My biggest advice for improving your site’s SEO is always to do what’s good for your site visitors. Basics like making things easy to read with headings, giving your images alt tags for anyone using a screen reader + keeping your site secure with an SSL are great places to start. If you’re ready for some more, let’s dive into how to improve your links for SEO.
How WordPress links work
Every piece of content (pages, posts, media + the like) has a unique link in WordPress. These links are referred to as permalinks in WordPress speak.
The first bit to know about permalinks is that you can set your blog post link structure in Settings > Permalinks. I recommend using “post name” but it’s totally up to you.
The second bit to know about permalinks is that they are automatically set to the title of your content. When I created this post in WordPress, the permalink was /improve-your-links-for-seo.
WordPress takes the title of your page/post/etc + replaces the spaces with hyphens. If there are special characters, those are ignored completely. And that is the link to your content. The good news is that you can change it!
Set up links for SEO
My focus for SEO is blog content. My second priority is page content. Everything else I don’t stress over because I’m not looking to have new site visitors land on my media files — I want to be discovered for content with text on the page.
When you create a blog post or page, let the permalink field automatically fill out. Once you’ve saved your draft (which is a good step to do before previewing the content), edit the permalink to as short + sweet as you can.
If you’re using keywords for SEO, let that phrase be your permalink.
My focus for this post was the phrase “links for SEO,” which is why the permalink is /improve-links-for-seo. I stripped out the word “your” because it doesn’t need to be in the URL.
I left “improve” because it helps me point folks directly to this post. If someone asks me “do you have a post about improving SEO?” I can point them to this post specifically.
And if I write another post about SEO links (maybe one about noindex / nofollow), I can set that permalink to a variation of links-for-seo. One that will separate it from this post with a single word. Easy peasy.
If you’re ready to improve your links, I’d recommend picking your top 10 posts + setting those permalinks to match the subject in the fewest possible words. You can do the same with the pages in your main menu as a starting point.
How to avoid broken links when making changes
When you change permalinks within WordPress for existing pages + posts, you need to set up a redirect so that “old links” to that content routes to the right place. There are two ways to do this + one of them is way easier.
The first option is to manually set up redirects — either with a plugin or via your hosting account. Each time you change a permalink for something that already was published, make a note of the two URLs. Head to your tool of choice + point the old URL to the new one.
Or, you could make your life easier, by using a redirect plugin that automatically detects changes to permalinks.
My personal plugin recommendation for this is Redirection. Once installed, you can head to the settings to check the options for detecting changes.
What this means is that whenever you change a permalink, this plugin will automatically create the redirect. There are very unique cases where you might want the redirect removed, in which case you can. Head to the list of redirects + clear it out.
More often than not, you’ll want the redirect in place. In fact, you’ll want that redirect 99% of the time. Which is why automating it is a smart move.