Let’s talk about URL structure for author blogs 3 Comments

Did you know that URL structure can make a difference in search traffic? Although minor URL structure can have a cumulative impact on SEO.

URLs are one area that most people setting up an author blog forget about. One thing that I did not cover when I wrote A Definitive Guide on How to Start Blogging as an Author was URL structure. Thus accidentally proving my point about how easy it is to overlook.

What is a URL?

A URL is the link that takes you to a specific page. If you have ever manually shared a blog post on Facebook or Twitter you’ve copied and pasted one before. They are found in the navigation bar at the top of a browser. Here is what our URLs currently look like.

Authorbuzz URL

As you can see, the URL is made up of parts. There is the domain name part – in our case Author Buzz dot co dot uk – and the path part – in our case year, month, day, and then text based on title. It is the default WordPress URL structure.

What your URL says about you.

In our case, Author Buzz UK is currently using date based URLs. That singles that the content is possibly time sensitive and can go out of date. Older posts sit there saying “this may not be relevant anymore”. Given the nature of our content, that may have been a poor choice. However, redirecting all those links to a new structure is a long and time-consuming process.

Here is an alternative structure.

Thanet Star URL

Here, the category structure takes the place of the dates we saw before. Despite being a news blog, this structure indicates that the content is perhaps more timeless.

In many ways, this communicates more human-readable information to the reader. We know this is an opinion article that asks a question about news balance even before we click the link.

How to change your URL structure

I am about to tell you how to change your URL structure. It is best to do this when you first set up your blog. As it is so important to get right, I suggest you read “Picking your URL structure” before you actually put this section into practice.

Assuming you are using WordPress, here or self-hosted, you want to find Settings in the admin area. In the settings menu, you will find Permlinks.

You will find there, six choices. The last one is a custom URL structure.

Which one is right for you? I am glad you asked that question. Keep reading to find out.

Picking your URL structure

Before you choose your URL structure it pays to think about it first. You are going to be stuck with whatever you choose unless you want to risk making all current inbound links into dead links that lead to a 404 (not found) page.
Your first questions need to be:

  • What do I want my URLs to say about me?
  • What sort of blog am I writing?
  • How will my content be shared?

What are your choices?

Your choices for URL structure are limited only to the available information WordPress has about a post. If you don’t like the common options you can pick a custom structure.

URL permalinks

Let’s go over a few structures and examine the pros and cons of each type. After that I will show you the best format for an author blog.

Plain URL structure

In almost all cases I highly recommend you do not pick this one. For authors, there is no reason I can think of where this would be the best choice. It is the least friendly and readable structure you could pick.

Plain URLs have very limited use and unless you can think of a good reason to use them, don’t. I tried searching that question and found no suggestions as to why that is a good idea. None.

The only reason would be if site performance mattered much more than anything else at all.

  • Slightly faster
  • Ugly as sin
  • Hard to read
  • Does not work with all plugins
  • Poor SEO
  • Easy to mangle

Date based URL Structure

Date based is perfect if the date is relevant information. For example, if the articles are time sensitive, or you are posting a journal style blog. I’m including both “day and name” and “month and name” in this summary.

  • Newer content can seem fresher and more urgent.
  • Older content is more likely to appear less relevant (and may get less clicks).
  • The date becomes information about the post.
  • Perfect for time-sensitive content such as news.
  • Just screams “this is a blog post”.

For an author, this may be good for news, tour dates, events, press releases, that sort of thing. If you are posting a lot of this sort of content among your other blog updates, then this may be the best choice for you. If you are sure.

Numeric URL structure

Why would you do that? If abstract URLs are your thing, then I suppose this is nice for you.

  • Abstract.
  • Not so easy to read.
  • Short, very short.
  • Misses out on SEO.
  • Might be seen as somewhat eccentric.

Post name only URL structure

This is the about as short a URL structure as you are going to get without going for a “plain” URL but for the love of all that is good please do not use it. Not only are you missing out on getting some good keywords in your link but you will set your WordPress up to do a lot more work. Which means this makes for the slowest possible pages. Don’t just take my word for it, other experts are saying the same thing.

The short version is that WordPress has no clues how to start working out what page or post or whatever it was asked for and has to check them all. As I provide Author Buzz out of my own pocket, please don’t use this on your Author Buzz blogs – our server is good but it is not unlimited in power.

  • Misses out on extra keywords.
  • Short and concise.
  • Does nasty things to performance over time.
  • Makes your WordPress work harder than it needs to.
  • Expensive on server time.

Category based URL structure

This is a custom URL and it has some unique SEO benefits.

  • It uses this pattern:/%category%/%postname%/

Thanet Star URL

Assuming you build a structured hierarchy of categories, what you get is a structured hierarchy of links. This signals to search engines that you are following a directory-based approach to content. I shall not get into the specifics right now but that puts a fair old emphasis on the keywords you chose for category stubs (the category part of the URL).

Assuming your focus is on relevant and high-quality content, this can be a significant boost to SEO. Which can mean more search engine traffic over time.

In my opinion, it is one of the cleanest URL structures that you can choose.

  • Easy to read.
  • Conveys lots of relevant information to readers.
  • Works well with search engines such as Google.
  • Clean and functional.
  • Easy for WordPress to work with.

The best choice for authors: Category with author name URL structure

There is one more tag you can use in a custom URL structure and that is the author stub. As an author, the search term you want to rank for more than any other is your own name. This structure gives that to you in spades.

There are two possible formats that I would recommend:

  • /%category%/%author%/%postname%/
  • /%author%/%category%/%postname%/

Category first works well in a multi-author setting – for example, in a shared review blog. It makes author the final child category in all category structures.

The author first is perfect if you are the only writer for the blog. It makes your name the root directory under which all the categories can be found.

  • Easy to read.
  • Promotes you as the author.
  • Conveys lots of relevant information to readers.
  • Works well with search engines such as Google.
  • Clean and functional.
  • Easy for WordPress to work with.

Over to you

Hopefully, I have inspired you to think differently about URL structure for author blogs.

If you forgot to set up a custom URL structure and want to do so now, Author Buzz UK blogs come equipped with a URL redirect tool. Of course, you will need to set up one redirect for every post so sooner is better than later.

  • What are your thoughts on URL structures?
  • Do you use a custom structure on your blog?
  • Which structure do you find yourself most drawn towards?

About Matthew Brown

Matthew is a writer and Geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing on TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote.

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