For general information about URLs, please see Will Google like my URL?
Each page, post, and document on your website has a unique URL. Below are instructions covering various aspects of how to control your URLs.
Fortunately, for those of you who use WordPress, the URL of your post or page is automatically created based on your title, which maximizes search engine optimization. In the process, WordPress follows the appropriate rules for the internet, such as not allowing spaces or most punctuation.
For example, this post is titled “Try It: Edit Your URLs”. The URL that WordPress created is https://openmodellc.com/try-it-edit-your-urls/. WordPress removed the colon after “Try It”, and replaced the spaces with dashes. The URL that WordPress created is also clearly consistent with the title.
Within WordPress, the URL is called the permalink, and is editable by you.
To edit the permalink, look in the sidebar when you’re creating or editing your post or page. Make sure to click the Document tab at the top of the sidebar, and scroll down to the section called Permalink. There you can see and edit the URL slug, which is what will appear in your URL for this particular post or page.
Note: if you do change the URL of an already-existing post or page, be sure to also create a redirect, explained in the last section below.
PDFs and other documents
For documents, there is a distinction between the filename and the URL. If you have a file on your computer, it doesn’t have a URL. But it acquires a URL when you upload it to the internet.
As an example, suppose I want to create a PDF document based on this post, and upload it to my website so that readers can view it on the internet and download it. I want its filename and URL to be consistent with the title. Here are a number of good practices to follow.
Spaces and most punctuation are not allowed
For my first attempt, I might use a filename like this: try it edit your urls.pdf
However, if I uploaded that PDF with spaces in the filename to the internet, the mysterious “%20” would appear anywhere in the URL where I had a space. My PDF would appear as: try%20it%20edit%20your%20urls.pdf
To solve this, each space should be replaced with a dash, like this: try-it-edit-your-urls.pdf
Add identifying information
If someone were to download a PDF with this title and store it on their computer, there is nothing in the filename to indicate its source. So it is good to add identifying information to the filename: openmodellc-try-it-edit-your-urls.pdf
Include the date
Now imagine that the reader has downloaded several PDFs from my website and stored them in a folder. They would appear alphabetically. However, I want the PDFs to appear sorted by date, so I add a date to the filename: openmodellc-2019-06-try-it-edit-your-urls.pdf
Note that I put the year before the month, so that all the PDFs of the same year are grouped together.
Note also that I added a “0” before the month, so that it has two digits and reads “06” instead of the single digit “6”. This is because most computers typically sort numbers in this way, without regard to numerical order, like this: 1, 10, 11, 12, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
By changing the single-digit “6” into the two-digit “06”, the computer sorts numbers in this way: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12
If you upload an image to your website, you probably don’t give much thought to the filename of the image. You may have received the file from your designer or from a stock photo service, and you may not bother changing its filename since your readers won’t see the name of the file. But Google will see the name of the file when it scans your content, and will evaluate the filename for consistency and relevancy. Before you upload a photo to your website, change its filename to something appropriately descriptive, remembering to replace spaces and punctuation.
For example, I downloaded a free image from pxhere.com. I optimized the file size in Photoshop, and then uploaded it to my website so that you could see it here:
Its original filename was: panorama-lake-sunset-background-image-wallpaper-nature-1444407-pxhere.com.jpg
The original filename was quite descriptive of the image, but it had no relationship to my website. So before uploading it, I changed its filename to: openmodellc-2019-06-try-it-change-your-urls-example.jpg
Now Google will understand why this particular image has been uploaded to this particular post.
As I explained in the companion post Will Google like my URL?, if you change any URLs on your website, it’s important to create a redirect from the old URL to the new one.
The easiest way to do this is using a plugin. The one I use most is called Redirection, but there are many others you can use as well. Make sure the plugin you use is able to create a 301 Redirect.
After installing and setting up the plugin, you are given two fields to fill out, the Source URL, which is where you add the old URL, and the Target URL, which is where you add the new one. After you save the redirect, anyone going to the old URL will be automatically redirected to the new one, and Google will not report a broken link as a result.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like help with any of these issues. I’d be happy to assist you.