Permalinks: What Are They and Why Do You Need Them?

What are permalinks?

Using a permalink removes the page ID and replaces it with a friendly URL such as the post/page title. Despite permalinks being critical for SEO, so many websites still get it wrong.

To a digital marketer, the URL of a website is as important as the content it leads to. A good URL gives a user useful information they need to know about the webpage they’re clicking through to. A bad URL, on the other hand, can be boring, unattractive and completely uninformative. When we talk about the importance of a URL, we don’t only mean to those people searching the web and using your website, but also to search engines such as Google or Bing. URLs are important in helping a website perform well in a number of ways, in particular with SEO, meaning that they need to be designed in the correct way using permalinks. This blog post should help guide you to a better understanding of what permalinks are and why you need them.

What Are Permalinks?

Permalinks is a WordPress feature that allows you to alter your usual boring, unhelpful and unattractive URLs from something such as this: –

https://example.co.uk/?p=N

To something like this: –

https://example.com/2016/post-name/

Instead of the default page number, a link displaying other, more detailed attributes can be created. These attributes can range from the time and/or date the post was set up, to the name or category of the post.

Firstly, this is helpful to users who may want to click on the link, as it is more attractive to see and will give your website a more professional feel. Secondly, and most importantly, it will improve your overall SEO score and will help towards a rise in search engine results page rankings.

How Will It Improve My SEO Score?

Search engines work by trying to bring the most appropriate and high quality content on the web to the user, depending on what they’ve searched for. To do this, search engines employ complex algorithms which take in every little detail on a webpage to score its relevancy and quality, with the top scoring web pages ranking the highest on the results pages. The importance of maintaining and improving the SEO for your website cannot be over-emphasised.

A regular URL doesn’t provide a search engine with the information it needs in order to understand what the page contains, giving it no SEO value whatsoever. Permalinks, on the other hand, give you the ability to create ‘pretty’ URLs using the Custom Structure field which allows you to add in one or more ‘tags’ that are then used to create the URL. These tags give search engines something to use as a sort of description of the page the URL links to, helping it to understand how relevant the page is to what is being searched for.

Not only do permalinks increase the chances of users with relevant searches finding your page, they help prevent irrelevant clicks through to your website as well. This will help lower your bounce rate, which is great for SEO.

How Do I Use Permalinks?

These SEO friendly links can be created using the ‘Custom Structure’ field in the Permalinks settings, found on the left hand side of the menu under Settings > Permalinks.

Permalinks Settings Image

Here, the links are created using ‘tags’ which define the attributes that are shown in the URL. These tags include:

  • Year – %year%
  • Month – %monthnum%
  • Day – %day%
  • Hour – %hour%
  • Minute – %minute%
  • Second – %second%
  • Post ID – %post_id%
  • Post Name – %postname%
  • Category – %category%
  • Author – %author%

Use these tags by entering them in the custom field in the order you wish them to appear in the URL, using a forward slash (/) or hyphen (-) to separate each one. For example:

https://domain.com/%category%/%postname%

This link may look something like this: –

https://www.impactdigital.marketing/marketing-news/six-ways-to-improve-your-bounce-rate/

If you don’t want to create a custom link using tags you can simply click on one of the preset options, such as ‘post name’, to have one created for you using that attribute. See here for more detail on how to correctly use permalinks.

Remember: In order to take full advantage of permalinks you need to have your categories correctly set up in WordPress; otherwise the default category of ‘uncategorised’ will appear.

A Word of Warning

If you change your default permalink settings in your CMS, your URLs will automatically update. However, if you change the custom structure of your permalinks it will cause the old links to fail, potentially rendering old links you have used on the web useless. This means that you will need to 301 redirect your old URLs to the new URL. Failing to redirect your URLs will result in error 404 messages.

You can check for broken links under ‘crawl errors’ using the Google Search Console.

For more information on Permalinks and other useful WordPress features, or for any other digital marketing information, feel free to contact our team.

Ryan Sedgwick
Managing Director & Marketing Consultant at Impact Digital Markeitng
A Chartered Marketer, Ryan has gained extensive B2B and B2C marketing experience working across a broad spectrum of industries. Having graduated with a Masters in Marketing Communications from the University of Huddersfield, Ryan successfully utilises his skills and knowledge to effectively support businesses in getting the most from their marketing investments.