What are Permalinks in WordPress?
Permalinks or “permanent links” stand as the unique URLs designated to your individual blog posts or pages. Think of them as the digital address of your content. They guide your audience and search engines to your content’s location on the world wide web.
By default, WordPress assigns a structure to these permalinks. It typically looks something like this: “http://www.YOURSITE.com/?p=123,” where “123” is a unique identifier, pointing to a specific post or page in your site’s database.
However, this default structure leaves room for improvement, both for user experience and search engine optimization (SEO).
The Significance of Permalinks
You might wonder why we’re focusing so much on seemingly trivial URLs. However, permalinks are far from being inconsequential. They carry weight in the eyes of both your site visitors and search engines.
The default permalink structure provided by WordPress, while functional, doesn’t offer meaningful context about your content. For instance, a URL ending with “?p=123” provides no insight into the content of the page.
This lack of information can be off-putting to potential visitors and does little to help search engines understand the context of your page.
Crafting Permalinks for Better SEO
Setting the permalink structure in WordPress is a straightforward task. The option resides within your wp-admin dashboard under the Settings and Permalinks section.
WordPress offers several permalink structure options, but the ‘Post name’ structure is often recommended. It provides a clean, uncluttered URL and allows you to control the post name, which can be optimized for SEO.
For example, a URL like “http://www.YOURSITE.com/my-first-blog-post” is much more informative and user-friendly than the default structure.
Discouragement of Dates in Permalinks
Incorporating dates in your permalinks can seem like a logical choice for chronologically ordered content, such as news articles or blog entries. However, this approach is generally discouraged since dates in URLs can prematurely age your content.
A visitor might perceive a post from 2018 as outdated, even if the content is still relevant.
The Power of Custom Permalinks
WordPress also allows for the creation of custom permalinks. This is done by choosing a custom structure and adding extensions like .html or .php. This gives you even more control over your permalinks, enabling you to tailor them to your specific needs.
Additionally, WordPress gives you the flexibility to edit individual permalinks for each post or page. This feature is accessible on the editing screen, allowing you to further customize the permalink based on the title or content of the post or page.
Permalink Best Practices: Avoiding Common Pitfalls
While the ability to change permalinks offers a great deal of flexibility, it’s essential to exercise caution. Once a post or page has been published, its permalink should remain consistent.
Changing a permalink post-publication can lead to broken links, making it difficult for people and search engines to find your content.
A permalink, once set, acts as a digital placeholder for your content, and changing it after the fact is akin to moving a physical store without notifying your customers. It can lead to confusion, loss of traffic, and a decrease in search engine rankings.
Setting Your Permalink Structure in WordPress
To set your permalink structure in WordPress, follow these steps:
- Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard (usually found at http://www.YOURSITE.com/wp-admin).
- Navigate to the Settings menu and click on Permalinks.
- You will see several permalink structure options available to choose from:
- Plain: Displays the default structure (http://www.YOURSITE.com/?p=123)
- Day and name: Includes the date and post title (http://www.YOURSITE.com/2021/08/30/sample-post/)
- Month and name: Includes the month and post title (http://www.YOURSITE.com/2021/08/sample-post/)
- Numeric: Uses the unique post ID (http://www.YOURSITE.com/archives/123)
- Post name: Displays only the post title (http://www.YOURSITE.com/sample-post/)
- Custom Structure: Allows you to create a custom permalink structure using specific tags
- Select the permalink structure that best suits your needs.
- Click “Save Changes” to apply the new permalink settings.
Recommended Permalink Structure
The recommended permalink structure for most websites is “Post name” because it provides the least clutter and allows control over the post name. This option offers a clean and informative URL that is both user-friendly and optimized for search engines.
It’s worth noting that including dates in permalinks is generally discouraged, as they may make older content appear outdated. However, if your website focuses on time-sensitive information, such as news articles, you may choose to include the date in your permalink structure.
If you prefer a more tailored approach, you can create custom permalinks by selecting “Custom Structure” and adding specific tags or extensions like .html or .PHP.
For instance, if you want to include the category and post title in your permalinks, you can use the following custom structure: /category/%postname%/.
Editing Individual Permalinks
In addition to setting a global permalink structure for your site, WordPress allows you to edit individual permalinks for posts and pages. This customization can be done directly from the editing screen, enabling you to create unique permalinks based on the post or page title.
To edit a permalink for a specific post or page:
- Open the post or page in the WordPress editor.
- Locate the Permalink section, usually found directly below the title field.
- Click “Edit” next to the current permalink.
- Enter your desired permalink and click “Save.”
Note that updating the permalink of a published post or page is not recommended, as it can make it difficult for users and search engines to find the content. If you must change a published permalink, be sure to set up a 301 redirect to avoid broken links.