In tip #1 I warned that changing your blog post slugs–also known as permalinks or post URLs–is to be avoided, once you’ve published your blog post. While you can use 301 redirects if you do need to change your slug–more on that later–even that can have an unfortunate effect on your post’s ranking in Google.
In this tip, I want to share with you a practice that I often use here on Marketing Pilgrim–optimizing my slugs before I hit “publish.”
Tip 2: Optimize Your Blog Post’s Permalink (aka”Slugs”)
1. Change your default slug – while you often hear that most blog publishing platforms are “search engine friendly” out of the box, there’s one configuration that is important when setting up a new blog: change the default way post slugs are created.
If I had launched Marketing Pilgrim with the default slug structure my post URLs would have looked something like this:
Yuk! WordPress would have used a numeric value to represent each blog post. Instead of using rich keywords in my slug, traffic generating buzzwords such as “marketing,” “blogging,” and “tips” would have been reduced to “123″. Not very helpful–for my readers or Google.
Instead, it’s important to pick one of the more search engine friendly slug structures that instruct WordPress to pull the post title–which you worked hard on in tip #1–and use that as part of any blog post URL.
Here’s a screenshot of the WordPress option for Marketing Pilgrim:
Notice how we used a “Custom Structure?’ OK, don’t necessarily follow that. While Google-friendly, we structured our slugs in a way that help with an old switch from Blogger to WordPress. Most of you will be just fine selecting “Date and name based” (or the equivalent for your blogging software).
Warning: While you might be tempted to use a slug default that shows only your post title you may want to think twice, if you have aspirations of seeing your blog syndicated in Google News. One of the requirements for entry is to have at least three numbers in your slugs, so that Google can identify your posts from your other blog content. Using “myblog.com/my-post-title” would likely preclude you from Google News. At the very least, you should use “myblog.com/2008/my-post-title”.
2. Optimize individual posts – with the basic slug structure in place, your post slugs are going to be very Google friendly–they include the keywords you use in your optimized post titles!
But, what if you find yourself publishing a post that is ten words long and most of those words are “fluffy”–meaning, they don’t help you much in Google? This is where the “post slug” box in WordPress is your friend. You’ll find the post slug box to the right of your blog post–when viewing your posts via WP Admin “Manage>Posts.”
Here’s what to look for:
(Note: If you don’t see the input box, you might need to hit the “+” sign next to “Post Slug”)
Any string of words entered will be used as that posts URL/slug/permalink. The best format for entry is to use “keyword-keyword-keyword”–hyphenating each word. Why hyphens? It helps Google to separate and understand each of your keywords. Your goal is to enter keywords that are a) highly relevant to your blog post, and, b) likely to be searched for (a lot) on Google.
Here’s an example of before and after.
If I had let WordPress decide on the slug, I would have gotten this:
Far too long and far too many irrelevant words. Instead, I entered my own slug and used this:
The result? When Hulu launched the beta of its online video service, Marketing Pilgrim was #1 on Google for “hulu beta invite” and #2 for “hulu”–both brought considerable traffic to the site.
3. Don’t get trapped by lazy slugs – it’s one thing to optimize the slug for your new blog post, but you can still take it one step further. Whether you’re writing a blog post, or creating a new page for your blog, think about its future use.
What do I mean? Let me show you with a real example.
Remember tip #1 I wrote?
Here’s my original post title: “Blog Marketing Tips Even the ProBloggers Won’t Share: Tip #1″
Practicing what I preached, I’ve now changed that post title to be more “Google-friendly.”
It now reads: “Blog Marketing Tips: How to Optimize Blog Post Titles”
Now take a look at the post slug.
Optimized slug: marketingpilgrim.com/2008/03/optimize-blog-post-titles.html
Doesn’t match either the original post title or the optimized version, does it? Instead, when I first wrote the post, I knew that I wanted the post to rank for keywords related to “optimize blog post titles.” By thinking ahead, and optimizing the post slug, that page is currently #1 on Google for “optimize blog post titles.” Sounds genius, but as you can see, it was really quite simple.
4. Changing old slugs - whether you want to change a single post slug or all of them, don’t even attempt to do so without the help of a 301 redirect. While you might think that changing your slugs is a good idea–after all, let’s get some great keywords in there–you can damage your Google credibility (sacrificing any inbound links) by changing a post slug without telling Google.
How do you safely change your blog post slugs? You use a 301 redirect to instruct Google that you’ve changed the location of the post to a new URL. How do you do that easily? If you’re a WordPress user, you install the fabulous Urban Giraffe “Redirection” plugin and make sure you have the following box checked:
Now, you can change your slugs, safe in the knowledge that a 301 redirect will be automatically created. Be warned! Just because you tell the search engines where a new post lives, doesn’t mean they’ll always be smart enough to get there–so use 301 redirects with caution, not free abandon!
5. Repurpose your content - there’s another great reason for changing your post slugs. It’s a tactic that, once I share it with you, you’ll start seeing the crafty bloggers using. We use it here on Marketing Pilgrim. What’s the tactic? That’s the subject for tip #3, but I’ll only share tip #3 if enough people ask me to–these tips take a lot of work to compile you know.
Do you have any tips to share on blog post slug optimization? Do you want to see tip #3? Let me know in the comments below.