By default, WordPress doesn’t have the ideal URL structure for SEO, but this relatively easy fix is essential because a proper URL structure helps search engines to better understand the hierarchy of your website, which can help to improve organic ranking and traffic.
An easy way to understand the role of website hierarchy in SEO is to imagine the individual pages within your website as a series of progressively smaller buckets.
Your homepage is the largest bucket, and it would contain all of your second-level pages. Contained under each of those second-level pages would be any third-level pages and/or blog posts related to your second-level pages. This is a total of three levels, which should be plenty for most websites, however, four levels may be reasonable in some circumstances.
To search engines this looks like a series of sub folders under your root domain.
Technically, it is a series of sub folders, but instead of actually creating physical folders on your server, WordPress dynamically rewrites the URLs to appear as sub folders. The distinction is subtle, but as anyone who has ever had to manage a large website can tell you, it’s significant.
This matters because it helps search engines understand the importance of each page within your website, relative to other pages within your website. The greater number of relevant pages underneath a particular page, the more authoritative search engines will perceive it to be. In the eyes of Google, your third-level pages and/or blog posts support your second-level pages, and your second-level pages support your home page.
For this example, we’ll use one of our clients, Livestone Consulting, which is an architect in Tampa, Florida. Their second-level pages, which would represent their primary architectural services, include:
- Pre-Design Services
- Schematic Design
- Construction Documents
- Permitting Services
- Bidding & Negotiation
- Construction Administration
- Forensic Architecture
- Expert Witness Testimony
Their third-level pages would then consist of pages and/or posts that support each of their second-level pages.
How do we set up WordPress permalinks to maximize SEO?
The first step is to change the default permalink settings.
If you haven’t already done so, the next step is to publish your second-level pages, and then create corresponding blog categories. It’s important that the slugs for your categories exactly match the slugs for your second-level pages. This seemingly minor detail is critical because it determines how search engines will value each page within your website relative relative to other pages within your website
It’s important to point out that if your second-level pages are already published, but you plan to change their slugs at some point in the future, the time to do that is now. This is because changing them in the future will not only change their URLs, but will also change the URLs of all of your third-level pages—and it’s usually best to avoid that whenever possible. If you set everything up correctly now, the potential negative impact will be minimal (if any) and you won’t need to change it later, when the potential negative impact would be more severe.
At this point, each third-level page and blog post will appear, in the eyes of search engines, as a sub page of the applicable second-level page, based on the blog category they are assigned to. In other words, each third-level page/post adds more authority to the page it appears nested under.