WordPress gives you several permalink structure options when you’re setting up your blog…but which is the best choice to select?
You select your blog’s permalink structure when you first set up your WordPress blog. You have several options, but some are better than others.
You can change your selection at any point, but that can cause problems. I’ll get to that in a minute.
To reach your permalink options, click Settings on your administration panel. Then select Permalinks. You have several default options.
This one and the Numeric option are surely the two worst choices. While they’re very simple, they give the reader who sees the URL for that specific post absolutely no information.
If I used the Plain option, the URL for this post would look something like this:
It doesn’t look very appetizing because you can’t tell from that what the post is even about.
Day and Name
This option provides more information about the post itself by including its title in the URL. But it also includes the date the post is published.
This post’s URL, in that structure, might look something like this:
Do you need that information? The answer depends on whom you ask. But some bloggers suggest removing the date from posts altogether. Some readers may look at a URL that lists a date from more than a few months earlier and assume the post is outdated.
A blogger may well update the post — and even state at the top of the post that it has been updated. But this won’t be reflected in the URL unless they manually change that. (And that’s not a great idea.)
I chose not to remove dates from my posts, although I did remove them from the URL because it just made them look too long.
Month and Name
This permalink structure option is similar to Day and Name. In fact, it’s nearly identical, except for removing the actual day of the post:
Do you find value in seeing the year and month a post was published? As a reader, you might. But if you think of it from a marketing standpoint, you may not.
Some of my most successful posts are “evergreen” grammar posts. A few of them are several years old. It’s entirely possible that people wouldn’t click if they saw the year 2014 instead of 2019, even though the information might still be perfectly applicable.
Remember what I said about the Plain option? The same goes for Numeric.
That URL would look like this:
Look at that URL and tell me what the post could possibly be about! That URL isn’t remotely reader-friendly.
This is the one I almost would have chosen. As the name suggests, a URL with this permalink structure features the domain and the name of the post.
In fact, with this option, if you happen to remember the name of the post you’re looking for, you can even guess the URL. As long as you don’t forget the hyphens and making everything lowercase, you might be able to find it.
In any case, it makes it clear what the post is about, as long as the title itself does that.
Here’s the option I chose. I took the format of the Post Name permalink structure. I then added the category name between the domain and the post name.
The category could help with search engine optimization (SEO), so having it there should never hurt you. (And it gives your reader a further clue about the topic.)
Which one is really better?
I just mentioned SEO. SEO means the effort to make sure your blog’s link appears at the top of search results.
The Plain and Numeric options don’t help SEO at all.
The rest are much better choices from that standpoint, and with so many websites, you must think about SEO.
According to Yoast, the plugin I use for my site’s SEO, you should choose either the Post Name or go with a Custom structure with category and post name. (Luckily, that’s the one I chose a while back!)
Why changing your permalink structure later means trouble
So let’s suppose you’ve been blogging for a while now and you realize you went with a permalink structure that isn’t ideal.
You’re tempted to go to that settings page in WordPress and just select a better option and sit back and wait for more pageviews.
But if you do that, you’re bound for trouble. When you change a post’s permalink format after it’s published, any old links won’t change to the new format. That means anyone who visits a post that includes a link to a different post in the old format gets a 404 error. That’s bad.
In fact, it’s really bad. When Google sees 404 errors, it starts delinking things in your blog.
So you’re hurting yourself by changing that structure.
The way around this is to use a plugin like 301 Redirects. A redirect, as you can probably guess, is an instruction to redirect readers from an outdated URL to the updated version. That way, you don’t cause all of those 404 errors.
I use the Broken Link Checker plugin. It alerts me whenever there’s a link that no longer works. I can set the proper URL there as well. That plugin helps me monitor outside links as well. So if I point to a page on another website that disappears, I can quickly delete the hyperlink. (I also have the option to redirect it to an Internet Archive version of the old link or specify a corrected URL if I can find one.)
I’d recommend you be very careful about changing your existing permalink structure unless you’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure old links don’t go bad.