What is a Permalink?

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You’ve started your blog and you’re learning more and more about how to make it better all the time.

You know what you need to do when it comes to your content. You’ve got your domain and you’ve chosen your host. But now everyone’s throwing around the word “permalink.”

We know what you’re thinking: what is a permalink?

For those who are new to blogging, don’t worry. You’re about to learn everything you need to know. We’re discussing everything there is to know about permalinks, including what they are and why they’re so important.

Keep reading to learn why permalinks matter, how to structure them, and how you can use them to improve search engine optimization.

A Brief Explanation of the Permalink

A permalink is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; a permanent link to a specific post or web page. They are a way to identify a certain page or a particular blog post.

A permalink is otherwise referred to as the URL of a page. On your own blog, you can use it to link to a specific blog entry from another blog entry.

A permalink usually includes your site’s domain plus the identifying factors that relate to a particular post on that site.

For example, if you are looking at our article on how to start a blog then this is the permalink you will see in your browser’s address bar; https://bloggingtips.com/how-to-start-a-blog/.

As you can see, it tells you the name of the site and the name of the post right away, so it is clear what the post is about before you even go there.

When starting a blog, you will want to define the correct permalink structure from the start. By doing this first, you will ensure that all of your posts are set up in a uniform way from day one.

They are designed to the stay the same forever, so that people don’t get lost when looking for your articles. A good permalink will guide them straight to where they want to go to no matter how long ago the article was written.

It won’t take you long at all to do this. All you need are a couple of minutes to set up the default structure and then a few seconds to amend it on each new post that you write.

You can find a permalink under any blog entry, but it’s important to note that not all blog hosts handle permalinks the same way.

So far so simple, but maybe you have also seen horribly complicated permalinks that are filled with symbols and are far too long to make sense of.

Why is it that some sites have clear, easy-to-read permalinks and others have really messy ones? More to the point, why does it even matter? Let’s take a look in greater detail at the subject, to see what it is all about.

What Does the Permalink Actually Do?

A permalink is the full address of each article or post on the internet. Therefore, it carries out a number of different functions at the same time:

  • It tells your browser how to quickly locate the article in question
  • It lets a human reader understand the name of the site and get an idea of what the article is about before they even read it
  • It allows people to share the content easily
  • It lets other sites link directly to your article
  • It affects the search engine rankings of the site

The first of the above points isn’t as important at the others. As long as the server takes your readers to your post then no-one really cares how it does it, do they?

The second, third, and fourth points are far more important to bloggers, though. Having clean, concise URLs is one of those things this it is hard put a value on.

However, it seems clear that people prefer to see nice, neat URLs on the sites that they use.

Why do Permalinks Matter?

There are several reasons why permalinks matter. While some reasons carry more weight than others, it’s important to understand the various reasons why.

You Need Permalinks for SEO

Since it is so easy to control your permalinks, there is simply no excuse for not doing so. The benefits of doing this are solid enough so it makes sense to take the time necessary to deal with it.

Permalinks play an important role in SEO. To rank high on Google and other search engines, you need to optimize your page so that the search engine knows what your page is all about.

If they can’t figure out what it’s about, it won’t appear high in search results. And if you don’t appear on page one (or at least page two or three) it’s going to be hard for readers to find you.

Think about the last time you did a Google search and ever went past the results on page one. Chances are, those searches are few and far between.

There are several things Google uses to figure out what a particular page is about. One of those ways is to look at your permalink. Just as you want your content to contain keywords, your permalink should as well.

To make a permalink into an SEO-friendly URL, you’ve got to use keywords that explain what the page is about. They should be easy to read, both by humans and by search engines doing a quick scan of your page.

If you’re using WordPress as your blogging platform, as millions of other bloggers do, you’re in luck. WordPress makes it easy to customize your URLs into SEO-friendly permalinks.

If you’re new to WordPress, you’re in luck, because WordPress now uses the title of your post as your permalink. As long as your title includes your keywords and is easy to understand, you’re good to go.

But if you’re using anything less than WordPress 4.2, your URLs will look like the example above.

To make sure you’ve got your permalink settings set the proper way, click on Settings in the admin menu. Then, click on Permalinks.

You’ll see a variety of options where you can create your permalink based on days and dates, months and names, post name, or custom structures.

Our recommendation?

Select “post name” and you’ll get a clean, easy-to-read permalink every time that only includes your web address and the name of a particular post

If you’ve got a massive site with tons of posts, you may want to use the “custom structure” option. With this selection, WordPress will generate permalinks that include your category page and post name.

Pick a permalink structure and stick with it. Changing the structure will create broken links within older posts and cause you to lose any social share counts on those pages.

You should only change your URLs if you’re running on an old version of WordPress that still uses the “?=12345” structure.

What Should I Include in a Permalink?

Keep it simple.

Your permalinks should be concise. They should be short. They should be easy to read.

