The “What, Why and How” of WordPress Permalinks

More and more often, people are turning to WordPress when creating their websites. Not only is it a great tool for managing your website (i.e. a CMS, or Content Management System), it also has tremendous benefits for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – the techniques applied in order to assist your website in ranking highly within search engine results).

 

Having said that, WordPress does use a rather unnatractive default setting for permalinks…

 

So, what are permalinks?

In the URL, or “address” of your website, you will usually see a format as follows:

www.mywebsite.co.za/about

The name “about” in the URL above will refer to the name of a specific page, in this case the “About” page.

BUT! By default, WordPress uses a numbering format for pages and posts, and you end up with a URL that looks like this:

www.mywebsite.co.za/?p=164

For both humans and search engines such as Google, those numbers don’t mean anything.

 

Why should you change this?

Consider the following situation: You’ve written an amazing article about the benefits of using solar lights. Your article is aptly named “The benefits of using solar lights”. If someone is searching for this or similar topics in search engines such as Google, they would type in keywords along the lines of “solar lights benefits”. Google picks up on the keywords you use in your article, especially within the name and headings, and uses these keywords to index your web page content.

Both human visitors and search engines are more likely to pay attention to an article with the address:

www.mywebsite.co.za/benefits-of-solar-lights

than even having the faintest idea as to what the following article is about:

www.mywebsite.co.za/?p=430

 

Got it? Great! So how do you change your WordPress permalink settings?

In your WordPress dashboard, select “Settings” from the menu on the left, and navigate to the “Permalinks” option.

Wordpress Permalinks Settings

There are 2 options that I will usually go for when setting up permalinks.

  • For articles, I prefer to use the “category/postname” format
  • For pages, the “postname” format will do

So, in order to ensure that both of these options will be available in the case of either pages or posts as required:

From the Permalinks Settings page, select “Custom Structure”.

Next to this option, change:
/%postname%/

to:
/%category%/%postname%/

Wordpress Custom Structure Permalinks

Click on “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page, and you’re done!