What is a Permalink? WordPress Beginner’s Tutorial

Permalink isn’t a commonly used term, except for in the world of WordPress.

The WordPress CMS uses the term “permalink” throughout the dashboard, and understanding its meaning is important for using the platform.

The meaning and purpose of the term are simple.

Permalink means “permanent link,” and it’s essentially the URL of a page. A better name may have been “permaURL.”

For example, this page’s permalink is:

competethemes.com/blog/what-is-permalink/

The “perma” part of the word is reinforcing the idea that URLs shouldn’t change. Once you publish a post/page, you should leave the permalink the same. That said, it is entirely possible to change a page’s URL if you need to.

There are two places in the WordPress dashboard where you can edit your permalinks.

The permalink structure is the base for all of your site’s URLs or permalinks.

Every new WordPress site uses the Plain setting by default.

Permalink Structure Default
These settings are found in the Settings > Permalinks menu

There are two problems with this structure.

First, the URLs are not human-readable. They use the ID of the post/page, and that’s it. If you share a link to one of your posts on social media or in an email, nobody seeing it will know what the page is about.

Second, you can’t customize the permalink of any post/page when you use the default setting.

The best option is to switch to the Post Name permalink structure.

Permalink Structure Post Name

This structure uses the title of the post for the URL, which gives people a lot more insight into what the post is about based only on the link.

Even better, this permalink structure also allows you to edit the URL of any post/page, so you can modify the permalinks exactly how you want.

If you have an established website already, you’ll want to be prepared to redirect your posts before you make a change to your permalink structure. For a new site without many posts or backlinks, you can make this change right away.

Now that you’ve got the best permalink structure activated, let’s talk about updating individual permalinks.

You can edit any post or page permalink via the editor.

Make sure you already saved the post and set a category, and then you will see the Permalink section in the right sidebar.

Permalink Example

The part of the URL you can edit is called the “URL slug.” These are the characters appended to the domain.

Url Slug

While you should avoid changing the permalink of an existing page, you should always edit your permalinks before publishing a post/page.

By default, WordPress will take the post title and use that for the slug. It’s converted to lowercase, special characters are removed, and spaces are replaced with hyphens. For example, WordPress would auto-generate the following slug for this post:

what-is-a-permalink-wordpress-beginners-tutorial

When creating a slug for a post, you want to keep it short. This makes for a shorter URL which fits better everywhere it’s shared. For example, the URL might fit neatly into Twitter and Facebook posts without using a link shortening service.

It’s also a good idea to include your keyword in the slug, which helps with search engine rankings. That’s why the best approach is to use your keyword as the permalink with any articles or “stopwords” removed.

For instance, this post is intended to show up in Google when people search for “what is a permalink.” That exact phrase with the “a” removed is used as this page’s permalink. It’s short, readable, and optimized for search engine traffic.

Changing to the Post Name permalink structure can improve your site’s traffic and make your URLs more friendly.

Now that you know how to modify any post’s permalink, make sure to place this into your editing steps so that you don’t forget it.

If you enjoyed learning these new tips, you might also like my free email course:

Take the 7-day WordPress Mastery Email Course

There’s a ton of info packed in there for improving your website, and it’s totally free.

Thanks for reading this guide on what permalinks are and how to customize them. If it helped you out today, please consider using the buttons below to share it with someone else.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.

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