How to Improve Your WordPress Site’s Structure and Permalinks

You might remember the post I wrote about changing your website’s permalinks without disrupting the underlying structure a while back. Well, I decided it was time to revisit that subject a bit and spend some more time going over in detail just how you can improve your WordPress site’s structure in general. Here’s a quick recap of my first post:

  • Permalinks are the URLs of your website’s posts/pages.
  • Permalinks are key to your site’s SEO performance because they are used by search engines to locate your posts or pages for relevant searches.
  • The syntax of your permalinks is crucial and warrants careful thought.
  • You can use the Simple 301 Redirects to fix 301 redirects after changing your permalink structure.

In this post, I’ll explore ways to further improve your WordPress website’s permalink structure. For starters, unless you have good reason to change your permalink structure, you should generally leave it intact. It is best done when your site is new, otherwise you stand to lose your website’s ranking. Not good! But if you simply must change your permalinks, read on.

The Most Common Permalink Structures

In theory, WordPress allows up to ten permalink structure tags you can use to create unique permalinks but in reality, the majority of WordPress websites use less than five structure tags including: Post Name, Day and Name, Category and Name, and Month and Name.

WordPress Site Structure and Permalinks

Post Name

Post Name (/%postname%/) is arguably the most popular structure tag in use today because it provides short and nice URLs that are easy to memorize. Many blogs use this structure tag for this simple reason. Additionally, Post Name doesn’t specify the date of publishing, thus making it ideal for creating “timeless” content that will remain relevant for a long time.

Due to the popularity of Post Name, most people wrongly assume that it is the best structure tag for SEO but the truth is that there are no credible facts to back these claims. Post Name simply appears to be a personal preference for many WordPress website owners.

Day and Name

An extension of sorts for the Post Name tag, Day and Name (/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/) is typically used on blogs where high specificity is required in terms of publishing time. This permalink structure includes the day, month, and year that a piece of content was published. Day and Name is mostly used on news websites that publish several articles per day.

Category and Name

Category and Name (/%category%/%postname%/) makes it easy for users to sift through content on a website  based on categories. It also allows for the most keywords to be inserted into your URLs. If you choose this structure, keep your category slugs short and expressive. If used correctly, Category and Name can do wonders for your SEO.

That being said, there are a few reasons why you should think twice before using this structure. Firstly, you will not be able to move a post to a different category in the future because some other websites may be linking to that post. Secondly, the keywords used in your post name receive less weight in search engines because they’re pushed to the end of the URL. The further away from the top level domain name, the less weight they carry.

Month and Name

Month and Name (/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/) is another widely used permalink structure that’s very similar to Day and Name in terms of SEO. The two basically share similar benefits and pitfalls. As with Day and Name, Month and Name displays post name and date (this time, the month) in the URL but the URLs generated are shorter than Day and Name by two characters.

Custom Structure

Custom permalinks allow you to customize your permalink structure as you see fit for your blog. The most common custom structures are /%postname%/%post_id%/ and /%postname%/.

WordPress users are largely divided about custom permalinks. On the one hand, some people swear that the custom permalink structure is the best for SEO, when used correctly. Meanwhile, others claim that there’s no significant difference in terms of SEO. The best way to find out is to try it for yourself, ideally on a new blog. Experimentation wins the day!

So Which Structure Should You Adopt?

With the exception of the default structure, all WordPress permalink structures are SEO friendly and will give more or less similar SEO results. It basically comes down to personal preference and the purpose or type of blog you’re running. Bottom line is that whatever permalink structure you choose, be sure that it is readable by humans and your main keywords are as close to the top level domain as possible.

Small Tweaks Can Make a Difference

Permalink Tweaks

So we’ve seen that merely changing your permalink structure will not yield any significant results if SEO is your main goal. However, a few additional tweaks can improve your site’s search engine readiness and ensure future visibility in the search results. As already noted, all WordPress permalink structures are pretty good in terms of SEO. You can use a whole range of variables with any structure you choose. And for custom permalinks, you can take it a notch higher using custom values.

What are custom values, you might be wondering? If you need significant SEO results from your permalink structure, you might want to use an advanced URL structure that allows you to add custom values in your permalinks via custom posts and fields. However, this requires some modifications to WordPress’ internal functions, which ultimately means spending money to hire a developer or brushing up on your coding skills.

Performance 

If you own a blog that receives a lot of traffic like an e-commerce website or some type of online business, then website performance is crucial because it affects the overall user experience. Performance is essentially your site’s speed or page load time. Poor page loading speeds can affect your conversion rate and ultimately your sales.

