Understanding what your WordPress permalinks are and why they matter is one of the first things you need to do when you start a blog.
A permalink is simply the web address or url that readers use to access your content, and it contains your domain name followed by words and/or numbers.
The way you set up your permalinks in WordPress is very easy to change, but you have to know some important do’s and don’ts before you go switching them up.
Having an SEO optimized, user-friendly permalink structure is one of the most important factors in getting noticed by search engines and readers.
When you write a blog post, make a webpage, or add a product to your website, WordPress assigns a permalink to that content based on your settings.
For each page or post, you also have the option to customize the information that appears at the very end of your permalinks (aka the slug).
When setting up your WordPress Permalinks
- Change your permalink structure from the default WordPress setting as soon as you start your blog
- Choose a structure that is easy to remember and share
- Edit the slug for every post so that it contains your keywords
- Install 301 redirects plugin if needed
- Use the default setting
- Change your permalink structure without having a way to set up redirects if needed
- Include the date
Finding and changing your WordPress Permalinks structure is really easy.
Step 1: Within the WordPress Dashboard, navigate to Settings –> Permalinks
Step 2: Choose from the built-in options or make a custom permalink structure.
Understanding the WordPress permalink settings options
Under common settings, you will see a few options that WordPress has built in for you to choose from. You will want to change your settings from the default setting right away.
The default setting is ‘ugly’ and you want a pretty permalink, don’t you?
The first option is your domain followed by a “?” and some numbers which correspond to your post’s location on your website.
In my opinion, this is the worst option of them all for the following three reasons.
- It gives the reader no information about what is in your post.
- It’s hard to remember for sharing.
- There are no keywords to help Google understand what your post is about.
If you don’t go in and set the default permalink structure yourself, this is the option that you’ll be assigned by the WordPress software. So if you have a brand new WordPress blog, changing your permalink settings is one of the first things you need to do.
Day and name:
The second option is your domain followed by the full date of publication followed by the post name or slug. The problem with this option is that having the date right in your url quite literally dates your information.
Readers, and Google, might assume that the information in your post is out of date even if the post contains evergreen content.
Month and name:
This permalink structure consists of your domain followed by the month and year it was published followed by your slug.
Again, this structure can put a timeline on the relevancy of your post, and there is too much extra info to remember for sharing.
With this option, your permalink will consist of your domain name followed by ‘archives’ and then a number assigned to your post. Again, this option is not ideal for SEO or sharing.
You might choose another permalink structure that fits your website. So you could choose yourdomain.com/category/post-name or any other structure that fits the flow of your site.
In this case, you will use structure tags to tell WordPress how to structure your permalink. Here is a list of structure tags and how to use them.
Do you love using WordPress? Find out why the Jetpack plugin is a must-have for bloggers.
Optional settings for WordPress permalinks
Most bloggers don’t need to worry about the optional settings, but it’s good to understand what they are in case you ever need them.
Let’s say you want to use the permalink structure: yourdomain.com/categories/category/post-name, but instead of the word categories, you want it to say ‘news.’ In that case, you would type news into the Category base box.
Your permalinks will look like this: yourdomain.com/news/category/post-name. Make sense? You can do the same for tags if you’re using your tags in your permalink structure.
If you decide to go this route, be aware that if you ever decide to change the name of your categories then you will need to set up 301 redirects for all of your posts. And if you have subcategories, then it gets kind of confusing.
Read through this post for more information about custom settings.
When you have products on your site, you have the option of customizing your permalink structure just as discussed above regarding categories.
Choosing a good slug
The slug is simply what we call the words at the end of your permalink. Most of the time it is either your post name or your keywords.
WordPress will auto-populate your slug with your post title or page name and enter dashes between each word. You can preview your permalink underneath your title, and you’ll notice a little button that says edit to the right of that.
That button will allow you to edit your slug to your liking.
You might choose to remove stop words or shorten your url to just your keywords. But, in any case, you should definitely use whole words with dashes between them.
Also remember that whatever slug you choose for that page or post cannot be used again on your site. So make sure that it is specific to that page, relevant to the content on that page, and easy to remember.
Do you need to set up 301 redirects?
When you change your permalink structure you change the web address for all of the posts on your site. So any social shares using your old permalink structure have to be redirected to the new web address.
So if you don’t want to lose visitors who find those old links, then you will need to set up redirects when you change your permalink structure. Otherwise, when readers try to visit your site, they will get a page error.
Don’t totally panic if you need to set up redirects.
You can learn how to set them up yourself or install a plug-in that will do it for you at Yoast.com.
What is your preference for WordPress permalink structure?
Or do you think it doesn’t matter?
I’d love to hear your opinion or experience. Leave me a comment below!