So it’s come to my attention that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. So it’s Friday night, the misses is in the bath and the kids are in bed… so what better time to start talking about WordPress Permalinks?
You’ve probably noticed that websites structure their URL’s in specific ways. Some use random strings of letters and numbers, others use descriptive links. Both URL’s are known as ‘permalinks’, and the way their structured is probably more important than you think.
In this article we’ll look at exactly what a permalink is an why the structure you choose matters. If you’re still awake by then, we’ll look at how you change your WordPress permalink structure, and explore all the options available to you!
What Are WordPress Permalinks And Which Should You Use
The name sort of tells you what they are. Permalinks are permanent… links. Static URL’s you assign to a specific page or post on your website. For example, this posts URL is #####
The first section of the URL is always going to be the same for that particular website (yes, I class sub domains as individual websites, so does Google… and so should you). The bit of the URL that changes is the end, which is commonly known as the ‘URL slug’, or in this case, it’s wordpress-permainks. When talking about changing the structure of your permalinks, we’re really talking about canging this slug.
So you want to know why you should carefully consider your permalinks? Here’s some reasons:
- Descriptive permalinks are more informative. By default, WordPress will use numbers for your post slugs, which don’t tell users (or Google) anything about the posts content.
- Specific structures offer Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) advantages. Consider your URL another opportunity to use a keyword and potentially boost your rankings in search engines.
- Easy to remember. URL’s or slugs with descriptive names are usually far easier to remember. Unless you’re particularity good with numbers, words are far easier on the brain.
I already mentioned that WordPress’ default permalink structure has a few options to pick from. Luckily for us, understanding these options and switching between them is really simple.
The Options Available To You
WordPress offers you a few options to change your permalinks straight out of the box. The simplest way to see them is to go to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard. You can easily pick an option that suits you and hit that Save Changes button.
It’s also possible to change you URL permalinks using a plugin like Yoast SEO which gives you a few more options:
It’s really important you consider what you’re about to do before you change these settings! If you’re site has been up and running for over 6 months and is regularly updated, ask yourself if it’s wise to go changing all the URL’s now? It’s still more than possible, and often very worth while, to successfully change your slugs without breaking anything, but it’s going to need a little more effort. You might also be interested in learning how to remove the www. from your URL, which is a URL structure that some love and some hate.
The Plain permalink structure is the default WordPress structure. Using this will identify your posts and pages using their page ID’s:
Pretty ugly huh? It’s got a clean structure, but it’s far from informative. This sort of numerical string as your slug will do your SEO no favours.
However! Using these numerical IDs does, occasionally, make perfect sense. Imagine you have a large online store… now imagine the headache of trying to give every product a unique slug? In this scenario, using IDs might just be the way forward.
Day and Name
The title says it all really. This structure will identify your posts based on when they were published and the post title:
From an SEO point of view, this format works nicely. It provides visitors with some valuable information (the name and exact publish date of the post they’re about to read). This structure can even help decide if a post is worth reading at all. Recent posts are far less likely (not impossible) to be outdated, so having this information right there at a glance can be really helpful for readers.
Months and Name
Again, this is pretty self explanatory. It’s fairly similar to Day and Name, but it only includes the year, month and post title:
You’ve got the same pros and cons here as you have with Day and Name. If you really want to include the date you published the post, I’d always recommend using the Day and Name option – it’s got that little bit more information, which doesn’t cost you a thing.
Using numeric WordPress permalinks will identify your posts by their IDs, just like the plain. There is one difference though, each slug is preceded by the archives prefix:
If you’re looking for positives here… the URL is nice and compact. It’s not very memorable or descriptive though and frankly it’s a little boring. Using the archives prefix might also lead some people to think that their reading content from… well from an archive, which usually means outdated.
This one is really simple. It just uses your posts title as the slug:
As far as WordPress permalinks go, this is one of my favourites and is usually the one I recommend for most sites. There’s positives a plenty here – you get a short URL that can be both descriptive and memorable.
This is also a great chance to include your primary keyword from your title in your slug – that’s got to be good for your SEO. There really isn’t a downside here, but if dates are really important to your site (think news site), then I wouldn’t recommend this structure.
Last but not least, WordPress also gives you the option to create your own permalinks structure. Providing you with multiple tags that you can add to your URLs in any order you wish.
The major benefit here is that you can construct any type of permalinks you like. Most people usually end up using one of the default options, this can be an interesting option if you want to display specific information – and hey… this is the one I use.
It’s worth noting that if you’re using WooCommerce, a custom permalink structure might give you a few headaches. The results may not be as you expected, so if you’re using WooCommerce – go with a default option!
Still awake? The misses is still in the bath but sounds like it’s time to wrap things up. You permalinks structure might seem like a little detail. However, it can have a pretty big impact on your sites SEO and usability. Using good URLs and slugs can give you SEO benefits and make your sites pages and posts easier to remember. Descriptive slugs also look far better than strings of numbers (think of your users eyes).
WordPress has made it really simple for you to update your permalinks whenever you want. That said, it’s always best to pick your structure early in your sites life! The longer you leave it, the more chance you’ll have of damaging your sites ranking and the more work you’ll cause yourself. I recommend the Post Name permalink structure for most cases – it gives readers valuable information about each page’s content and not including the date gives your content that evergreen feeling.
Eek! It got a little late… think I’ll schedule this post for tomorrow!