One of the first things everyone should do with their new WordPress site is to update the permalink format structure. Prior to this post we had the default WordPress permalinks. Below are the steps I took to update them – and why it’s so important.
Except for the default Hello World post that WordPress automatically puts in for new years, this is the first post on this site. The site is currently brand spanking new* and I’m going to walk through the process of improving it over time. The intention is that this will be useful to people who are just getting started with blogging and setting up a WordPress site.
What does brand spanking new mean? From Urban Dictionary…
“the quality of an item recently manufactured and/or purchased a short while ago and without showing any marks, scratches or other defects. The terminology derives from the obsolete practice of spanking a newborn human on the back immediately after birth to stimulate breathing.”
That’s what this site is today – basically a newborn baby who just got spanked into breathing. 🙂
OK. First thing I’ve already noticed is that the “permalink” looks ugly.
What are WordPress permalinks?
A permalink is the link address (aka URL) that people enter to visit your page. Even if they link to it from somewhere else and don’t enter it directly, they often see the link.
Right now, as I type this and before I’ve made any changes, the default WordPress permalink for this post is http://www.wpblogtoday.com/?p=6. That’s horribly ugly though. It’s also meaningless. I’ll spend a lot more time on search engine optimization later, but you want the links to your posts to “make sense”. Both users who see it, and Google who will index it, need to know what the post is about. The first step in clarifying what a post is would be by looking at the link address.
How to change the permalink format
While in your WordPress admin area (YourDomain.com/wp-admin) there is a menu item on the left hand side named “Settings”. Either hover above it to expand that menu – as shown to the right – or click on it to expand it. Then click on the Permalinks menu item under Settings.
Once in the WordPress Permalinks setting screen you’ll see the top section named “Common Settings” – also shown below – with a number of popular options. The default option already selected on a new WordPress installation is the “Plain” option which looks as I described above.
Choosing “Post Name” by itself would be a huge improvement. What I’m going to do though is take it one step further.
To help out with future search engine optimization I plan on using categories for my posts. For example, perhaps this post would make sense in a “starting-a-blog” or similar category. Whereas I plan to have posts that make more sense in an “seo” category or an “optimization” category. See how grouping posts into categories makes sense? It helps users navigate your site and also helps search engines understand what general topic the post is about.
Optimizing the permalink
I’m choosing Custom Structure and entering “/%category%/%postname%/” into the box to the right of that option. The “%category%” means replace this text with whatever category name has been selected for the post. The “%postname%” is a URL-friendly version of whatever title you choose for the post. I’ve made that change and clicked the button to save the changes.
After this change, the URL of this post winds up being wpblogtoday.com/starting-a-blog/Brand-Spanking-New-WordPress-Site-Update-permalinks/. Now that I think about it, that’s a bit much. The “brand spanking new wordpress site” part doesn’t add any value, so I’m going to shorten it for this particular post.
Customizing the permalink per post
All the way up at the top of Add New posts screen in WordPress it show the title of the post. Right below that it shows what the current URL will look like. Here’s what it looks like right this moment as I write this.
See how that is a LONG URL? I’m going to click Edit next to the permalink and remove the “brand spanking new wordpress site” part and replace it with “updating WordPress permalinks”. I think that will make a lot more sense to people seeing the link somewhere online.
I won’t post a picture after the change I just made because if I did it right, all you need to do is look at the link of the post you are reading right now. 🙂
Update your own permalinks (URLs)
That’s all I want to change right now. I think that URL structure is much more user (and search engine) friendly. I highly recommend you go do this now if it hasn’t already been done. Once you start writing posts – assuming they are decent posts – they will show up in search engine results and other people will start linking to them. You want them to look good right from the start.
Also, if you decide to wait and change the post link structures later, you can break a lot of things! If Google has indexed your page (“read” it and put it in their search database) they’ve also recorded your URL. If you change the URL of the post later, Google might have a hard time finding it. They’ll think the page disappeared! And if someone else is linking to the page and you make a change – the link they’ve set up will no longer work and the visitor will get an error. Errors are bad! You want a positive experience for all of your site visitors, which means a lot of things – no errors being right up near the top.
So go make update your WordPress permalinks right now. It’s not hard and I just explained how to do it.
Questions? Just ask below and I’ll do my best to help out. Happy blogging!