Why and How to Use Pretty (User-Friendly) Permalinks


An easy way to improve your site’s search engine ranking is to use “pretty permalinks.” Permalinks are the direct and, well, permanent links to your blog entries. It’s what other websites will use to link to your content. “Pretty permalinks” is the term WordPress.org uses to mean “making your links look better and be more user friendly.” They could just as easily have called them “User-Friendly Links”.

WordPress creates ugly permalinks by default. They have question marks and lots of numbers and are completely meaningless. They look like this:

http://www.mysite.com/?p=206

That garbled mess doesn’t mean anything to anybody, including search engines. They still work—they get people where they need to go. But they’re not very useful. A simple way to make your permalinks user friendly is to use the “pretty permalinks” concept. Pretty permalinks look like this:

http://www.mysite.com/title-of-your-post

That makes your links a lot more useful. And useful is pretty. It’s not only good for humans looking at links, but it can also help your search engine ranking. Having real words in the url, especially keywords for your content, is a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

How to Make User-Friendly Permalinks

You can change how WordPress creates permalinks in your WordPress dashboard under Settings >  Permalinks. You can choose one of several options for permalinks.

The “Post name” setting will give you a simple url like this:

http://www.mysite.com/title-of-your-post

The post name is a simplified (and search engine friendly) version of your post title, which you can edit for any post beneath the title.

“Day and name” and “Month and name” will add dates to the url along with the post name so you can not only tell what the post is about but when it was posted. You can also get fancy with a custom structure and add all kinds of goodies to the url, like the category, author and more. WordPress offers the detailed code, but in general, simpler is better. And pretty, too.

Old Site Without Pretty Permalinks?

If your site is already live and you didn’t use pretty permalinks, you can’t just change the settings. That will make all your current links break (that’s bad). Permanlinks are supposed to be permanent (duh), so you’re not supposed to change them. But it’s not too late to go pretty. There’s a handy plugin that can help you change your permalinks while redirecting the old ones so you don’t lose people in a cloud of broken links.