Permalinks and WordPress settings tend to be ignored as difficult “techy” stuff by beginner bloggers. (Hands up if you’re one of them). It’s far easier to press ahead with writing your first posts.
But ignore this stuff at your peril. Get your settings wrong now and they will come back to bite you! Or at least damage your ability to be ranked on Google. So what should you be doing?
Get your permalinks wrong now and you’re going to be stuck with them (or at least have a huge headache changing them over in a few months time).
What Are Permalinks?
Definitions first: a permalink is a permanent static hyperlink for a webpage. Think of it as the webpage unique address. The first part of the address will always be https://yourdomain.com/ and the bit on the end after the / is called the slug.
With this Simply Hatch website, I have set the permalink structure to the simplest possible form: domain address followed by the post name.
However the default setting when you install WordPress is “day and name”. The default adds the post date. For example: https://yourdomain.com/2019/02/06/blog.
So why is adding the post date to your permalink a bad idea?
Everyone likes to read the latest up-to-date content. Yet some of your posts could be around for a very long time. Take this one for example. This information is likely to still be relevant in several years time.
But your permalink is …well permanent! You can update a post and change the published date (this is a terrific way to recycle old posts by the way) but you can’t change the date in the permalink. It’s a giveaway that your post isn’t brand new!
Okay you can, full disclosure, you can change the permalink but it’s not the best solution. You’d have to set up a redirect from your old post address to your new one and it’s a bit messy.
How Do You Change Permalinks?
Fortunately this is really easy. Login to your dashboard and click on Settings> Permalinks on the left hand side.
There will be a warning that this should almost never be done on a live site. If your site is brand new proceed with the next step. Otherwise leave well alone or go and get some advice.
If you only have a few pages and very little traffic it could be worth changing your permalinks and setting up redirects but you need to be sure you know what you’re doing.
For a brand new site, select the post name option and click save changes. Here are my settings on Simply Hatch:
Don’t get carried away and think it’s a good idea to have your own custom structure. You will regret it!
Why Are Permalinks Important?
As you build your blog, you will link these permalink addresses to other posts, link via Pins on Pinterest and posts on social media. In time, hopefully, your followers will create links to your posts, called backlinks, and your posts will become interconnected throughout the web.
If you change the permalink address, these links will no longer work. Google and other search engines will assume your posts no longer exist. People clicking on your links will get a Error 404 warning “page not found”.
All your hard word will be for nothing…
My advice? Never, ever change your permalinks. Set them correctly on Day 1 and leave well alone.
Configuring WordPress Settings
Permalinks are just one of several WordPress settings you need to configure when you set up your blog. Here the main ones you need to take care of…
How Do You Find General Settings?
To find your general settings, select Settings > General from your dashboard. Here you can set your site title and tagline, along with language and timezone.
The most important setting to check is your WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL). For most blogs these two addresses will be the same. They will only be different if you’ve added a WordPress blog to an existing website and placed the blog in a sub-directory.
If you’ve followed my previous post Write Your First Blog post (But Do These 7 Things First), hopefully you’ve made sure your site is secured.
With an SSL certificate installed, your WordPress Address and Site Address will be https://yourdomain.com not http://yourdomain.com. Make sure this is entered correctly in your General Settings.
What Is A Site Title On WordPress?
The title is just the name of your site. For example mine is Simply Hatch. The tagline is typically a few words explaining what your site is about.
Choose a strong site title and tagline that works as an introduction to your blog for visitors. I like to make sure my tagline includes the main keywords I want to rank for in Google.
Not all themes display the title or tagline. That’s fine, but it’s still worth writing a good tagline. Google and other search engines will still read it. Leaving your tagline as the default “Just another WordPress site”, is a wasted opportunity.
How To Make A Static Homepage In WordPress
The default WordPress setup has your latest blog posts as your homepage. Whilst this might work for a personal blog it’s a bad idea if you’re aiming to make money.
Your latest blog posts are unlikely to convey the full purpose of your site. By setting up a static homepage you gain more control over content.
To set up a static homepage, make sure you’ve set up a homepage and a blog page first by going to Pages>Add New. Create the pages you need and publish.
Go to Settings>Reading and look for “Your homepage displays”. Select “A static page” and set both the Homepage and the Posts page to the pages you want to use . Here are my settings:
Categories And Tags In WordPress
WordPress categories and tags are listed under Posts in your dashboard. The default category when you set up WordPress is “Uncategorised”. Leaving this as your category setting isn’t helpful to anyone, your visitors or search engines.
Your categories should represent the core topics of your blog. Pick no more than two or three. Why? Because there’s nothing worse than a category with just one or two posts. Unless you have a very busy blog with lots of writers producing several posts a week, two or three categories are plenty.
Create your new categories and make sure you delete (or rename) “uncategorised”. When you start writing your posts enter them in just one category. This helps to keep your site structure easy to follow.
What Is The Use Of Tags?
Instead of lots of different categories, use tags. You can create as many tags as you need and assign them wherever relevant to posts.
WordPress tags are good to help you organise content but they can cause a problem when it comes to optimising your site for search engines.
To a search engine such as Google, tags can create lots of low quality duplicate content pages.
Does this mean I should avoid using tags?
No because there’s an easy fix…
How To NoIndex WordPress Tag Archives
If you use the popular plugin Yoast (and if you’re not using it, why not – it’s FREE), it’s easy to noindex your tag pages.
Assuming you’ve installed the plugin, go to SEO>Search Appearance>Taxonomies.
Find and open the Tags drop-down. Where is says “Show Tags in search results?” select No.
Make sure you save your changes. These are my settings:
Just launching into your blog and paying little regard to your WordPress settings will just create problems in the future. Get some of this stuff wrong, and it affects rankings in search engines and traffic to your blog.