What Are Permalinks in WordPress? How to Set Them and Why

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permalinks in wordpress

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Permalinks for WordPress are one of the most important (and often overlooked) things that can be easily optimized for not only a good user experience, but to also help Google’s spiders crawl your website.

And generally speaking, the only time permalinks, AKA “permanent links”, in WordPress are configured incorrectly… It's because the person creating the website doesn’t know what they are, what they mean, or how to change them.

Hence, I’m writing this article.

Because in a perfect world, permalinks are one of the first things you want to fix once you build your brand new website.

Why Permalinks in WordPress are Important

Let’s break it down real quick…

Permalinks in WordPress, or “Permanent Links”, are not only one of the heavier ranking signals to Google, but they’re one of the important ways that people recognize the content of that page.

For example, let’s take a look at the image below:

permalinks in WordPress structured correctly

As you can see, the permalink for this specific blog post is:

/best-wordpress-caching-plugins

If you had to guess what the page is about based on the permalink, what do you think it’d be?

Of course!

The page is about the best WordPress caching plugins and it should be straightforward that that’s what it’s about because of the permalink.

Going Even Further As To Why Permalinks in WordPress Are Important

Let’s say somebody else wants to link to a specific page on your website… What are they going to share?

Yep, you guessed it…

They are going to share the URL (which includes the permalink)

And if you have unoptimized permalinks (how they come from WordPress out of the box), you’re going to get less links, less traffic, and just less everything.

As we’re probably aware, people have instant gratification syndrome.

That means, they want to know everything right away.

So if they can’t read your permalink and understand what your page is about…

NEXT…

Plus, if you want to share your post/article on social media, you’re sharing the permalink.

facebook debugger showing permalink

When Google’s spiders are indexing and crawling your site, they pay attention and index the permalink.

Point is, permalinks are important.

Not only for aesthetics (unoptimized or janky permalinks really drive me nuts) but for the technical benefits you get from behind the scenes.

The Problem With Permalinks in WordPress

Unfortunately, the default permalink settings in WordPress miss the mark completely.

Completely unoptimized and confusing, changing the permalink in WordPress as soon as you finish your website is something that needs to be done ASAP.

default permalinks in wordpress structure

The image above shows you what the default permalink in WordPress is right out of the box.

Now, let’s take a look at a website that uses this default permalink in action…

For example, let’s take a look at the English Gringa website (sorry Nicole, lol)

the english gringa permalink structure

See how the permalink is:

/?page_id=6

That’s actually the service page, but nobody would know that because the default permalink in WordPress is being used instead of an optimized one.

What we want to see is this:

correct permalink structure for english gringa

Notice how the permalink in WordPress for this site is now:

/services

That’s exactly what we’re looking for.

So now that you know the structure that we need for our permalinks, let’s learn how to change it to look like that, shall we?

Why Is Having The Wrong Permalink In WordPress Bad?

Firstly, if you look at any website worth a damn, you’ll never see a permalink that looks like the /?page_id=6 example.

Aside from the look of the permalink, anybody who's serious about growing their website and getting more traffic knows that the permalink is important to Google.

The whole point of the permalink is to explain what the page is about.

Not only that, it looks horrible when your permalink is unoptimized.

If that isn’t enough for you, when you have a permalink in WordPress that looks like the one above, the problem is that you confused Google’s search engines.

And we know that getting traffic for your website is something that will make or break your career, business, brand, or whatever.

So when you confuse Google’s search engine, you put yourself in a bad position from the get-go.

How To Set Permalinks In WordPress

There are two pieces to the permalink puzzle that you need to be aware of.

First thing is that we need to immediately change the permalink at a site level, right after we set up the WordPress site.

Secondly, we need to set the permalink at a page level, which means we change the permalink for each individual page.

How To Set Site Level Permalink Structure

Setting up a site-level permalink is super easy.  

It should only take you 10 seconds to do. 

What you need to do is go to this link:

https://yoursite.com/wp-admin/options-permalink.php

The page will look like the image down below:

permalinks in wordpress

As you can see, there’s a “common settings” area along with an “optional” area.

In order to change the permalinks in WordPress at a sitewide level, you simply need to change from the default setting of “plain” to “post name”.

common settings for permalinks in wordpress

Taking a closer look at the page from the image above, you can see that our website Project Cool is already set to the right setting.

If you’re reading this article, then odds are your setting is “plain”.

All you have to do is choose the radio button for “post name” and click the “save changes” button below and it’s done.

Now we change the permalink in WordPress at a page level.

How To Set Page Level Permalink Structure

Now that we’ve set the sitewide permalink structure up, the only thing left is to set up the page level permalink.

This is where you want to understand a little bit about how SEO works because ideally, you want to optimize the page level permalink based on what the page is actually about.

But more than that, you want to optimize the permalink based on the primary keyword that you’re going after.

Back in the day, there was more importance of having the page level permalink as the exact match keyword you’re going after, but nowadays Google and their algorithm are so advanced, they can actually understand what the page is about EVEN IF your permalink isn’t the exact match keyword.

All you have to do to edit the page level permalink is go to the post you want to edit.

editing page level permalink in wordpress

Once there, you’ll notice the settings bar on the right that has your status & visibility, permalink, categories, tags, featured image, etc…

how to change the permalink at a page level

As you can see, the permalink setting is right there on the toolbar.

Simply put in the desired description and then click “save” or “update” on the top right corner.

One thing to note is that your permalink should be a “dash” and not an underscore.  


The way I typically write my permalink is by the phase I want, but instead of spaces, I use dashes.

For example:

how-much-does-seo-cost

And not:

how_much_does_seo_cost

Lastly, if you just space the words out like normal then WordPress will automatically change the spaces into dashes.

Conclusion

Setting up your permalinks in WordPress at a sitewide level should be one of the first changes you make after you create your new website.

This sets everything up for success once you or your freelancer starts building your website.

Once you start creating the content (pages/posts) you have to remember to change your permalink at a page level.

Page-level permalinks should have some thought behind them because this is a somewhat sizable ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm.

You can edit or change the permalink at any time, but just remember that if you do, then any links pointing to the previous one will land on a 404 page (which is no good for search engine optimization).

In the event that you do change the permalink, then you can use a plugin called Rank Math that will automatically 301 redirect the old page to the new page.

By Bobby L

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By Bobby L

10 Posts

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