Choosing the Best Permalink Structure for WordPress

After first installing WordPress, it can be easy to get carried away with adding plugins and writing content.

If you want to give yourself the best possible foundations for building a successful website, these things can wait. Before all that, you need to get your website properly configured.

One of the first things I like to configure on any WordPress install is my permalink structure.

If you’re new to WordPress, a permalink is the fixed web address of a specific post or page.

Want an example?

https://pagely.com/blog/2015/02/marathon-sprint-winning-customer-service/

That is the permalink for our post on winning at customer service.

If that’s a permalink, what is a permalink structure then? Using WordPress, your permalinks are automatically published in a specified format. For example, at Pagely, our permalinks always include the year of publication, followed by the month, followed by the post title.

The moment I hit publish, the permalink will take that form — that is, unless I change the permalink structure.

This short tutorial will help you set up your permalinks, as well as showing you how to choose the best permalink structure for your WordPress website.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Ready to set up your permalinks? It should only take a few seconds.

From your WordPress dashboard, click through to the Settings section, then hit Permalinks.

From here, you’ll see six permalink settings:

  • Default: displays the automatically assigned post/page ID
  • Day and name: displays year, month, and date the post was published, as well as post title
  • Month and name: displays year and month the post was published, as well as post title
  • Numeric: displays a number
  • Name: displays the post title
  • Custom structure: set up your own format (more advanced, so we’ll ignore this one)

Click the one you want, then hit Save Changes — and that’s all there is to it!

Which Permalink Structure is Best?

The bigger question is: which of the six permalink structures is best?

Well, actually there are several right answers, and it all comes down to personal preference.

Let’s get the wrong answers out of the way first, though. Personally, I would never use the default or numeric options.

Why? Well, there’s no post title in the permalink. The post title in the URL tells your readers what the post is about, but more importantly, it tells the search engines, too. This is one of many factors influencing your SEO performance, which affects your position in the SERPs.

With no post title in the permalink, you’re missing out on these SEO benefits.

That means you should be looking to go with one of these permalink structures:

  • Name
  • Day and name
  • Month and name

Name is probably the most commonly used permalink structure, as it keeps the links short while offering the SEO benefits I’ve just discussed.

Others prefer the Day and name or the Month and name options — at Pagely, we use Month and name.

Although these permalinks are a little longer, they improve organization — just by looking at the permalink the visitor (and search engines) can immediately spot when the post was published and how relevant it is. They have the post title in there, too, which still gives you the SEO benefit.

If you post regularly — I’m talking several times a day — I’d definitely be leaning towards a “dated” permalink structure. If you post less frequently, it’s all down to which one feels right to you.

Stick with Your Permalink Structure

My one tip is to get the permalink structure right in the first place. Whichever option you choose, stick with it.

Why? Because all the links to your content (internal and external) point to a fixed URL. When you change your permalink structure, you change your URLs. This will break all those links.

Internally, this is fixable, but a nuisance — you’ll have to go through your posts, adjusting each one manually. For external links this is more difficult, and it will require you to contact the site owners linking to you. If they won’t co-operate, the link will remain broken.

So just pick one and stick with it. There are far more important things to worry about than your permalink structure!

Final Thoughts

So there you have it: a simple guide to choosing the best permalink structure for WordPress users.

As long as you include the post title in your permalink, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry about them too much: just set them how you want, then forget about them and get on with producing content!

Do you have any questions about permalinks? Ask away in the comments section below!

4 Comments

  1. Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)
    Dan Knauss (@newlocalmedia)

    Dating posts in the URL and public postmeta seemed to fall out of common use after a Google search algorithm update (Penguin?) that led to some “SEO wisdom” about the value of making old material impossible to identify as such. I don’t know if that helps search results, but it sure does not help readers.

    Reply

  2. Jeff Yablon
    Jeff Yablon

    Shaun, let me add about two cents:

    You’re right that the default is bad. And while “the six choices” are by no means your ONLY choices, the idea that you should pick something better from them is … fine. But you’ve left out a critical issue:

    Yes, include titles. Yes, use the CORRECT titles; this is an SEO function. But you should also include one of the date options. DATES impact SEO too, and if you use them to trail the rest of your title (not lead it, and not one of those default options), they’ll never hurt you.

    For example: http://thewordpresshelpers.com/wordpress-jetpack-market-share-big-brother/2015/01/29 .

    Thanks for a nice piece!

    Reply

  3. Shaun Quarton
    Shaun Quarton

    Thanks for the tips guys.

    Dan, I agree that blogs should be transparent about when a post was published — particularly in fast moving niches like ours. An article’s value to readers is directly impacted by when it was published. I probably wouldn’t take SEO advice from an article published in 2010, would you? Trying to hide this info is completely deceptive and not recommended.

    Jeff, this article was aimed at newer WordPress users, so I didn’t want to go too far off-piste by explaining all the custom permalink options. Thanks for the tips on using the dates at the end of the permalink, though. For anyone interested, if you want to add the permalink style of the website Jeff linked to, select custom structure and add “/%postname%/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/” to the field.

    Reply

  4. Jeff Yablon
    Jeff Yablon

    Dan, I agree that putting date characters in the middle of an URL is less than user-friendly. that’s the reason we now drop it at the tail end of the URL.

    Actually, it’s HALF the reason; inserting the numbers before the page title is likely search-hostile as well. But dropping it at the end hurts nobody and has the potential to help with search. And by the way, if someone happens to include datae as part of a search criteria … well, you get it.

    Reply