A WordPress permalink is a URL to a single blog post or page. It remains unchanged or permanent even if you update the content, hence the name — permanent + link.
Generally, a permalink will look something like this:
Permalinks make URLs easy to understand and people know what to expect when opening it. For instance, we know from the example that the permalink above points to a tutorial post about Facebook marketing.
Now that we’ve covered the basic concept, it’s time to dive deep into WordPress permalinks — its structure, why is it important, and how to set it up.
The Basic Structure of Permalink
Permalinks are available in several formats, so different websites can have different URL structures depending on how they want them to be.
A permalink could include your domain name along with the post category, publishing date, the title of the post, and other attributes. To give you an idea, here are several formats of permalinks:
Meanwhile, the end part of permalinks (post-title) is called a slug. It identifies a particular page and is used to describe the content.
Why Permalinks Are Important
Permalinks are important for two main reasons: user experience and SEO purposes.
For readers, permalinks are useful because it’s easier to find the article they’re looking for. Without permalinks, you have to share the homepage’s URL and scroll until you find the post you want to read.
Readable permalinks are also likely to be shared and clicked on because they represent your content from the get-go.
For instance, if you’re presented with two links to the same post, one ends with /p=?101 and the other with /what-is-permalink, I bet you would rather choose the latter. It’s a simple psychological phenomenon — people would be more willing to jump into something they’re familiar with.
Meanwhile, for SEO purposes, permalinks help search engines to index your site, as well-structured permalinks make it easier to crawl it. In addition, permalinks that contain keywords also increase your chances to rank higher on SERPs.
Customizing Permalinks in WordPress
Now that you know how important permalinks are, you might assume WordPress assigns clean permalinks right from the start.
Well, I hate to bear the bad news — sadly, it doesn’t.
By default, WordPress sites will get permalinks with numbers as the slugs. Unreadable to humans and search engines, this kind of structure definitely would not help in building great user experience and optimizing your site’s SEO.
Surely you don’t want that kind of permalinks, right? No worries, I’ll tell you how to create clean permalinks in WordPress.
1. Default Options
The easiest way to create well-structured WordPress permalinks is by using the default options.
Aside from the Plain option (a string of numbers as the slug), WordPress offers four types of structures: Day and name, Month and name, Numeric, and Post name.
To use one of these settings, simply open your WordPress dashboard and go to Settings –> Permalinks, and choose one of the options under the Common Settings section.
Using the default settings also allows you to alter the slugs of individual posts or pages. Contributors usually edit them if the generated ones are too long.
If you want to edit the end of the URL, just open the post that you want to edit the permalink of, and find it below the title. Then, click on the permalink field and edit it as you wish.
You can change the slugs whenever you want. However, it’s recommended that you change it before publishing the article otherwise it’ll affect your SEO and decrease your organic traffic.
2. Custom Permalinks
If you’re not fond of the WordPress default permalinks, there are two elements you can use to create an entirely new structure: WordPress structure tags and plugins.
Using WordPress Structure Tags
Besides the default settings, WordPress also allows you to create custom permalinks.
To do so, head over to your WordPress admin dashboard and go to Settings –> Permalinks.
Under the Common Settings, choose the Custom Structure option and simply select the structure tags you want to include and in what order.
There are 10 tags available for you to choose from. Some of them are the year, post name, category, author, and month number.
Hit the Save Changes button, and now all of your posts will automatically use the custom structure.
Using a Plugin
WordPress already gives plenty of options for customizing a permalink, but you can do so much more with the help of Permalinks Customizer – a free WordPress plugin.
With a whopping total of 18 structure tags, this plugins allows you to create WordPress permalinks like no other. It even goes as far as providing tags for displaying minutes and seconds.
What’s more, this plugin also can create custom permalinks for different post types. It offers customization for regular posts, pages, media, products, and projects.
Follow the steps below to set permalinks from this plugin:
- Go to the Permalinks Customizer option in your WordPress dashboard and select PostTypes Settings.
- Type in the structure tags you want to use, and don’t forget to separate the tags with slashes (/).
- If you’re not sure about which tags to use, head over to the PostTypes Tags option to learn the use of all tags.
- Click Save Changes, and you’re done!
Redirecting Your Permalinks
Changing your permalinks after the posts have been posted will make the old URL inaccessible. Hence, to avoid losing traffic, you must redirect your visitors to the new address.
Redirect links can be set up pretty easily, especially with the help of plugins like Redirection.
After installing and activating the plugin, go to Tools –> Redirection, and then select the Redirects option in the top menu bar.
On the Redirects board, you’ll find the Add New Redirection Form, where all the magic happens.
Simply fill the form with the old and new URL, and your visitors will automatically be directed to the new address.
What Makes a Good Permalink?
Knowing how to customize permalinks is one thing, but creating good ones is another (and by ‘good’, what I meant is ones that are friendly for users and SEO-friendly).
Here are some of my personal tips when customizing good permalinks:
- Keep it short. The shorter, the better. As a rule of thumb, keep your permalinks below 100 characters.
- Include your main keyword. A way to make your WordPress permalinks short is by only using the main keywords in your slugs.
- Do not include dates. You want to make your content evergreen. Dates are usually used for news sites, where it’s essential for users to know when the article is published.
- Avoid using stop words. Words such as “but”, “which”, “any”, etc., don’t help search engines to understand what your content is about, and will just make your URLs unnecessarily long.
So that’s it! That’s pretty much all you need to know about WordPress permalinks.
Now you know what permalinks are, why they are vital to your site, and how to customize them so they’re friendly to users and search engines.
If you have any questions and comments about permalinks, share your thoughts on the comments below!