Control Your URLs!

A Major SEO Consideration Before Starting a Publication

Jim Dee
Jim Dee
Jan 10, 2020 · 6 min read

A keyword-loaded URL may help boost your publication’s SEO.

Photo by Sam Manns on Unsplash

When I first got into using, I simply needed a new home for my blog, and fell in love with the interface. As a full-time, professional web developer by day for the last decade, I’ve come to appreciate when something is super easy compared to the norm. Hands-down, if you just want to start blogging, is the easy button — nothing to setup or configure, no software to maintain, no server to look after, nothing to have to update. You just type and publish.

SEO Opportunities

From an SEO standpoint, one of the greatest opportunities offers is in the area of its publications. You see, when first setting up a publication, you have a little control of what the URLs will be for your stories.

URLs are important. For example, if you have a web site that reviews video games, you’d probably want URLs like …

https:// www . VideoGameReviews . com / reviews / ApexLegends

… instead of …

https:// www . whatever . com / myrev.php?id=123

Do you see the difference? The top one (1) has keywords in it, and (2) offers an indication, without even clicking, of what a user can expect when clicking. Take a look at (leading SEO site)’s notes on URLs. At the end of the day, URLs alone aren’t enough to rank. You still have to produce quality, on-point content. But, assuming you’re doing that, a good keyword-loaded URL can help. From the above-linked page:

Using keywords in your URL may increase the likelihood of your site ranking for the terms you choose, too.

SEO Philosophy

Because of how Medium works, and because of its perception in the world, articles tend to be shared quite readily by people. I think there’s a psychology at play in that it’s viewed as a bit less commercial in nature than a private domain is. (Totally my own opinions here, okay? And no, I have no relationship with Medium.)

Anyway, that built-in authority is what drives the opportunity I’m discussing here. So, here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about. Recently, I wanted to pursue an interest I’ve had for some time, which is to do a series where I’m digging through the Oxford English Dictionary looking for unusual words to write about. So, I initially (quite on a whim) started up a Medium publication. I called it “Red Squigglies” initially — referring to how words are underlined by red squiggly lines as you type when your browser doesn’t know them.

I put out 5 or 6 articles, but then got to thinking about the URLs my publication was generating. They were looking like this:

https:// / red-squigglies / lippitude-soreness-of-the-eyes-66bb012a61

So, the publication name (or, more specifically, the alias generated when instantiating a new publication here) goes right after the Again, totally my opinion, but: I think whatever comes just after the could be potentially valuable SEO territory because it communicates to Google something about what the page may be about.

So, in my case, it was telling Google: Hey here’s a page that has something to do with “red squigglies.” And, while somewhat entertaining, I don’t think that’s best for my own publication’s SEO.

What I have now (now that I’ve put more thought into the matter and have formed a new publication) are links like this:

https:// / define-the-word / lippitude-soreness-of-the-eyes-66bb012a61

I’ll admit: This is all experimental for me. But, I have to believe that, over time, Google will “learn” that the writing I’m publishing in this series relates to the definition of words. It’s also a well-known Google trick that, if you type “define [some word or phrase]” and hit enter, you get the definition immediately. For example, if I type “define quid pro quo”, here’s what I get:

Google screen grab for “define quid pro quo” query.

(I wanted just the word “define” as my URL alias, by the way, but it was taken. So, I used “define the word” instead.)

How To Control the URL Alias

This happens when you first start a Medium publication. And, one pro-tip here is to remember that your publication name and its URL alias need not be the same. For example, let’s say you want to start a blog about collecting coffee mugs. You might want to call the blog “My Mug Obsession,” but you might want the URL alias to be “coffee-mug-collecting.”

The first thing you’ll notice is that, when you go to setup your publication, whenever you type the title, it auto-generates the URL alias, like so:

I typed “My Mug Obsession” and it auto-generated “my-mug-obsession” as the URL alias.

So, if you want a different URL alias, you have to think alias-first, and momentarily title your publication something that will generate the correct URL alias. So, just type “coffee mug collecting” and you get:

Here I typed “coffee mug collecting” and I get “coffee-mug-collecting” as the URL alias.

It seems wrong, I realize. But, don’t worry, you can change the name back to “My Mug Obsession” once the publication is setup. The thing is: You can’t change the URL alias of an existing publication. Once that’s setup, it’s locked in for the life of the publication.

So, again, this is an important consideration before launching a publication. You need to put your SEO or advertiser’s hat on for this decision. Think to yourself: What might people Google to find articles like I’m writing? And then work some keywords into your alias in some natural-sounding way.

In my case, to show a finished example, I set up my publication as “define the word” initially, and then came back a minute later after saving it, and changed the title to what I wanted, which was “Wonderful Words, Defined.” The end result was (1) the title I wanted, and (2) the URL alias I wanted:

Final result: The title I wanted, and the keyword-loaded URL alias I wanted.

Thus, my URLs make a little more sense now, as in:

In the end, it’s still up to you to create quality, on-point content for Google to index. But, given a handful of well-written articles on a topic, any small edge you can gain may be well worth some initial effort like this.

✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine,” and a vocabulary blog, “Red Squigglies.” He also contributes to various publications. Find him at, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] His latest novel, CHROO, is available on If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!

Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine

WDWD Magazine features articles on web site design /…

Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at; author of books & blogs. See:

Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine

WDWD Magazine features articles on web site design / development, internet marketing, social media, SEO, and topics like marketing, communications, business development, etc. Editor: Jim Dee of Array Web Development —

Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at; author of books & blogs. See:

Web Designer / Web Developer Magazine

WDWD Magazine features articles on web site design / development, internet marketing, social media, SEO, and topics like marketing, communications, business development, etc. Editor: Jim Dee of Array Web Development —

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