The Ultimate WordPress Permalink Makeover- Beginners Guide 2020

wordpress permalink

WordPress Permalinks are all over the places.

It points to the webpage where the person wants to visit among all the addresses that are stored in the Search Engine.

You can win & lose a point for SEO if you don’t configure it correctly.

Scratching your head over permalinks & want to know its ins & outs? Just at the right place at the time.

I’ll uncover what WordPress Permalinks are, how to create one, & some best practices around it. Lets dive in!

Table of Contents

1. What the heck is Permalink all about
1.1. How WordPress permalinks work behind the scenes
2. Permalinks vs Slugs
3. WordPress Ugly vs Pretty Permalink Structure
4. WordPress Permalink Structure Tags
5. How to change WordPress Permalink
5.1. Create WordPress Custom Permalink
5.2. Additional Permalink Settings
5.3. How to change Slug of Individual post
6. Some commonly used permalink structures
7. Key Takeaways

Permalink [: Permanent Link] is mainly the Permanent URL to a post, a page, a particular category, or even a particular section of your post. It consists of a domain name followed by meaningful information.

You even have it for web pages not found on the internet, i.e. 404 pages.

📝Example: Post Permalink => https://optimizingkitty.com/blog-content-ideas & blog page => https://optimizingkitty.com/blog.

Think of it like this. Your permalink is an address where you want to go & the internet is the path/road that connects it to you. Just add it to the Search bar, and the internet will take to the address within seconds.

wordpress permalink

Let’s take you behind the scenes, & see how WordPress creates your permalink. Feel free to jump to the next section if you’re unbothered about code.

If you’ll check your code ground in your theme’s template file, there is a PHP tag called “the_permalink()” that is enclosed within “<a>” HTML tag that dynamically fetches the URL of a post & creates a clickable link. 

like this: <a href=”<?php the_permalink(); ?>”>permalink</a>

html site vs wordpress permalink site

Unlike a website built with HTML that calls <a> tag every time to create a link, Websites powered by WordPress use PHP to create links dynamically by calling the tag the_permalink() once & for all.

So basically you’re working against the clock when you don’t have to do it over & over again.

Ok! we‘re getting carried away. There’s a lot of confusion around permalinks & slugs. Let’s dig into that so your confusion gets as clear as crystal.

wordpress permalinks vs slugs

Slug is that part of a permalink that act as an ID. Just like students in a class have an ID, all your posts/pages have slug that act as a differentiator.

To put it simply, slug is part that comes after a forward slash following the domain name

in the image above, Permalink: https://optimizingkitty.com/utm-tags-guide. Slug = utm-tags-guide

The above example clearly tells that on clicking the link, the browser takes you to the content related to “UTM tags”. (Provided that the blogger has chosen the slug that represents the content)

If you haven’t changed your permalink settings, it means you are still using the ugly structure, the structure that WordPress makes you use by default.

You can find your WordPress permalink settings “Setting>>Permalinks”. Notice that the “plain link” is enabled. “?p=123” is the query string where “?” is the separator & “123” followings it is the number that identifies the content from the WordPress database. 

So, why is there a fuss around with the “ugly” structure?

Search engines constantly work on creating the best user experience. People get intimidated because of cryptic & long trailing URL structure. Undeniably, it looks unnatural. Not only It looks spammy but also People have a hard time reciting it, let alone remembering it from memory.

Not to forget, these links appear on search engines in the meta snippet. And more importantly who wants to click a lengthy URL with chunks of numbers & gibberish. This in turn makes them a lot less shareable & not enticing enough to be clicked.

And the one thing we all are familiar with is that something affecting the user experience in turns affects the ranking in the search engines. 

In simple words, Google might crawl your plain permalink but it doesn’t promote using such a structure. It wants you to use a nice & clear slug that gives the idea what the content is all about, what we also call the Pretty & SEO Friendly WordPress Permalinks.

Opinion: Talking about SEO, permalinks sure be not on the top of anyone’s SEO bucket list but is be worth considering, especially in the early days of a website.

As you’ll go to the wordpress permalink settings, you’ll see that apart from plain structure, there are other predefined structures as well such as “Day & name”, “post name” etc. These structures are also known as “pretty” or “clean permalinks” 

In order to change this structure, WordPress modifies the .htaccess file, which it does automatically in most of the cases. If it doesn’t, you can refer to this guide by WordPress to edit it manually.

Coming back to our pretty structures. WordPress gives you a few options to customize the URL structure at your convenience. Either you can use the predefined structures or you can also create a custom structure using 10 tags that are made available to us:

Mainly used tags: 

  • %postname%= A sanitized version of the title of the post (post slug field on Edit Post/Page panel). So “This Is A Great Post!” becomes this-is-a-great-post in the URI.
  • %category%= A sanitized version of the category name (category slug field on New/Edit Category panel). Nested sub-categories appear as nested directories in the URI.
  • %year%= The year of the post, four digits, for example 2020
  • %monthnum%= Month of the year, for example 09
  • %day%= Day of the month, for example 29

Lesser Used tags: 

  • %hour%= Hour of the day, for example 15
  • %minute%= Minute of the hour, for example 43
  • %second%= Second of the minute, for example 33
  • %post_id%= The unique ID # of the post, for example 423
  • %author%= A sanitized version of the author name.

