking.

  • Easier to remember and to give out verbally.

How do your Change Your Default URL Schema in WordPress?

This is very simple. In your WP admin area, go to Options » Permalinks and choose Custom. Now for your custom structure, you can enter in the text box:

  • /%postname%/ — This is the Matt Cutts style.
  • /%category%/%postname%/ — This is my preferred style for a site that is meaningfully hierarchical and categorized (i.e. if you expect people to use drill-down navigation).
  • /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ — use this if you really don’t want any duplicate paths, but realistically all you need to do is add a number at the end of the post slug and you’ll get the same effect.

By default, WordPress will just use your-very-long-post-title-with-little-words-included. Sometimes that’s okay, depending on the title, but as a general rule, write custom post-slug on every post. The other important thing to remember here is to write a custom post-slug on every post. In the post edit/creation area, there’s a box on the right called post-slug that determines the last element of your URL. By the way, if you don’t already, write a custom post-slug on every post. Did I mention that already?


WordPress gives you a nice facility for creating intelligent and readable URLs for your site. Taking a bit of time to restructure the default URL and to write useful post-slugs on every post will be beneficial to your readers, will attract more readers and will help the search engines determine the focus of your page.

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