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What Is A Permalink?

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In digital marketing, the URL of a site is almost as important as the content it leads to.

A good URL is one that gives the user insightful information about the webpage that they are about to click through to.

On the other hand, a bad URL is unattractive and does not offer any information.

When you consider the importance of a URL, it is not just for the web users, but also for search engines.

A URL is made up of 5 parts

  • Scheme
  • Domain name
  • Path to file
  • Parameters
  • Anchor

An example is

https://mojodojo.io/seo?isebook=no#home

In the URL above

Scheme:https://
Domain name: MojoDojo.com.au/mojodojo
Path to file: seo
Parameters: ?isebook=no
Anchor: #home

Optimizing your URL does two things.

  • First, it makes your URL easier to understand for search engines like Google.
  • Second, it helps the user understand what the URL is about before they click.

This article will discuss permalinks or permanant URLs; what they are and why they are important.

History of Slugs

During the heydays of the printing press, typesetters coined the word ‘slug’ to refer to one line of linotype, which was utilized as a placeholder or spacer for an article’s title.

Over time, the term found its way to the newsroom floor, and soon, it became the industry standard to use ‘slug’ when referring to the in-house title of an article in progress.

This term, in addition to other printing terms such as typeface or font, pagination, ‘above the fold’, cut & paste, and so forth have made their way into the digital age and are now commonly used in graphic design and web development.

So, what do permalinks have to do with slugs?

The term slug still holds weight today when indicating the semantic (human-readable) tail of the URL.

If you can remember, in the formative days of the web, URLs looked hideous with their question marks, percentage signs, and ampersands strewn all over.

They looked something like this:

http://www.anexample.com/search/a/index.php?article_id=q65132a19b8765&source=web&q=what%30is%30a%30slug.

While this works just fine for a program running on a web server to locate and display your article, for humans, it is just gibberish and very unpleasant.

So, if you wanted to share an article with your friends, wouldn’t you rather have a nice and clean URL which gave some information about what that article was all about?

Now, consider the following URL:

http://www.anexample.com/blog/what-is-a-slug.

Isn’t it more beautiful and insightful in comparison?

A slug is the last bit of the URL pie; ‘what-is-a-slug’. It is the semantic piece that makes it easier for us to decipher a URL.

In light of the above information, we can now look at what permalinks are.

The shortened version of ‘permanent link,’ permalinks are semantic URLs that do not (or should not) change, and always point to the same web pages.

The Internet is a place where things are continually changing; while the link was designed to be permanent, one cannot guarantee that the content will always be the same.

And that is the idea behind a permalink: a persistent URL that is expected to always point to the same page.

First off, whenever someone likes your content and intends on linking back to you article, they can use the article’s permalink to link back to the post.

Secondly, if you need to share your posts with people online either through social media or email channels, you will need their permalinks – as they act as the final address that might eventually get bookmarked.

Additionally, permalinks are usually displayed in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) above the post’s title and post’s meta description.

Moreover, Facebook utilizes permalinks in open graph. Thus, each time a person likes, comments on or shares your post below that link on Facebook, your share count for that post increases.

  • It is relevant.
  • It’s easy to recall.
  • It is unique: You should not have two articles having similar permalinks as search engines will not know which one to show in their results pages.
  • Has keywords: you know the importance of a well-thought-out title to encourage more clicks. Thus, by utilizing keywords in your permalinks, you will not only get a good title, but you will also help the readers know what the article is all about.
  • Is not modified: Changing the permalink after it has already been posted will cause a 404 error on the old URL, which will heavily affect your search engine rankings. Thus, if you should change it, ensure that you redirect the old one to the new one.
  • Uses dashes rather than underscores: Google recognizes an underscore as being an additional part of a word, thereby making the URL seem longer. On the other hand, dashes are recognized as word separators.
  • Uses lowercase: Google can tell the difference between lower and uppercase letters. Therefore, if you have two URLs leading to the same page, Google will register them as different web pages, which divides the SEO power between them.
  • Does not use stop-words. These are words such as ‘yours’ ‘the’ and so forth. Google gives them low priority as they are deemed to make the URL unnecessarily long.This tip goes hand in hand with making your URL short and sweet. You want your URL to be as impactful as possible, both for customers and so Google likes you. A good way to do this is to check through your URLs and get rid of any stop words.
  • Doesn’t have easily forgettable characters: A URL that is dynamic is one where its content changes as it is retrieved from the database for the user to view. This type of URL uses characters such as %. A static URL, on the other hand, is one that does not change. Thus, by using a static URL which does not contain those symbols, you will be making it easier for users and search engines to understand.
  • Simple and short: Search engines actually claim that permalinks which contain more than 5 words are considered to be spammy thereby affecting your search engine rankings.
  • Consistent: When you have consistent URLs, they will assist with enhancing your search engine rankings as well as making your blog more organized for readers.

