Permalink and URL SEO Best Practices10/17/2014
The proliferation of content management systems give clients access to adding pages and making changes to pages—and making big, hairy mistakes. The people who work in businesses, non-profits, and government sectors are experts in their organization, and people who work in “technology”, i.e., online marketing, software development, social media, SEO, SEM... we know our business too. Both groups make investments to stay current and to innovate.
Last week, I had a situation that, while directly germane to one client, has much relevance to other clients, so I’m blogging about it.
Here’s the deal: a blog post was created and saved—not published—by the client. I did my research and populated the permalink, gently augmented the title, and added tags, and relevant metadata. The permalink was six juicy words.
When the client published the post with a new permalink, it was this long (domain and keywords changed, of course):
I’m not kidding! (and in case you cannot seem to remember those lyrics, they're from my favorite song Breathe by Pink Floyd).
A few rules of the road on a Friday …
- Draft a succinct blog post title and a succinct permalink. With the blog post is complete, sit and ponder what fewest words best describe the post. I recommend that clients think of nouns and verbs. Avoid using stop-words like a, the, him, and all. Avoid symbols like commas, question marks, quotes, etc. as they are ignored by the search engines.
- Back to the blog post itself. Google’s search-quality guy, Matt Cutts, has provided guidance about why content needs to be organic, relevant, and original. All components of a post—titles, permalinks, tags, meta, copy, video/audio/etc.—need to also be organic, relevant, original. And both natural and succinct. [Note that I’m interpreting gads of WebmasterWorld threads, videos, SearchEngineLand blog posts, attending a couple of conferences, etc. Feel free to Google Matt Cutts and go to town reading and listening to him, pretty interesting guy.]
- Don’t forget to do a bit of research on what the search engines actually index, because that's where the results shown to searchers comes from. Look around at what Internet users are searching for too. If you want your content to be found, it must be relevant to both users and search engines.
- Use hyphens to separate words in the permalink and URL. Our content management system auto-populates hyphens; no need to add in additional separators such m-dashes, n-dashes, and underscores, which tend to confuse search engines. Think, less is more.
- Keep the segments of the URL path tight, such as /blog/relevant-blog-post-permalink/ or /blog/category1/relevant-blog-post-permalink/.
- Back to content... it really must be original. Why? Copying content is a copyright infringement. It’s illegal. Search engines index original content. Imagine a library with books; search engines only put one book on the shelf, the original. All others are on the floor in a big pile and are difficult to find. Also, the users (you know, the people you want to reach with your organization's value proposition) -- they want to be engaged, entertained, and communicated-with about interesting and relevant content.
Content management systems provide uber power to the site owner but with that power comes awesome responsibility. It's easy to throw something up on your site and be done with it (that's why there are a gazillion blogs). Crafting a content piece optimized for both your target demographic and search engines is crucial to delivering on your site's true marketing potential.