Everything you need to know about permalinks and Squarespace SEO
Everything you need to know about permalinks and Squarespace SEO
The internet sometimes gets a bad rep for being a vast and competitive place, but I don't think we're giving the world wide web enough credit.
Personally, I love the freedom that the internet brings us all, and how it lets us create our own websites that give us an online home and a digital presence. We can use our websites in any way that we want, whether it's to share our thoughts, promote our businesses & brands, sell our products, etc.. If we can dream it, we can build it and I think that's a beautiful thing!
Every day, countless new websites are created and everyone hopes that their website will take off. We all dream of being website wunderkids, and that our sites will grow by leaps and bounds. We picture ourselves cracking the popularity code and shooting right to the top of Google's rankings with our brand new website.
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but those results aren't very likely. It takes a lot of hard work, time, effort and experience to get a website to take off, and that level of success doesn't happen over night.
However, there ARE things you can do if you want to grow your website, and many of them come back to search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is an art, not a science, but I've seen many websites get incredible results simply by following a few best practices.
One of the best (and easiest!) ways to improve SEO for your Squarespace website is by setting up permalinks in the best way possible.
Permalinks, also known as URL slugs, are one of the factors of good SEO that many people overlook. If they only knew how valuable good permalink structure was, I know they would give it the attention it deserves!
Permalinks admittedly don't have the most riveting reputation but they are an element of website development that should never be ignored, especially if you are focused on growing your website through SEO.
I'm going to introduce you to permalinks (aka URL slugs), explain why they are so important, and let you in on the best practices for setting up permalinks for SEO success.
SEO can be hella confusing so if you have any questions, you are welcome to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond. I personally work with select consulting and strategy clients every month so if you’re interested in that, please get in touch. Finally, I also share SEO tips with my newsletter (which you can sign up for here) and have a whole Squarespace SEO Series of blog posts and video tutorials that you should binge. Phew!
Sit back, relax, and let's get linking!
Squarespace SEO Series
This article is part of my series on Squarespace SEO. I have so many tips to share on the subject that it would have been crazy to put it all in one article! There are many misconceptions about Squarespace SEO which is why I’m going to dedicate a few posts to this topic.
Click to view all posts in the Squarespace SEO Series.
What are permalinks?
Permalinks (or URL slugs) are the exact address of a specific page or post on your website.
For example, the permalink to my blog is charlotteohara.ca/blog and the permalink to my About page is charlotteohara.ca/about.
There are several limitations to what a permalink can and cannot include (for example, no special characters, 250 character limit, all lower case characters, etc.) but generally speaking, you have the ability to set and edit permalinks to suit your fancy.
The history of permalinks
Let's get back to basics here and take a look at the "old days" when websites weren't as robust as they are in their current forms. This will help us to understand why permalinks developed and why they are so important.
It was a major innovation when people realized how much more efficient it was to manage a website when the content was stored in a database and the template/theme (i.e., appearance) was kept separately. This made managing large websites so much simpler and safer since content could be updated without risking taking down the entire site. That's basically how content management systems like Squarespace work.
The problem was that the URL was created only when a user (i.e., an individual human user) clicked a link to visit that page or post. You could try to bookmark the content but it wouldn't work; either you'd end up rerouted back to the home page or you would get a page not found error.
Why did this happen?
Because that original URL no longer existed. So old school, I know!
Two main problems came out of this:
- People were unable to bookmark websites (specifically certain pages or posts). This was bothersome but it wasn't the end of the world.
- Search engines couldn't index a website beyond the homepage. The indexing crawlers couldn't follow or find the links connecting one page to another. And, on the off chance that they did follow them, subsequent visits would come back with different URLS for the same pages or posts. Obviously this presented some major issues for site owners.
Permalinks, or URL slugs, came out of this need to better access content and allow for search engine indexing.
Stay with me, it's not as boring as you might think!
At the most basic level, permalinks mean that every page or post published has the same URL every time it is accessed. In addition, search engines can follow, index and bookmark these HTML links through this new structure.
Permalinks and Your Squarespace Website
As the owner of a website, you have the option to chose what type of permalink structure you want your site to use. Depending on the choice you make, it can have a huge effect on how easily search engines can crawl and index your site content, and also how helpful the URL is.
Using short, memorable URLs makes it easier for visitors to find and share your content.
