What You Should Know About Permalinks Before Hitting “Publish”

4 min read
  • Permalinks are URLs that are not subject to change for an extended period, such as URLs to permanent pages and posts on your website.
  • They are a ranking factor with search engines and should be kept short (8 words or fewer).
  • Include only relevant keywords, and limit yourself to lowercase letters, decimal digits, and hyphens.

One fiasco you want to avoid is having your content management system generate permalinks for you. They’ll invariably be too long, they might contain symbols they shouldn’t, and you can’t change them without taking precautions. Coming up with a concise permalink slug before pressing “publish” is an essential step for every writer and publisher who cares about SEO.

Permalinks are URLs that won’t change in the foreseeable future. They’re an SEO ranking factor and can help your users better understand your site. You influence permalinks in three ways:

  1. By selecting your domain name.
  2. By defining an overall permalink structure.
  3. By choosing permalink slugs for individual posts and pages.

In this article, we’ll explore how to write good permalink slugs (no. 3) and what to avoid in the process.

Keep your permalinks short

If you plan to do just one thing right about permalink slugs, keep them concise—ideally 8 words or fewer.

One (albeit small) factor Google uses to determine your page’s relevancy for a given search result is its permalink. The more unnecessary words your permalink contains, the more it’ll hamper your content’s chances to rank well. Shorten your permalinks by removing every dispensable word or symbol, especially:

  • Articles: the, a/an.
  • Pronouns: you, they, her, who, what, that, those.
  • Prepositions: in, from, with, under, for, until.
  • Adverbs: undoubtedly, often, yesterday, quite, very, almost, certainly.
  • Conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.
  • Symbols (including spaces) except hyphens.
  • Numbers (unless they’ll never change).
  • Dates (unless they’re tied to the title, e.g., world-war-ii-end-1945).

Focus on keywords

Instead of thinking about which words to avoid, let me frame my advice more positively: Use only relevant keywords in your permalink slug.

Usually, none of the abovementioned words are what you intend to rank for. It can help to imagine a user searching not for a detailed phrase (like “mistakes to avoid when planting vegetables”) but rather for a condensed phrase (like “vegetable planting mistakes”). This should give you a good idea of what the final permalink slug could look like.

If your permalinks are sufficiently short, the order in which the keywords appear doesn’t seem to matter. However, it’s a good idea to place the words in the order in which they’d appear in a search phrase. But don’t concern yourself too much with such drudgery, as the order likely won’t have any measurable effect.

Why you should never change permalinks

Changing the permalink structure of your website or the permalink slug of a specific page is dangerous—but to varying degrees.

Unless it’s unavoidable, you shouldn’t change the permalink structure of your website. Consider your permalink structure before you publish your website. A change in structure can hurt your SEO efforts considerably because search engines won’t be able to find your site’s pages any longer. If you need to restructure your website, seek professional help.

It’s much easier to change the permalink slug of a single page, but that doesn’t mean that you should do it. If you’ve just published the page, and it hasn’t been discovered by search engines yet, you can quickly change the permalink with minimal risk. Once the page has been indexed, however, you can change the slug only if you set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL. You must get both URLs precisely right.

Think about permalinks before you click on “publish.” It’s rarely worth the hassle to change them later, and it can be outright dangerous. Permalinks aren’t a significant ranking factor, but you can create a good slug in a few seconds, and it’ll help your SEO and your users’ orientation at least somewhat.

For permalinks and writings, the same rule applies: Keep them short, and everybody will be happy.