What is a Permalink?

By: | Updated: January 31, 2021

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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. On your own blog, you can use it to link to a specific blog entry from another blog entry.

If you’re influential in your particular space, other bloggers will use it to link to one of your posts. That’s a goal.

Without using a permalink as your link, you’ll just be directing people to your blog’s homepage rather than the specific page you want to link to. In short, it’s poor blogging etiquette to use a link that is not a permalink.

What Is a Permalink? Where Can I Find It?

A permalink is a way to identify a certain page or a particular blog post. It’s otherwise referred to as the URL of a page.

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

This is an example of a permalink you’ll find on our site: https://bloggingtips.com/best-free-blogging-sites/

This is an example of a page that is not a permalink: https://bloggingtips.com

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.

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

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.

As you can see from the second example, the permalink gives no sign as to what this particular page is about.

“?p=12345” doesn’t mean anything to anyone. It is also hard to remember and type into the address bar. What you need is a permalink that includes keywords that describe your content with ease.

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

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

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 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

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.

by Brett Helling
Brett has been starting, growing, and monetizing websites since 2014. While in college, he began to learn about digital marketing. After graduating, he continued to build a diverse portfolio of websites while working a full time job. After years of building the portfolio on the side, he made the jump to run his websites full time.