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The Complete WordPress Permalink Guide for a Beginner

The Complete WordPress Permalink Guide for a Beginner

It is advisable that you change your WordPress permalinks with proper structures, for the default ones are deemed not to be effective. However, this major undertaking requires caution as it may affect your site SEO, and in return affecting your online ranking. It may also result to errors when done incorrectly leading to broken links.

In this case, we have come out a guide on permalinks and how to handle them, with which our readers just require dedication and a little technical knowledge to change the WordPress permalinks successfully. What are Permalinks?

Basic Definition of WordPress Permalinks

what is permalinkThese are the numbers, texts and symbols that appear at the end of the site domain name used to direct the readers to different web pages and to different posts online. These permalinks have a couple of purposes to your readers.

  • They capture the attention of the reader even without opening the links.
  • They optimize your site for SEO purpose with the given keywords.
  • They are a permanent path for your readers and Google searchers to come back to the site.
  • They identify each post on your site.

Default Structure – Do Not Use It!

In the WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks, you can view and change the settings of permalinks. There are several common settings on the page that you can choose, among which the first one is the default setting of permalink structure.

Permalink Settings

By default, WordPress defines the address of individual posts with a question mark and a string of numbers, just like what shown in the image above. In fact, the numbers in the default permalink structure indicates the place where the content is located in your database.

The default setting is not user-friendly, as it only works for the system and does not suggest any informational or useful content for visitors. Besides, it is not SEO friendly. Why? Because it does not offer any information for search engines, either.

For example, Google states that URLs with relevant and readable words are much better than those with an ID only, thus they can be crawled better. If your permalinks are well structured with keywords of your content included, your site will have more chances to rank better in search engines.

Pre-Made Permalink Structures & Structure Tags

WordPress offers you four options of pre-defined permalink structures which are called Pretty Permalinks, and allows you to set your own by using structure tags. But before making any change, you must make sure that the .htaccess file is writable so that the change can come into effect.

Structure TagsThe pre-made structures are easy to understand, but if you do not like any of them and would like to make your own choice by customizing the custom structure, you have to get some understanding about the structure tags. Altogether, WordPress has ten structure tags which you can use to define the permalinks, as listed and explained in below.

The former six tags are widely used, but the others are used by very few websites. When you use several tags at one time, you only need to separate them with a “/”. For example, you want the format of /year/month/post-name/, then you can fill in “/%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/”.

  • %year%: The year when the post is published, for example, 2015.
  • %monthnum%:% The month when the post is published, for example, 05.
  • %day%: The day on which the post is published, for example, 12.
  • %post_id%:% The unique ID of the post.
  • %postname%:% The post slug, which refers to the sanitized version of the post title.
  • %category%:% The category name.
  • %author%:% The author name.
  • %hour%:% The hour when the post is published.
  • %minute%:% The minute when the post is published.
  • %second%:% The second when the post is published.

There is one thing that needs special attention. The custom permalink structure needs to be ended with either %post_id% or %postname% no matter which other tags are implemented. Only in this way can you make sure that a permalink points to an individual post instead of possibly several posts on your site.

Which Permalink Structure Is Best for You?

Technically speaking, you can use whichever structure you like as long as it is in a structured hierarchy. However, there are indeed some popular combinations which are commonly used by certain types of WordPress sites. You can make a choice according to your preference, or you can also refer to the suggestions below.

Which Permalink Structure Is Best for YouPost name. Using %postname%, the structure of permalinks should be www.yourdomain.com/test-post/. The benefits of the structure are notable. For instance, the URLs are highly memorable and readable, making things easy to understand. We even use it on this site. If you run a blog, it is a suitable choice for you. You may worry about that it might cause any performance issue, but that is indeed an old story. WordPress has already fixed the problem, after all.

Category + post name. This structure generates URLs like www.yourdomain.com/blog/test-post/. When your site has a clear content structure with a large number of mature and fixed categories, you may need to take this permalink structure into consideration. It tells visitors clearly where they locate, which increases the usability of your site and brings more potential page views.

Month/day + post name. With these structures, the URLs of your site are in this format: www.yourdomaim.com/2015/05/test-post/ or www.yourdomain.com/2015/05/12/test-post/. The combinations are good for large news sites which have many posts to publish on a month or day basis. Besides helping visitors calculate the value of news based on time, the structures also assist visitors in locating the news they need quickly.

In most cases, custom structures work with no accidents, but there are also possibilities of permalinks not working. If you are in such a situation, be patient and look into the reasons carefully. The solutions are usually simple.

Category and Tag Base

Right below the Common Settings of permalinks, you can see Optional settings about category base and tag base which are shown in the URLs of category and tag archives. For example, if you have a category named blog, the URL of the category archives would be www.yourdomain.com/category/blog/. You can change the category and tag base into whatever you like.

Some webmasters may choose to remove the category base from URLs to make things simpler. This task is easy as you only need to set the custom permalink structure as /%category%/%postname%/ and then put a period for category base. If it is successful, you can get category archives like www.yourdomain.com/blog/ (“blog” refers to the category name).

Permalink Category Base

How to Change WordPress Permalinks without Affecting the Site

Permalinks need to be as SEO-friendly as your whole site URL, which are easy-to-spell, easy-to-remember, and well-organized. In fact, there are three types of permalinks for WordPress. We’d like to introduce them in the following.

wordpress permalink

  • Default Link – By default, the WordPress permalinks use the query string format that is ugly and hard-to-type, coming with question makes and meaningless letters, symbols, and numbers. It simply looks like https://whatswp.com/?p=N.
  • Pretty Permalink – This is the ideal permalink that is well-organized with no incomprehensible parameters. Visitors can type or modify the link text to navigate to their targeted posts easily. Besides, they can also guess the posting date, post title, main content, and article category simply by looking at the permalink.
  • PATHINFO Permalink – It looks very like the pretty permalink with the same benefit and functionality. The only difference is that it has a /index.php part inserted in the URL, which just like https://whatswp.com/index.php/year/month/date/post-name/.

Just as we have mentioned before, the default permalink structure is not search engine optimized. Therefore, you need to change the common structure with a pretty format for better usability and compatibility of the links. To do this, firstly you need to make a decision on the items you want to be displayed on the permalink and how they should be displayed.

This includes the date factor. Whether it should be there? Should it show the month only? Should you include day and year? How should the date be arranged on the permalink? Once you have decided what items to use and how to format them, you simply need to log into your WordPress admin panel and click the Settings tab. In the dropdown menu, there is an option called permalink. Click it for permalink configuration.

wordpress permalink setting

Now, you can see 6 common options for you to choose, which include Default, Day and Name, Month and Name, Numeric, Post Name, and Custom Structure. To be frank, according to our own experience, we think the second and the third structure are the best options, for you can present comparably more detailed information for a specific article on the post link. If you are wishing for a short URL, the penultimate one is also worth trying.

Besides, if you don’t want to use these pre-determined structures, you can also decide a custom one on your own. However, you always need to bear in mind that the structure you choose needs to be 100% search engine preferred.


Lucy has been a very experienced SEOer, technical writer, web developer, c# developer since 2002. Now she owns a startup in San Francisco, CA, focusing on running a couple of blogs to share knowledge and experience with global readers and deliver exceptional results to global sponsors by leveraging the power of Internet.