Note: While creating a custom structure, make sure not to put the domain name as it is already mentioned before. All you have to do is add tags enclosed within the percentage sign. Notice that multiple tags are separated by forward slash “/”

I’ll talk about how to add it in the next section but for the sake of example: if you want to add category & then post name, it looks like this => https://optimizingkitty.com/%category%/%postname%/

Also, keep in mind that the structure you create must end with either %postid% or %postname% so as to give a unique identity to each post. Someone using just the %month% in the custom structure ends up having a common URL for all the posts published within a month, which of course is not the right way to do things.

Before we even dive in to make the permalink changes, make sure you read this.

If your site has been receiving a decent amount of traffic & you have got a ton of shares on your content. Changing the permalink at this assumed situation means each time a person clicks on those shared links, they’ll land on a 404, page not found. And of course, you don’t want to lose all that traffic coming in your way. The solution to this is to induce 301 redirects on your previous links to the new assigned links using a redirect plugin

Moving on to changing the permalink

If you have a blog site where you add blogs on a monthly basis then you can either choose the default “post name” structure. In this the domain name is followed by the post slug. 

Step 1: Just Go to the settings option within your WordPress backend.

Step 2: Click on permalink.

Step 3: Choose the option from the predefined permalink. 

To create a custom structure, click on %category% & then on %postname%

You can create your own combination but keep in mind to end the link with %postname% tag to avoid confusion.

All you have to do is click on the suitable available tags & it’ll be added next to your domain name automatically. Many of the bloggers prefer to add categories & then post names. I personally use just a post name to keep it concise.

At the bottom of the permalink settings page you will see optional settings for your category and tag base. The default values for these fields are category and tag.

With the default settings, if you have a category on your website called “SEO”, the URL of the SEO category archives would be https://www.yourwebsite.com/category/seo/.

Likewise, if you have a tag called “analytics”, the tag archive URL would be http://www.yourwebsite.com/tag/analytics/.

Changing these fields allows you to change the URLs that are used for archives. For example, you could change the category base to “cat” and the tag base to the “topic”. In our example, this would generate the archive URLs http://www.yourwebsite.com/cat/wordpress/ and http://www.yourwebsite.com/topic/themes/.

5.3 How to change Slug for individual post

Step 1: Just go to the post whose permalink you want to change

Step 2: Click on the gear like icon in the top right corner to enter the settings panel.

Step 3: Look for the permalink in the left panel, click on it to edit the slug. 

Note: Before editing it, copy the slug in case you want to set up a 301 redirect.

Step 4: Go on & edit it to make it shorter & clear. Make sure to add the keyword.

  1. Just post name: (%postname%) This is the popular one among bloggers. I use it on this blog. This may not be suitable for websites with a high frequency of blogs & or the content you publish is not evergreen. For example, the news & entertainment industry do not generally prefer this one. 
  2. Category & post name: (%category%/%postname%) this one is the hierarchical structure of the content on your site. The domain name is followed by the category & then post slug. However, this is not suitable for bloggers adding a single post in multiple categories. If you plan to use this one, you can use a plugin to fixes which category you want 
  3. Full date & post name: (%day%/%month%/%year%/%postname%) The news & entertainment like industries publish dozens of articles in a day. Using such a structure lets you publish multiple articles on the daily basis on the same topic. 
  4. Post name & post id: (%postname%-%postid%) if you have news based website that focuses on current affairs from different industry whatsoever & wants yourself covered in Google news, you need to have “post id” permalink as mentioned in Google news requirement guidelines

7. Key Takeaways

  • Prefer dashes over underscores & spaces in permalinks.
  • Declutter your URL. Use a clean & clear structure.
  • Don’t use stop words such as “is” or “are”
  • Most importantly, use keywords in your permalink.
  • To retain traffic after changing the permalink, Induce 301 Redirect on your old links.

F.A.Q.

What are the permalinks in WordPress?

Permalink [: Permanent Link] is mainly the Permanent URL to a post, a page, a particular category, or even a particular section of your post. It consists of a domain name followed by meaningful information.

How do I find my permalink in WordPress?

Go to “Settings” within your WordPress Dashboard & click on “Permalink”. Here you’ll find your current WordPress permalink structure.

How do I change permalinks in WordPress?

Step 1: Just Go to the settings option within your WordPress backend.
Step 2: Click on permalink.
Step 3: Choose the option from the predefined permalink. 
Step 4: Go on & edit it to make it shorter & clear. Make sure to add a keyword.
Step 5: Click on Save
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