So back to the point; while link structure has little or no effect on performance for small websites, it can affect page load speed for bigger websites with big databases. This is even more of an issue when users search your website for specific content.

When a user issues a search query on a WordPress site, PHP does not search through the entire database; instead, it searches through tables that have the same date stamps (year, month, and day). The same is true for links containing category and archive. For this reason, your permalink structure should ideally contain the date stamp such as /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/.

For structures containing text fields only, WordPress searches the entire database because it “does more work” trying to distinguish between pages and posts, since there are no variables. As such, page load speeds will be affected. This is why you should avoid using category before post name in your permalink structure.

Note that there are many other factors that can affect the performance of your WordPress website and you should optimize them too. In addition, performance differences pertaining to permalink structure are more pronounced on WordPress websites with a relatively large amount of content, so keep that in mind when starting new sites!

Conclusion

Any of the permalink structures that WordPress provides, except the default, will suffice for ordinary or personal blogs. Factors constant, all structures give identical results, and despite several claims, there is no evidence that one particular structure is better than the other for relatively small websites.

If you need a more advanced custom permalink structure, you may have to make tweaks to some internal functions so as to use custom values in your URLs, which may lead to slightly improved SEO. And for busy WordPress websites with a considerable amount of content, a URL structure containing the date stamp might slightly improve page load speed when searching through the content.

What permalink structure do you use for your website? Have you found one to be more effective than any other? How has your permalink structure affected your SEO or performance? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below!

Tom Ewer
Post Author: Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is a professional blogger, longtime WordPress enthusiast and the founder of WordCandy.

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Got something to say? Join the discussion.
  1. Dan Knauss says:
    For a while there was a trend away from indicating chronology in the URL, removing visible post (and even comment) dates on the idea that advertising "this is old content" is bad for SEO. This was in response to an update to Google's search algorithm -- a bad response even if it "works" IMO, and I'm not sure that it does. Can you comment on that?
  2. "When a user issues a search query on a WordPress site, PHP does not search through the entire database; instead, it searches through tables that have the same date stamps (year, month, and day)." I have a hard time believing this is true, unless you mean that it *prioritizes* and searches first through tables that have the same date stamps. But even so, it doesn't make sense. Consider the example of a user's search for the keyword "SEO", there is no date stamp for PHP to use.
    • AJ Clarke says:
      AJ Clarke
      Ya, I'm not so sure about this either, can you pitch in Tom, thanks!
      Admin
      • Dan Knauss says:
        Is he referring to the way permalinks worked before 3.3? http://ottopress.com/2010/category-in-permalinks-considered-harmful/
      • Ben Scholten says:
        Thans tot You
  3. Tom i think that a search query has nothing to do with dates in permalink structure. As far as seo is concerned search engines like a permalink which is more discreptive rather than it is bounded by date. Can you please give a detailed view on this
  4. If it searches throught the same date stamp still it doesn't sound right, date and time as well as update sessions get stored in wordpress tables so it doesnot matter if you have it in url structure or not, this can be beneficial for humans but i dont think it have an edge when it come to SEO.
  5. Tom Ewer says:
    Tom Ewer
    Hi guys, Someone doesn’t have to include a date in their search for it to be used by the search query. When you type “SEO,” let’s say, in the search box, that search term is held as a string variable and passed to the $WP_Query object (if you typed many terms, they are passed as an associative array variable, etc). How exactly the search happens depends on what specific info was passed to the wp_query() object besides the search keyword. Here’s a good resource on how the default search functionality works: http://codex.wordpress.org/Class_Reference/WP_Query But ordinarily, when you type a word/words in the search box (and WordPress is using the default search feature), the first stop for the search function is the wp_posts table, which contains published posts, pages, post types, post author, comment, etc. The query results are returned based on the date of publication. My understanding is that searching through date stamps is just one way the search query attempts to optimize the process. So if you are going to rely on the default WordPress search function, it makes sense to use the date in your permalink structure. That said, there are many ways you can improve on the default search function (which is obviously lacking). Best way is to 'hack' the WP_Query class. I think most plugins that attempt to improve on the default WordPress search functionality take this route. Cheers, Tom
    Author
  6. Thank you. This information is very useful. I updated my site link structure.
  7. ggsmartboy says:
    Thank you for the information. But can't we use /%monthname%/ in the url instead of /%monthnum%/.
  8. Thank Q.Really it is usefull we can update in our site also.for more information regrades different topic knock here.
  9. osama kandeil says:
    Great Post, For me i use Post Name Permalink structure. It's useful for my small blogs. I think we need an article regarding to how to choose the best title too for SEO cause there are many options of using it as title only or blog name + post title and more. Thanks

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