The best way to do this is to add the main keywords of your post into the post title. If your keywords are not in your title already, customize your permalinks to include them.

Stop with the “stop” words.

Avoid using “stop” words such as “and,” “a,” and “to.” Stop words are those words used often, so they mean nothing to Google when it’s trying to figure out what your page is about. These words do nothing to help with SEO and will only make your permalink longer.

The examples listed above are not the only “stop” words that Google ignores. Words like “is,” “actually,” “it,” and “by,” all make the list.

You can leave them in your link, but you should be aware that they do nothing to help your search engine results.

Click here for a complete list of “stop” words that Google ignores.

Should My Permalinks Include Categories and Dates?

As we mentioned above, for extensive blogs with lots of posts, including categories isn’t a terrible idea. If you’ve got a short, succinct domain name and brief category names, you have more room to include a category in your link.

This can be a good thing, but there’s one important thing to keep in mind.

If you use a category/post name structure, make sure your permalink only includes one category. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lengthy URL that will be harder to share. Also, having many category names won’t add any SEO value or improve your Google search rankings.

When it comes to dates, the resounding answer is no.

Unless you’re a news site where dates/times are relevant, adding a date to your permalink will do one thing and one thing only: date your post. If you’re concerned about getting clicks, a dated post won’t help at all.

If you are a news site, having a date is meaningful. Readers may be searching for specific articles from certain periods of time. This is one of the only scenarios where we would suggest including a date in your permalink.

Think of this scenario: a reader types in a simple search for “the best blogging platforms.” The first result generated is from 2014. The fifth result listed is from 2018. Which one would you click on?

A 2014 post might still have relevant data and lots of valid information. But in certain spaces (like technology) no one is going to want to read an outdated post from four years ago. You’re always better off leaving the date out.

Should My Permalinks Include File Extensions?

There’s no need to add a file extension to your permalink. An extension such as .html might not make that much of a difference.

But if you add an extension such as .exe, you might see your rankings plummet. There’s no benefit to adding them, so there’s no point in taking the time to do so.

How Long Should A Permalink Be?

We mentioned above that it’s always best to keep your URLs short and sweet.

Try to stick to a phrase with four or five words. But if you can go even shorter, that’s even better. That makes it easier to read and it allows people, and search engines, to identify what your page is all about.

How Does My Blogging Platform Affect My Permalinks?

Most blogging platforms (especially free blog sites) have their own way of generating permalinks based on their own internal structure. But you should always have the opportunity to edit them.

If your platform doesn’t generate permalinks that follow the rules we’ve mentioned above, take the time to change them. The time it takes you to edit your links will be well worth it if it means you’ll have an SEO-friendly permalink that will boost search engine results.

We’ve already discussed how you can change and customize your permalinks in WordPress. (Go to Settings, click Permalink, and select the option that says “Post Name”).

But WordPress isn’t the only game in town. If you’re blogging on TypePad or Blogger, keep reading to learn how to customize your permalinks on those platforms.

For TypePad bloggers, you’ll see “Permalink” under each entry. Click on that to manipulate your link to include your keywords, remove “stop” words, and make it short yet sweet enough to describe your page.

If you use the Blogger platform, the link varies. Blogger uses the time stamp on the post or the actual post title. You can customize your URLs – and you should.

Open the blog post editor. Select the “permalink” option, click on “custom permalink” and enter the URL you want to use. Remember to save it by clicking “done.”

Make sure you do this before you publish your post. Blogger does allow you to edit URLs after publication, but it’s a lengthier process. You’ll save yourself lots of time if you customize each permalink as you go.

The permalink structure varies from platform to platform. In most cases, permalinks are based upon the title of your post. If your platform doesn’t do this, take the time to research how you can customize your links.

It’s worth the time to generate SEO-friendly links that will improve search results and help increase your readership

Can You Change Your Permalinks?

While permalinks are designed to be permanent links and are designated automatically in WordPress, they can be changed if you want to do so. As we saw in the above point, there are a few good reasons for doing so.

The first step is to find out what format your permalinks are currently in. Many WordPress blogs use a default setting that simply allocates a number to each new post and then tags that number onto the end of the URL.

Others use the post title, sometimes with the post category in front of it. In other cases you will see the date that the post was made in the permalink.

As noted above, what we want to see in here are plenty of keywords and little filler. If you have already researched your keywords well and included them in the title then this is as easy as using a shortened version of the title including the main keywords as your permalink.

So, let’s imagine that your keyword phrase is “best permalink information” and the post you write is called “All the best permalink information that you will ever need”.

In this case, the ideal permalink would be the main URL of your site followed by something like “best-permalink-information”.

How to Change Your Permalinks

To find out your current setting you only need to look at the permalinks that your new posts automatically generate. If you are using WordPress’s default settings then they won’t be optimized.

Start writing a post and once you add a title you will see a permalink generated. If this is your first time looking into this matter then you will see the standard WordPress default permalink, which will need to be changed.

