Updated · Feb 07, 2023
If you've ever published a blog post, chances are you've used a permalink.
But, actually what is a permalink? Why is it important? And how can tweaking it affect your site’s SEO?
Keep reading to find out.
Permalink Definition and Structure
A permalink is a URL that points to a specific blog post or page on a website. It is sometimes called a “permanent” or "direct link."
A permalink can remain unchanged for a long time, yielding a hyperlink less susceptible to link rot. An HTML page may be moved to a different server with another domain name and still retain the same permalink if its content does not change.
As for structure, a permalink typically contains the title of the post or article and the date it was published.
When you create a new post or page on your website, you can choose your own permalink or URL. For example, if you have a blog post titled "How to make a perfect pie," you might go with the permalink: "www.example.com/perfect-pie."
Once you've published it, anyone who clicks on that URL will be taken directly to your post.
Specific pages aside, permalinks can also point to other types of content, such as images, audio files, and videos.
Why Is a Permalink Important?
Now that you know what a permalink is, let’s see why you need them. Using permalinks is one of the most important aspects of a successful blog. They are what allows people to find your content online, and they play a crucial role in helping search engines index your site.
When appropriately used, permalinks can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your site.
For one, they can help improve your search engine ranking. Search engines like Google and Bing crawl and index web pages based on the links that point to them. If you have a high-quality permanent link pointing to your site, it will help your pages rank higher in the results.
Furthermore, they can help build relationships with other bloggers and websites. When you link to someone else's content, you're showing that you value their work. This can help you form partnerships and build a network of mutually beneficial relationships.
Additionally, permalinks can help increase the reach of your content. Permalinks make it easy for people to find and share your work. This way, you attract new readers and followers.
Optimizing Permalinks for SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital tool for any website looking to attract traffic. Optimizing your website for search engines will help:
- improve your visibility
- draw more visitors
- boost your search engine results page (SERP) rankings
You want to choose your links carefully to get the best permalink structure for SEO on your site.
Permalinks provide a direct link to your content from the SERPs. If someone clicks on one, they will be taken directly to your post without having to go to your homepage or navigation menu first.
Also, permalinks give search engines an immediate indication of what your content is about because the URL for each post includes relevant keywords.
Say you wrote a blog post about “SEO tips for beginners”. The URL for this post might be www.example.com/blog/seotips-forbeginners. This tells search engines that your content is relevant to those keywords and may help you rank higher in the SERPs. Tools like Semrush are great for finding the right keywords.
To be clear, optimizing your permalink for SEO won’t single-handedly propel you to the top of the SERPs. However, it is one small step that can help you improve your ranking and get more traffic to your website.
So, how do you do this?
It’s pretty simple.
Use keywords in your permalinks. This will make sure that search engines index your content more effectively. For best results, use primary keywords.
That said, avoid excessive keyword usage; this can actually hurt your SEO efforts by making your link appear spammy.
Furthermore, keep your permalinks short and sweet. The longer they are, the more likely they are to be broken or redirected. So it's best to keep them concise. The ideal word count is between three to five words.
Make sure your permalinks are accessible. By this, I mean using standard characters. Avoid special characters or spaces as they can make your link look unprofessional and confuse the search engines.
WordPress Permalink Settings
WordPress offers a variety of permalink settings to choose from. The right option for you will depend on your personal preferences and the specifics of your website.
This is the default setting. It uses numbers to identify each post on your website. For example, if your website were www.example.com, your first post’s permalink would be www.example.com/?p=1.
Day and name
This option includes the date and name of each post in the URL. So, if you published a post on January 1st, the permalink URL would be www.example.com/2014/01/01/post-name/.
Month and name
The third WordPress permalink setting is similar to the previous one but it only includes the year and the month. For instance, if you published a post on January 1st, the URL would be www.example.com/2014/01/post-name/.
The numeric setting is similar to the default setting but uses only numbers to identify each post instead of letters. In this case, your first post for your www.example.com website would be www.example.com/1/.
The post name setting is the most straightforward option, and it uses the post slug as the permalink. The permalink URL in this case would be www.example.com/post-name/.
The custom structure setting allows you to specify a particular URL structure for your permalinks. To do this, you use various tags, such as %category% and %postname%.
To edit the WordPress permalink settings, go to the Settings tab in your dashboard and click on Permalinks. From there, you can select which variant you would like to use for your website.
Which one should you choose?
When it comes to permalink settings, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best option for your website will depend on several factors, including:
- the type of content you publish
- the frequency of updates
- your server configuration
However, the best option for most websites is post name, especially if it is a news site or blog. This setting will use the title of your post as the URL, making it both descriptive and easy to remember. Additionally, it’s a keyword-rich option, which can help your post rank higher in the search results.
That said, the custom structure allows you to include other keywords in your URLs. And if you're running a personal site or portfolio, then the date and name setting might be the way to go as it gives each post its unique URL.
Ultimately, there is no definite "right" answer when choosing how to edit the WordPress permalink settings. The best option depends on your individual needs and preferences.
Reasons for Permalink Changes
One of the most frustrating scenarios when browsing the internet is clicking on a link that leads to a 404 error page. This often happens when you change the website's permalink or URL.
Still, you might want to do this for several reasons. For example, if you move to a new domain, you may need to update the permalinks for all of your content so that people can still find it.
Similarly, if you change the structure of your website, updating the permalink format may better reflect the new layout.
In some cases, changing the permalinks can improve your site's SEO. For instance, if your original permalink is too long or doesn't include relevant keywords, you can improve it by editing the URL.
Keep in mind, however, that changing a permalink can also have undesirable consequences, such as broken links or less traffic. After all, according to its definition, a permalink is meant to stay unchanged for a long time. So only change it if necessary.
The Impact of Permalink Changes on SEO
There's no denying that SEO is essential for any website that wants to rank well. Permalinks are one area where changes can have a significant impact, both good and bad.
The URL itself is the first thing to consider. If you change the permalink to something that is not formatted correctly or is too long, it can hurt the appearance of your site on search engine results pages.
Additionally, changing the permalink structure can result in broken backlinks on an established website, especially if you have many of them. This can lead to a drop in traffic and decrease your search engine ranking.
On the other hand, if your current structure is not optimized for SEO, then changing it can be a good idea. It’s also helpful to update your permalinks if you have made changes to your website content that warrant a new URL.
In any case, when you move or redesign your site, you should set up 301 redirects. This important step ensures that every permanent link from your old site will still work on your new domain. It also helps preserve any existing search engine rankings and traffic.
It can also help improve your website's usability by ensuring that visitors are steered to the correct page.
There are a few different ways to implement 301 redirects. You can edit your .htaccess file to add the redirects if your site is hosted on an Apache server.
For other servers, you'll need to consult your web host. Additionally, many content management systems (CMSs) have plugins or modules that allow you to set up redirects.
Once you've implemented your 301 redirects, test them to ensure they're working as intended. If broken, it can cause problems for users and search engines, so it's essential to get it right.
Now you know what a permalink is and how it can potentially make or break a site’s SEO targets. While it serves as a direct and long-term link, you can change it if you have to.
However, make sure that you follow permalink best practices to avoid any issues that could make your site tumble down in search engine rankings.
Daniel is an Economics grad who fell in love with tech. His love for books and reading pushed him into picking up the pen - and keyboard. Also a data analyst, he's taking that leap into data science and machine learning. When not writing or studying, chances are that you'll catch him watching football or face-deep in an epic fantasy novel.
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