Think of a URL or “Uniform Resource Locator” like an “address” that a visitor can use to reach a page on your website. As an example, anyone who wishes to view our website portfolio can do so at https://www.bizboost.com.au/web/web-portfolio/.
Each URL is made up of several components, including:
- The Scheme - always either http or https, depending on whether you have an SSL Certificate.
- The Domain Name – used to identify which website you want to visit. For example, www.bizboost.com.au.
- The Path and File Name – used to identify which page (or file) you want to access on that website. For example, /web/web-portfolio/.
Today we are going to focus on the path and file name and how it affects your website’s performance.
The URL for each page is generated automatically by your website when it’s first created. However, it is possible to change the file name, after it’s created to better optimise it for the web. HOWEVER, as with all changes to your website, there can be flow-on effects. So, before you go changing URL’s left, right and centre, it’s important to read the next paragraph first.
When Is It Safe to Update a Path and File Name
When you create a new page, it can take a while for Google to find it. If you change the URL of an existing page that has already been found and indexed, it can negatively affect your results in the search engines.
You can get around in part by using 301 redirects. This is a permanent redirect that will send a website visitor to a different URL than the one they originally clicked on. In essence, you can set it up so anyone who attempts to visit your old URL (including Google’s bots), will automatically be redirected to your new URL.
However, redirects can be tricky to set up and there is some debate in the industry as to whether setting up too many can negatively affect how well your website performs in the search results. Instead, the general rule should be to only change a URL when the page is first set up unless you simply can’t avoid it.
Below in this article, I’ll step you through how to change the path and file name in a URL. But first, let’s look at the situations in which you might want to change it in the first place.
URL Best Practice
When you set up a new page, the URL is automatically generated depending on the title you give that new page. For example, if you call the page “About Us”, the URL will be www.mydomain.com.au/about-us/. Quite often, this automatic option is perfectly fine, but there are a few cases in which you might want to optimise the URL further.
When the website generates a URL, it will convert any spaces into hyphens (as per the example above, an “About Us” page will become “about-us”.
This needs to be kept in mind when creating the title for your new page. You might want to write an article titled “SEO – a Beginners Guide to Being Found in the Search Results”. This is great as a heading to your article as it’s immediately clear what the article is about (SEO), clarifies who might benefit from it (beginners) and elaborates on technical terms that beginners may not know (SEO can help you be found by the search engines). It also contains keywords that will help your site be found by Google. The use of a hyphen also breaks up the heading and makes it easier for the reader to process what is being said.
However, the default URL will look something like this:
It looks messy, especially if you plan on sharing the page by pasting it into emails and documents. It will look neater if you change it to something more like this:
Does Size Matter?
At face value, the length of a URL does not matter. However, you might find there are occasions in which keeping a URL shorter makes it more user-friendly for your website visitors.
This is mostly true for situations where you might be including the URL into written materials outside of a website browser. Like I mentioned above, you might decide to share your latest online newsletter or article with your clients via email. In this case, keeping the file name shorter will look neater.
So if you're creating a new article on your website called "ASBV: the five things you need to know about sheep genetics", you might want to change the URL from:
A Side Note on SEO and Keywords
Many people will include a keyword (a word that potential clients might use when searching on Google) in their URL as a strategy to rank higher in the search engine results.
This strategy does have a minor impact on how your page is ranked. It signals to Google that a person searching for the phrase “buy new canon camera” may be interested in a website called www.camera.com.au/buy-canon-camera.
However, it’s important to note that this is only a minor consideration. Google will first consider other factors like the page’s popularity and the keywords that are used on the page first. So focusing on the words you use in the text on the page is more important.
How to Change the File Name in a URL?
The steps you need to take will differ on whether you have a Website Baker or WordPress site.
Create a new page as you would normally. Then go to your page settings:
Find the menu title and change it to your desired file name.
Keep in mind that this will also change the name of the page as it appears in your menu. So ensure it’s suitable for both your URL and menu.
In WordPress, a file name (also called a permalink) is really simple to edit. After you’ve published a new page or saved the initial draft, you’ll find the permalink directly below the page title.
Click on the “Edit” button and enter your new permalink (remember that the spaces need to be changed to hyphens).
Click on the “Update” button to save your changes.