The Definition of a Permalink
A permalink is a permanent link (hence the name, permalink) that is used to refer to a particular article, web post or blog post for many years into the future.
URL to the main page of a website:
Why Are Permalinks Important?
Permalinks are useful because they guide readers to the exact article that they are looking for, allowing them to bookmark or repost the article elsewhere (and share it!)
It basically freezes the article so that even if your blog has posted thousands of other articles, a reader can always refer back to that permalink.
Permalinks are not only useful for your readers, but they are also important for building the structure of your website and improving your SEO (search engine optimization).
Using structured and well thought out permalinks can make the difference between your article staying relevant and ranking high on Google or getting lost in the thousands of posts out there.
How much it helps your ranking is uncertain, but it's definitely one of the more important ranking factors.
A Good Permalink:
- Is relevant
- Is easy to remember
- Is unique: You should never have two articles with similar permalinks because Google won't know which one they should show in their search results.
- Uses keywords: As a blogger, we know that it is important to have a well-though out title for more clicks from Google. Using keywords not only helps with this but it is also a way for readers to know what exactly the article is about.
- Has not been modified: Changing your permalink after it has been posted will result in a 404 error on the old url, affecting your Google rankings heavily. If you have to change it, you should redirect the old one to the new one. We'll show you how to do this later on.
- Uses dashes over underscores: Search engines register an underscore as an additional part of a word, making your URL seem longer. Dashes, on the other hand, are registered as being a word separator.
- Uses lower case letters: search engines can tell the difference between an uppercase and lowercase letter. Therefore if you have two URLs leading to the same webpage, the search engine will register them as two different web pages, dividing up the "SEO power" between the two of them.
- Doesn't use stop-words: Stop-words include words like "the" "your" etc. They're given low priority in the eyes of Google and thus make your permalink unnecessarily long.
- Does not contain easily forgettable characters: A dynamic URL is one where the content changes as it is pulled from a database for a reader to see. These URLs contain characters such as ?, =, and $. On the other hand, static URLs never change. Using a static URL without those symbols will make it easier for both readers and search engines to understand.
- Is short and simple: Google actually claims that having permalinks with more than 3-5 words not only looks spammy, but will also affect your Google rankings.
- Consistent: Having consistent URLs helps with optimizing your search engine rankings and makes your blog organized for readers.
What Are My Permalink Formatting Options?
Go to your WordPress Admin menu, click on Settings and then click on permalinks to change your permalink settings.
You’ll arrive at this page:
WordPress offers different options for your permalink format, but its default setting is the Plain option.
This option uses the query string which is basically just ‘?p=1234’ where p is for page followed by the id numbers of the article.
Although Google can index URLs with the query string, it is not as user-friendly and will also perform extremely poorly in search engines.
Numeric is similar to the plain setting and very few bloggers use this option.
Post Name is the most popular among bloggers as it is clean, simple, easy to remember and more likely to do well in SEO. However, if you’re posting several articles about the same topic, it may be more difficult to come up with a unique post slug.
Post slug = the last part of the permalink
Using your article name in your permalink also prevents it from becoming a ‘dead link,’ where an article becomes irrelevant in the thousands of other posts. It also allows you to update the article at any time.
Day and Name is commonly used by news publications, as the date is as relevant as the article name. However, as a blogger it will hinder you from being able to update your article at a later date and it'll make your content feel outdated, even if it's evergreen.
Month and Name is more commonly used for blogs that do not post articles frequently.
Last is the Category and Name option. An example of this option being used is Elegant Themes Blog. They use hierarchical structures to categorize their blog posts.
As you can see, the slug is broken up by:
2. Tips & tricks category
3. Name of the article (15 ways to optimize exit popups for maximum conversions)
This is a good option if your domain name is short and your category names are short and descriptive.
Example of a good use of categories:
This URL is short and descriptive, informing the reader that the article is about time management and is under the category ‘blogging’ on the website, indicating that it's for bloggers.
Example of a bad use of categories:
This URL is long, difficult to share and won’t benefit you as much in your SEO rankings.
Another option is to customize your permalink.
There are different tags and combinations for you to choose from to create a unique permalink:
2. %monthnum% (for example if it’s December then it would display 12)
Make sure you only enter tags into the field.
For example, if you were running a blog that contains up-to-date information where the date and time is relevant, then your tags should look something like this:
Customizing your URL is also useful when the Post Name of your article is too long.
The article name ‘10 Easy Steps for Improving your writing Skills’ would be changed to:
It might be better to customize it to look something like this:
*Note that we removed the number 10; numbers don’t carry enough value and make the URL look less ‘short and simple’
What if I Have Been Using the Plain Permalink Option Already?
If you’re reading this and thinking crap, I should have done this from the beginning then you can change the permalink structure. However, WordPress recommends using a professional otherwise you’ll loose your social media count and your current SEO ranking.
However, you can use something like Yoast’s 301 redirection script, a tool that helps redirect your old permalinks to the new ones.