How and why to change your WordPress permalink structure to pretty permalinks instead of ugly permalinks for good SEO and usability purposes.

WordPress Permalink Settings

Written by in Tutorials |

WordPress HaloIn the early days, all hyperlinks were permalinks since content was static. However, since the rise of blogging and dynamic web pages, permalinks, or permanent links, usually refer to the web address of a single blog post. Because a blog post is a permanent thing (the content may change but the URL doesn’t), it is very important for SEO, usability, and memory recall to make sure the permalink structure is set up correctly on your WordPress blog — this should be the first thing you do after installing WordPress and never altered — let’s look at our options…

“Ugly Permalinks” and “Pretty Permalinks”

First, let’s navigate to the correct page in your WordPress admin (Settings > Permalinks). Right off the bat you’ll notice that WordPress has automatically chosen the Default setting under Common settings.

A “ugly permalink” looks like this: http://example.com/?p=123

It beats the hell out me why anyone would want to use this (unless you have your site privacy setting selected to block search engines and need a way to numerically keep track of posts…but even then, http://example.com/%post_id%/ would be better…I digress).

A “pretty permalink” looks like this: http://example.com/2010/10/sample-post/

Why Choose a “Pretty Permalink”?

It’s amazing how many people don’t pay attention to the details. This goes double for anyone attempting to “make money online blogging” who still can’t even get the basics down. Here are some persuasive reasons to get your permalink structure solid.

  • Search Engines like Google and Bing love pretty things. They are materialistic and we must play to their likes for SEO purposes.
  • Good link structure screams “professional” and isn’t that what we all yearn for? To be a pro.
  • Usability. I can remember a post on your site called http://example.com/how-to-fart-silently/ but if it’s called http://example.com/?p=6782348 I may not be able to find it if I need it. How embarrassing.

What Makes A Good Permalink

The more you write, the better you’ll become at optimizing your link structures. Here are a couple points to keep in mind.

  • Use Keywords. If you’re writing a post about “how to walk on water” then a permalink like this: http://example.com/i-am-jesus-suckers/ is probably not as good as, http://example.com/how-to-walk-on-water/ …although it would catch my attention.
  • Make it Short. Try to eliminate all filler words (at, in, the, if, etc.) and don’t keyword stuff.
    This is bad: http://example.com/hi-my-name-is-jason-and-i-like-to-eat-peanut-butter-sandwiches-on-sundays-because-its-delicious-yum-yum-yum/
    This is good: http://example.com/sunday-peanut-butter-sandwich/

The Best Permalink Structures for SEO

Highly contested, rarely backed up. In other words, take this with a grain of salt as they’re all pretty good. If you’re still on your Permalink settings page, which you should be, just select Custom Structure and enter in the following to achieve your desired outcome. These are my top 4 choices:

  1. http://example.com/sample-post/
    (Custom Structure: /%postname%/) — This is probably the most popular because it’s simple, short, and to the point.
  2. http://example.com/category/sample-post/
    (Custom Structure: /%category%/%postname%/) — This is better for large blogs because it helps with the organization of posts. It also makes things very clear; it’s what I use here on Designpx.
  3. http://example.com/sample-post/123
    (Custom Structure: /%postname%/%post_id%) — This is arguably the best SEO option because adding the post ID will make the URL of the post completely unique.
  4. http://example.com/category/sample-post/123
    (Custom Structure: /%category%/%postname%/%post_id%) — Same as above but adds a category for better organization.

Options 1 and 2 are my favorite. I use them on 95% of the sites I create simply because I’m a man of aesthetics and random numbers bother me.

Have to Change Your Permalink Structure? Be Careful.

Once you have chosen a permalink structure it’s a royal pain when changed; all your links will suddenly be broken. If someone linked to your blog using http://example.com/help-im-hungry/ and you decide to change your link structure to http://example.com/complaints/help-im-hungry/ then anyone clicking on that link will get an Error 404 page, including Search Engines. You don’t want that to happen — broken links = no traffic = no sales = no food = dead — it’s a terrible cycle.

Permalink Resources

This is beginner stuff but often overlooked. It can mean the loss of a SERP position or the turning away of a potential customer/reader/client so it’s worth paying attention to. At the very least your link structure should contain the name of your post.

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Rahul September 9, 2011

Good tip! I think a lot of people leave it at the strange and ugly URLs that most of the CMSs create by default. Apparently, the claim is that this is better for SEO as well. I have been using /%category%/%postname%.html as my permalink structure for a while.

Jason Manheim September 9, 2011

The more unique, the better. Which is why you’ve heard the default is better for SEO…since it uses an ID number. But using categories before post names is quite unique as well and more descriptive. Better not only for SEO but usability as well.

Veganlogy July 26, 2012

My blog is 1 year old. I nearly change the permalink. Due to consideration of “number of shares” is based on the selected link itself, right? For example, http://veganlogy.com/2012/07/22/sexy-catwoman-anne-hathaway-veg-superhero/ ,which has 1700 shares (Share This plugin). If I change into http://veganlogy.com/sexy-catwoman-anne-hathaway-veg-superhero/ whereby i deleted the date format, and the ShareThis plugin cannot detect the 1700 SHARES, at the end, the number = 0. Is that what you mean by “Painful” ? Correct me if I am wrong.

Jason Manheim July 26, 2012

Yup, that is one of the pains. There are some workarounds but you will need to add the share buttons manually rather than using the ShareThis plugin. Here’s a tutorial: http://www.blogmarketingacademy.com/keep-social-media-buttons-from-showing-zero/

Veganlogy July 26, 2012

TQ for the reply with useful info. So, Jason, do you think my link is perfect to keep or change? I read an article about silo and tweaking permalink. is that any relation? And about the plugin, i am kinda headache. before that i am using addthis, sometimes got bugs/fail, so i decided to change to sharethis. but the “tweets count” all gone. only left facebook like. zzz…. and the facebook like also make me stomachache. i click like on my website, then the image on my fb is totally different.