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After creating your own website, your next steps may involve sprucing it up with some themes, and getting to the meat of your content—that is, writing posts for your soon-to-be burgeoning online audience.
Permalinks play a vital part in this process (as well as in your website’s success), and come with a slew of benefits for your site.
If you’re wondering what permalinks are, how to set them up, and the benefits of using them, look no further! This handy little guide covers all of these topics (as well as some extra ones)!
First things first—you may be wondering what exactly a permalink is. Simply put, a permalink is a permanent link (hence the name) to your website’s content. It’s the part of a URL that comes after your domain name (i.e., the part that comes after the www.domain.com part).
For example, if you have a blog post about Persian cats, then your permalink could be something like this: https://www.domain.com/blog/persian-cats. These types of permalinks are manually configured and are known as pretty permalinks—as opposed to regular permalinks, which usually just contain a string of random numbers, letters, and symbols.
If you run a WordPress site, your permalinks will not be “pretty” by default. This is because the default setting for WordPress permalinks usually formats them as follows:
These basic links can lead visitors anywhere on your site, from your site’s About page to a random blog post about what you had for dinner on Thanksgiving.
As you can see, these types of permalinks aren’t exactly easy to read or memorize. As such, you should manually set your site’s permalinks to your blog posts and other important pages yourself, which, in turn, can lead to numerous benefits, which we will be talking about next.
Permalinks are not only the permanent links to your site’s various pages; they’re also what search engines use to find your content. This means that permalinks matter for SEO (search engine optimization). If you use pretty permalinks, you can include specific keywords, which can, in turn, boost your site’s search ranking.
What’s more, pretty permalinks help with user readability and usability. People communicate primarily through words and, as such, are naturally predisposed to remember those more than a random string of numbers.
That being said, you should use relevant words (or the post’s title itself) in the permalink.
Consider this example:
Imagine that you wrote a blog post about the best way to roast a cut of lamb. Which permalink would be easier to remember?
Obviously, the link with the words best, lamb, and roast would be easier to remember. Pretty links will be both memorable and usable, helping your site get traction on social media. People are more likely to click links that have actual keywords in them, as opposed to a suspicious-looking string of numbers.
You want people to immediately recognize what they’re clicking on, not think that they’re clicking on a link that leads to some malware or a phishing scam. Given this, pretty permalinks also result in better click-through rates for your audience.
All of these benefits—better SEO, better readability, and better click-through rates—work in unison to boost your site further and further up its search engine rankings, overall resulting in more visitors (or buyers) to your site!
Now that you know the benefits of pretty permalinks, you may be wondering how to set them up yourself for your own WordPress site. Don’t worry! We’ll be going through how to set these permalinks up yourself via the WordPress dashboard step-by-step:
First, log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. Then, mouse over “Settings,” and click on “Permalinks.”
In the panel that appears, you can configure how your permalinks will look. Most of the options are self-explanatory, but there is also a “Custom Structure” option that you can manually configure.
You can add any additional URL sections into the text box, such as /blog/ or /index.php/. There are also tags that you can select to be automatically added to any custom permalink, such as the year (%year%), month (%monthnum%), day (%day%), and the name of the post itself (%postname%). Once you’re done fiddling with these settings, click on “Save Changes.”
Note that the post name will be formatted in slug format, which means that it’ll contain the post’s title with no spaces, uppercase letters, or special characters. For example, the slug format of an article titled “My Best Low-Calorie Recipes” will be:
To give a customized permalink to specific posts, you can simply edit a post, and once you’re in the editing panel, click on the URL on the right side, and type in your custom URL into the text box that pops up.
Once you’re done editing your page’s new URL, just save your changes, and you’re done!
If you’re not a big fan of the default permalinks structure and want to make your permalinks even prettier, here are some WordPress plugins that can help:
The Custom Permalinks plugin lets you edit the URL for any post, letting you give your posts dedicated URLs that can truly stand out. In addition, this plugin ensures that old permalinks will redirect permanently to the new, custom URL.
Permalink Manager Lite is a comprehensive solution if your site uses pretty permalinks extensively, allowing you to do the following:
Permalink Manager also has a pro version, which starts at €49 (around $53 dollars) per year for one domain. This version includes additional features, such as WooCommerce support, support for taxonomies and custom fields, and extra 301 redirects for posts, pages, and terms.
Pretty Links lets you create fully customized URLs that redirect to any of your site’s pages, shortening them and making them prettier. What’s more, it allows you to track your links’ clicks, giving you some additional info on your audience and enabling you to tailor your content or products accordingly.
It also has integrations with Google Analytics as well as MonsterInsights, letting you check how many clicks your links get and track how well they perform! If your site has plenty of long permalinks that you’d like to shorten, this is the perfect plugin for you!
If you’d like to step up your website’s e-commerce game even further (or you’d just like to learn more about some pretty cool plugins), here are our top 21 picks for WordPress’s best e-commerce plugins!
Setting up permalinks for your site is not all sunshine and rainbows—permalinks can also cause some issues, some of which include the following:
Fiddling around too much with your site’s URLs can cause issues with SEO, which may lead to a noticeable decline in your site’s number of visitors and clicks.
Also, using the wrong (or too many) keywords in your URLs can cause your search ranking to fall too. For example, if you use permalink keywords that are unrelated to the page’s content, your site’s rankings in Google may suffer.
In addition, switching URLs around your site can also cause another issue that may cause an even sharper drop in your site’s search engine rankings, which is:
Swapping your site’s URLs around can cause one major issue. If you have articles or social media posts that link to others, their hyperlinks may lead to the old permalinks (the non-pretty permalinks). And if your site’s links point to a now non-existent page, they may display 404 errors to users, which is something that definitely shouldn’t happen.
Broken links that lead to 404 errors leave a bad impression on visitors, and the same goes for search engines. Inbound links (links from other sites, such as search engines or social media) that lead to a 404 error are a ranking factor in search engines. As such, you should fix any broken links that lead to your site.
The easiest way to remedy such broken links involves using redirects: When users or search engines access the old, un-pretty permalink, they’ll be automatically redirected to the new, pretty permalink, avoiding any pesky 404 errors!
Luckily, two of the plugins that we’ve already discussed above—Custom Permalinks and Permalink Manager Lite—automatically redirect your old URLs to the new, pretty URL, eliminating any 404 error-related headaches that you may have!
Now that you’re armed with all of this knowledge about permalinks and how to use them, you’re more than ready to optimize your site’s URLs (and make them prettier)! Don’t forget to watch out for those 404 errors, take the plugins that we’ve listed out for a spin, and reap all of their SEO- and user-related benefits!
But, if you’ve stumbled upon this article while researching and still don’t know where to start on your WordPress journey, relax! We have a list of this year’s best web hosts to get your dream website up and running with as few issues as possible!