To check the current settings in WordPress you need to enter into WP-admin followed by Settings and then Permalinks.

There are 6 common settings here with self-explanatory names attached to them:

  • Plain or Default
  • Day and name
  • Month and name
  • Numeric
  • Post name
  • Custom Structure

The Plain or Default setting is the least useful of all of them, as it simply tags the number of the post onto the end of the URL. This won’t help to optimize your site and is unattractive for your readers as well. No-one will know what the post is about until they visit it.

The good news is that it is easy to change this. There are just two things you need to do in order to fix your permalinks swiftly and effectively:

  • Change the default option
  • Change the permalinks on individual posts

Changing the Default Option

Changing the permalink is extremely easy to do. Ideally you will do this when you first start the site, as this will ensure that you get all of the permalinks right from the beginning. They will then all follow the same structure and look similar to each other.

However, if you have older posts set up in the wrong format then it is best to just leave them as they are rather than trying to fix them.

You could lose valuable links and make life difficult for readers who have bookmarked your articles on their browsers or have received links from someone who shared your content with them.

To change the default option for your future posts then you need to be in the same place mentioned before: WP-admin / Settings / Permalinks. You will again see the 6 different options and should choose the one that says “Post Name”. You can then save the changes.

This is the permalink option that gives you the simplest, most straightforward way of working. There are no un-necessary words to affect your SEO or old dates to put off visitors.

You only need to make this change once and then you will see that all future posts follow this simple format. Try going back in to write a post. Put on the same title that you used for the example in the last point.

You will see that it now produces a neater and more useful permalink without you needing to do anything else. You are now halfway towards getting the right sort of permalink on every post that you create. There is still one more thing to do before leaving this subject though.

Changing the Permalink on Your Posts

While the change we just looked at will help you a lot, you will still need to amend individual permalinks now and then, when you see that the automatically generated ones aren’t great.

This is especially true if you write longer titles. You will often need to make them neater and more focused on your keywords in this case.

As you edit individual posts on WordPress you will see a button that lets you edit the permalink. You should look to do this when you are writing a post, rather than going back to change it later when you have already published the article.

In fact, it is a good move to get into the habit of writing your title at the start and then seeing what permalink is generated. You should then change the permalink to something that suits you rather than leaving it to the end.

By doing this you won’t run the risk of forgetting about it. Having said that, if you end up changing the title or the keywords used then you will need to alter the permalink as well.

Some bloggers prefer to write their draft articles on Word and paste them into WordPress. If you do this then you could get into the habit of writing a good permalink at the top of the document and pasting it in as well.

If you start to try and change old permalinks, things could get really messy. It simply isn’t worth the hassle and the potentially damaging effect that it has on your links, you readers, and your SEO.

In some case you won’t need to change anything at all, as the proposed permalink will be fine. If it doesn’t look great then just take out the filler words and leave in your keyword phrases.

If you just posted an article in the last few minutes or hours and want to change the permalink then it should be safe to do so. However, the longer that an article sits on your site the less advisable it is to change the permalink.

What If I Forget to Change a Permalink When Posting?

There is a chance that you get so caught up in writing a new blog post that you forget to optimize the permalink before you post it. If you don’t catch it in time to amend then it is safer to just let it stay as it is.

Of course, this is where the benefit of amending the default is going to save the day. Your permalink might not be perfect in this way but it should still be fairly close to what you need.

WordPress will automatically put in a permalink that is based on the title of your article. So, if the keywords are in the title then there is a good chance that they will find their way into the permalink as well.

The worst type of situation is probably when you use a long title for your blog post. In this case even when the correct default has been set the title might be confusing and might not include the keywords you are targeting.

However, your readers are unlikely to notice anything amiss. It is simply a missed opportunity for you to improve your SEO in an easy way.

Wrapping Up

Permalinks are important. They’re the links that take your readers to specific pages or posts. If you include links in your blog, or if someone else wants to link to one of your posts in their own blog, an SEO-friendly permalink is essential.

Different blogging platforms generate permalinks in different ways. Some utilize the title of your post. Others use the day and date. Some generate a link as a series of numbers and letters.

Regardless of your blogging platform, there is almost always a way to customize your permalinks.

Make sure your links include relevant keywords and aren’t filled with “stop” words that Google and other search engines ignore. If they don’t look the way you want them to look, spend a few moments customizing each one.

Your goal should be a permalink that describes what your particular post or page is all about.

Your blog is full of great content. Your pages include amazing photos and graphics that draw readers in. You’re doing everything right, right? If your permalinks aren’t SEO-friendly, the answer is no.

You can have the most amazing content on earth, but if your permalinks aren’t good, you might find yourself on page 5 or 10 on Google search results.

And you know as well as we do that no one is diving that deep.

Make your permalinks strong. Improve your search rankings. Give it some time and you’ll find yourself with the readership and the following that your blog deserves.

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