In Squarespace, you can see and edit the permalink for all content of your site. This includes :
- Web pages
- Blog posts
- Gallery images
Squarespace automatically assigns a permalink for each new page, post, or collection item based on its title. For example, if you add a page titled "Services," its automatic permalink/URL slug is http://www.yourdomain.com/services.
At any time, you can change a permalink so that it follows best practices and is set up for SEO goodness.
How to change the permalink of a webpage
Webpage permalinks are automatically set based on a page's title but you can always change them yourself. Here's how to edit a webpage's permalink:
- Log into the back end of your Squarespace website. In the Home Menu, click Pages.
- Hover over the page title.
- Click the gear icon next to the title to open Page Settings.
- Scroll down in the Basic tab to the URL Slug box.
- Enter a new URL.
- Click Save.
Easy as pie! When it comes to setting the permalinks of webpages, keep it short and simple and stick to the page title as much as possible. This is SEO best practice. Most of the time, websites already do a good job of setting permalinks for web pages but struggle when it comes to blog posts - more on that below.
How to change the permalink of a blog post
Blog post permalinks are set by the post's title and the default Post URL Format in Blogging Settings. Here's how you can edit a blog post permalink:
- In the Home Menu, click Pages.
- Open a Blog Page.
- Hover over the post.
- Click Settings.
- Click the Options tab in the post editor.
- Enter a new URL slug/permalink
Note : This only edits the specific blog post's URL slug. If you want to change the permalink of the Blog Page as a whole, you'll need to change the permalink for the particular blog page.
When it comes to setting permalinks/URL slugs for your blog posts, the best practice is to abbreviated version of the post name. You still want to include key words so that search engines can easily index the content, but you don't need to include extra/filler words when they aren't required.
For example if your blog post is titled "Ten lessons learned from attending my first web design conference", you might set the permalink to be "yourdomainname.com/blog/lessons-first-conference" or something like that.
Editing post permalinks this way accomplishes two things:
- Gives the user a better idea of what the page or post is all about
- Makes it easier for search engines to understand the content and context of the page or post
I recommend going back to blog posts you've already written and updating the permalink structure with SEO in mind, if you haven't already. It will take some time, depending on how many posts you have, but trust me it's worth it!
How to set a default blog post permalink structure
To keep blog post permalinks consistent, all post permalinks publish in the same format. You can edit this format to include any combination of the post's title, creation year, month, date, and/or custom text.
- In the Home Menu, click Settings, and then click Blogging.
- Edit the Post URL Format using the variables below and any custom text.
- To delete a variable from a blog post (for example, YEAR), place your cursor to the right of the variable and press the Delete key.
- %t - The post title
- %m - The creation month for the blog post
- %d - The creation date (day of the month) for the blog post
- %y - The creation year for the blog post
Permalinks for SEO
Permalink structures are a small detail but they have a definite impact on SEO.
Not only do permalinks indicate what the page or post is about, they also make sure that you can easily and consistently link to that content from anywhere on the web.
Permalink structures are strongest when they are clear and short. A visitor to your website might not care too much or pay attention to the permalink, but a search engine like Google sure do!
Your users will appreciate the cleaner URLS and you'll be reward by search engines everywhere!
Permalinks might not seem like a huge deal or even have crossed your mind before now, but they are a website element that can have a big impact on SEO with a small change! By recognizing their importance, you'll help users have an easier time understanding the content of a post or page AND make it simpler for search engines to index your website effectively.
It's easy to update the permalinks on your website, thanks to Squarespace's site-wide settings and content specific editors.
Now it's your turn to tell me, how do your permalink settings stack up? Have you ever gone back and edited your permalinks or URL slugs? Have you considered how permalinks affect SEO and content indexing? I'd love to know so leave me a note in the comments below!
If you want more SEO goodness, be sure to check out the other posts in my Squarespace SEO Series.
You can also sign up for my newsletter below, where I often share Squarespace SEO tips, tricks and high-quality exclusive content. i send out emails to my list every week and while I don’t talk about SEO every time, I can guarantee that you’ll still find the newsletter topics interesting, entertaining and worth your time.
Finally, shameless plug : hit me up with any specific questions you have about Squarespace SEO and your website because I’m your girl. You can reach out to me directly if you’re interested in working together on your website and we can talk about whether or not you would be a good fit for my consulting and ongoing services. I can’t take on every request to do SEO consulting but I do pick a few websites and businesses to work with every month and I’d love for you to be one of them.
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