The structure that you will choose for your permalinks shall determine the way WordPress assigns URLs to your articles.

Like we covered earlier, permalinks are permanent and static URLs that your site assigns to specific posts and pages.

The first section of the URL is always the same for all the website’s links. However, what changes is the slug.

  • Slugs that are descriptive are also more informative: When you just choose the default structure, your slug will just consist of a string of numbers that do not offer any value to the user and search engines.
  • Certain structures have SEO benefits: for instance, using keywords as part of the slug will boost your rankings on SERPs.
  • Some structures are easy to recall: Slugs that have descriptive names also tend to be easy to remember, which is an SEO bonus.

WordPress gives you various options to alter your permalink structure.

The easiest technique is by going to Setting > Permalinks tab on the dashboard.

You can then choose an option, and then Save Changes.

It is recommended that you do not change your site’s permalink structure if it has been up-and-running for over six months, as this may result in broken links.

The various permalink options offered by WordPress include:

Plain

This is the one that WordPress utilizes by default. Here, your pages and posts are identified by their IDs. For instance:

http://example.com/?p=345

Here, the slug is just a number. And even though the structure is quite clean, it does not give you any information regarding the link’s content. As a matter of general principle, it is not advisable to use slugs with numerical strings as they offer you zero SEO benefits.

Nevertheless, numerical IDs have their places. For instance, in large online stores, creating individual slugs for each product might not be feasible, thus making IDs more preferable.

Day and Name

This option identifies your posts based on their names and when they were published. For example:

http://examplesite.com/2018/08/14/sample-post/

From the perspective of SEO, this format makes sense as it provides users with valuable information – the title of the post that they are about to read as well as the date it was published. The date can also help them in deciding whether the content is still relevant.

The drawback to this option, however, is that users might not click on your site if they perceive it to be old content. You can work around this by not including the exact post publication dates in your permalinks but showing it on the page.

Month and Name

This is similar to the previous option only that it contains the year and month instead of the day. For example:

http://example.com/2018/08/sample-post/

The same benefits and drawbacks we covered for the previous option still apply here.

Numeric

This structure usually identifies the posts using their IDs. Here, however, each slug is usually preceded by the archives prefix. For example:

http://example.com/archives/245

The benefit of this structure is that it tends to be compact. Nevertheless, it is not descriptive or memorable, making it to be more like the plain format. Additionally, the archives prefix might lead some users to believe that the content is outdated.

Post Name

Here, your article’s title is used as the slug. For example

http://example.com/sample-post

This permalink structure is the most recommendable for most websites. It has the benefits of being a short URL which has your post’s title. This makes it both memorable and descriptive.

You also have the option of including your primary keyword into the slug to further enhance SEO. The only instance where you wouldn’t want to utilize this option is if dates are important to your content – for example, if you are running a news site.

Custom Structure

In this option, you get to design your permalink’s structure.

You get to enjoy benefits such as having multiple tags that you can add in any order that you prefer to your URLs.

The advantage of taking this approach is that you can create the permalink structure that suits you best.

Not only should your internal link structure support the most important pages of your site, it should make it easy for Google to get to any page on your site in a minimum of clicks.

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