A Guide to WordPress Permalinks for Newbies

Shafi Khan
Sep 25, 2016 · 5 min read

WordPress Permalinks and How it Affects your SEO

Permalinks are the URL of your blog and how visitors see it.

Your visitors uses the same URL to visit, share and link to your site and that’s the reason why it should be clean and short.

If you’ve just installed wordpress then your permalink structure will be set to default which looks something like this -

www.mywebsite.com/?p=101

Here the number 101 is your post ID and it will be unique for every post you publish.

Now, let’s take an example of what we call a SEO Friendly URL

www.mywebsite.com/permalink-guide

Now tell me which URL do you think provide more value and gives estimation of what an article could be based on it’s structure? Of course the second link.

Similar to us, when Google Bots crawl your website they would find second link more user friendly since it provides extra information rather than just a page ID.

Have a question like, “Oops, I never knew this and all my permalinks are in default form. Can I change it?”

Yes, you can change your permalink structure any time you want and it’s quite simple.

But, when you change the URL structure all your links will be modified and you will see a great drop in traffic.

Your visitors will start getting 404 error pages and there will be many Google Crawl error.

While you can manage 404 error pages up to an extent by using 301 redirect, you can’t eliminate it completely.

Why should I worry about setting perfect Permalink structure when I can change it anytime I want?

Good question. Imagine you are running a site with 1000+ contents and you wang to change the URL structure.

If you change it you will have to manually interlink each post with your new URL which is a hectic job.

Also, it won’t save you from Google Crawl errors and 404 error pages. At the end you will see a huge traffic drop.

It is better to keep it the same way, isn’t it?

This is why you should know about permalinks and its effect while you’re setting up a new WordPress site.

A good URL structure will give your site better visibility and positive SEO results.

Where to Change WordPress Permalink Structure?

As I mentioned earlier, changing the URL structure in WordPress is easy. You can find it by visiting setting >> permalinks in your Admin panel.

While you are in permalink’s screen, you will see some pre-defined permalinks structure along with an option to set custom structures.

You can use anyone of them or specify your own if needed.

What Each Permalinks Means?

Plain — http://www.mywebsite.com/?p=123

This is the default URL structure which automatically generates a unique page ID for every post and page you publish.

It is least SEO and user friendly.

Day and Name — http://www.mywebsite.com/2016/05/30/sample-post/

It is good for news website as it provides year, month and date of the article publish and post name.

However, it gets too long.

Month and Name — http://www.mywebsite.com/2016/05/sample-post/

A better version. Month and Name permalink structure will show only Year and Month of the article published. It is short and looks much cleaner.

Numeric — http://www.mywebsite.com/archives/123

It gives a numeric ID to each of your post and page. Again, not user and SEO friendly.

Post Name — http://www.mywebsite.com/sample-post

It is most SEO Friendly permalink structure and I use it on my site itself.

You won’t find year, month, date or any unnecessary information in your URL.

It is shortest and you can add your keywords to make it even more powerful.

Another SEO Friendly structure which is not predefined is Category Based URL structures.

It looks something like this — http://www.mywebsite.com/category/sample-post

Here, the primary category chosen by you will be appended to the URL along with the post name.

It is more SEO friendly as it provides category of the article for better visibility.

To set it as your default URL structure, type

/%category%/%postname%/

in the custom structure.

However, there’s a negative face of it. You can’t change your categories later in future.

I like to play around with my categories and have changed them many times.

So, if you’re choosing category based URL then make sure you set your category names as final and you aren’t planning to change them later on.

Which One to Use for SEO?

You can use post name and category/post-name i.e.

/%postname%/

Or

/%category%/%postname%/

These two are most user friendly and provide accurate description of your content for both Humans and Google Bots for SEO purpose.

Some uncommon Permalink Structures — these are rarely used and only few website uses them.

%hour% — shows the hour of an article was published.

%minute% — Minute the article was posted.

%second% — Second the article was published.

%author% — Shows the author name in the URL.

Where to customize URL for each post?

You can give your own desired post-name while you’re publishing a post.

It is good to add keyword in the post-name for better rankings.

While in a post editor (where you write and edit articles) you will find an option of permalink right below the post title.

It will be automatically set to your article after removing stop words.

If you want to edit further just click on ‘pencil’ icon and edit your desired keyword(s).

Make sure you’re adding hyphens between words instead of spacing or ‘_’.

You can change this anytime you want but it will affect your previous rankings.

Few Words from Author’s Desk

Permalinks are the basic of a website and to rank on search pages you need to configure it good.

If you’ve don’t care about rankings and have always used default permalinks then it will not be good decision to change each and every post’s URL manually.

For a beginner, you must take extra care of such small things which will help your website rank better.

Have a good day!

Shafi Khan

Written by

SEO Consultant | IM'er | Geek