A friendly URL is important for SEO because it gives Google and other search engines clues as to what a web page is about. What’s a friendly URL? One that uses plain everyday language.
The way that computers work and the way that people do are very different. Computers are great at crunching numbers and data but people are much better at understanding the meaning of words.
WordPress is the same. At its heart it uses numbers to distinguish one post from another and it looks something like this:
Each post has a unique number and this URL would display post number 123. Every time you create a new post, it is given a new number, so every one is unique. It is how WordPress keeps track of everything.
Both the number and the URL ?post=123 are meaningless to people and it is also meaningless to search engines too. A much better URL would be something like this:
This is readable by both people and by search engines, and it perfectly describes the web page that is linked to, assuming it has an apple pie recipe.
Best permalink settings
To improve your site’s SEO you should configure WordPress to use friendly URLs.
Go to the WordPress dashboard, click Settings and then click Permalinks. There are several options and four of them have the post name in the URL. Choose one of them.
Should you include the date in the URL? The short and simple Post name is the best option for SEO because it looks great and is easy to read by both humans and search engines.
Some people may find it useful to include the date and on a news website for example, the date in the URL would make it easy to tell when the story was written. It is less good for SEO, but once you begin using a particular setting, it becomes very difficult to change the site unless you are a WordPress expert.
Don’t change an existing site if you don’t know what you are doing! It can break all your links. Only do this on new sites when setting them up!
Edit URLs to make them friendlier
After configuring WordPress to use friendly URLs, where do the URLs used for posts come from?
WordPress uses the title of an article as the template for the URL. It removes characters that are not allowed in URLs, replaces spaces with dashes, and sets everything to lowercase.
The URL is displayed beneath the title in the post editor but if it is too long to fit in the space, it will be cut short by inserting … into it.
The whole URL is there, even if it cannot all be seen. Let the mouse hover over the link and the browser will display it in the bottom left corner of the window. (Until a post has been published, the URL can change and it is fixed only after publishing.)
When writing a new post, if you don’t like the URL that WordPress has generated, or think it could be improved, click the Edit button.
The last part of the URL, that part created from the page title, can be changed. Click OK or Cancel afterwards.
When not to edit a URL
By all means edit a URL before a post has been published, but never change it afterwards.
The reason is that you might link to the post from another post, someone might visit your site and bookmark the page, you or someone else might share a link on social media, and search engines might crawl the site and store the link.
If you change the URL after publishing a post, all those links will be broken. This is obviously really bad for SEO.
There is a way to redirect the old URL to the new one, but it is much better to make sure the URL is right when you publish the post and then to stick with it.
Changing the title of a post after publishing it does not change the URL. WordPress sticks with the original URL no matter what else you change in the post so as to maintain any links to the page.