WordPress Permalinks: What They Are and How to Change Them

What is a permalink? It’s a simple concept, really. A permalink is the permanent URL link used to access a piece of content on the internet. These URLs are, well, permanent — and it’s vital that they’re rarely changed or adjusted.

This article will explain what permalinks are, how they work, how to change them if you really need to, and more. 

Specifically, we’ll talk about permalinks in the context of WordPress. Let’s go! 

Explaining permalinks in WordPress

A permalink in WordPress isn’t much different than a permalink elsewhere on the internet. From a technical perspective, the official WordPress website defines a permalink as, “the permanent URLs of your posts, pages, categories, and other archive pages on your website.”

In other words, if something exists on the internet created through the WordPress platform, it’s accessed by a WordPress permalink. But it’s not just the obvious pages like blog posts. It’s anything within the website’s structure — such as archive pages or category pages.

Let’s look at an example of permalinks in WordPress.

Say you create a website with WordPress and call it Jetpack (we think it’s a cool name). Here are some examples of permalinks for that site:

  • The homepage may be located at the permalink of jetpack.com. 
  • The blog may be found at jetpack.com/blog.
  • A category page may have a permalink of jetpack.com/blog/category/performance

But, again, permalinks exist for every single piece of content on your website — not just specific areas. It’s a holistic concept. Everything has its own permalink: individual blog posts, landing pages, category pages, and whatever else is under the umbrella of your website.

The details of this structure depend wholly on how your site is built and mapped, and what this looks like in practice is determined by how your website is set up.

Why are WordPress permalinks important?

There are multiple reasons why permalinks in WordPress are important.

1. Site navigation and management

Think of your website as a big building, and the permalinks as the signs, doorways, and hallways that guide people to what they’re looking for. Permalinks help you manage your website links and keep information organized. Moreover, permalinks can help you track traffic and analyze user behavior, providing insights into who’s searching for your content and why. 

2. User experience and perception

Permalinks are also useful signals to visitors about the information they’re seeking. They help people anticipate what pages or posts will be about — similar to headings or subheadings — or understand where they are in the context of the site. 

Not to mention, a well-crafted permalink is much easier to remember, helping visitors share and return to your website. In a basic way, it’s like a sign that hangs in front of a physical store.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO)

From a technical perspective, WordPress permalinks broadcast to search engines what a post or page is about. A well-structured permalink that includes keywords can improve a website’s indexing and search ranking. 

This is vital for connecting with people who are searching for what your website provides, improving the overall ranking of your website.

What to do before changing your WordPress permalinks

The internet is constantly evolving. What works today may not work tomorrow. To keep up with and stay ahead of trends, websites regularly receive updates and redesigns. Sometimes, those changes mean a shift in permalinks.

If your website needs to make these types of changes, you must take the proper steps to ensure a smooth transition. 

Before you start the process of changing WordPress permalinks, make sure you review the following:

Back up your WordPress site 

It might be obvious, but backing up your WordPress website is the first thing you should do before changing any permalinks. Losing website data can cause a ton of stress, significantly impact your work or business, and cost you hours upon hours of time. And it could cost you a lot of money if you have to hire someone to help. You definitely want a backup in place.

Jetpack VaultPress Backup is a great WordPress plugin that can ensure you avoid the painful experience of losing data.

One of the most powerful features of Jetpack VaultPress Backup is that your site is saved in real time. That means that rather than daily or weekly backups that can leave gaps in an emergency, every single change and update you make is automatically copied. Plus, all backups are stored off-site, so if there’s ever a problem with your server, they’re safe and secure. And you can restore your website even if it’s completely down!

To use Jetpack VaultPress Backup, you can download the plugin. Or, if you’re using the Jetpack plugin to take advantage of multiple tools all at once, just purchase a VaultPress Backup plan or a bundle that includes it. 

Yes, it really is that easy.

Prepare to redirect broken links 

Broken links are not only bad for the user experience, but hurt your website’s overall SEO. So, after updating your permalinks, you’ll need to redirect each one of your impacted URLs.

Before getting started, make a list of all the pages, posts, and other content that will need to be updated. Then, familiarize yourself with the options available to redirect a URL:

  1. Create a 301 redirect in the .htaccess file
  2. Set up a permanent redirect in cPanel.
  3. Use a plugin like Redirection to create your redirects.

Remember, you’ll want to actually create the redirects after updating your permalinks. For now, choose a method and familiarize yourself with the process.

How to change WordPress permalinks 

It’s essential to choose a permalink structure that’s easy to read and SEO-friendly. Here’s how to change permalinks in WordPress.

  1. Log in to your WordPress Dashboard. 
  2. Navigate to Settings Permalinks.
  3. Select the permalink structure you want to use. (See descriptions of the types of permalink structures below.) 
  4. Click Save Changes to update the permalink settings.
permalink settings inside of WordPress

How to change WooCommerce permalinks 

If you’re running a WooCommerce store, you’ll change the permalink structure for the majority of your content through the same process, documented above, as any other WordPress site. However, you’ll also have the ability to change permalinks for products, categories, and similar types of content. To modify these permalinks, you’ll do the following: 

  1. Log in to your WordPress Dashboard. 
  2. Navigate to Settings Permalinks.
  3. Scroll down to the section titled Product permalinks
  4. Select the permalink structure you want to use. (See descriptions of the types of permalink structures below.) 
  5. Click Save Changes to update the permalink settings.
updating WooCommerce permalinks in WordPress

Types of WordPress permalink structures

There are multiple types of WordPress permalink structures. Your choice should depend on your goals for the website.

  • Plain: The default permalink generated by WordPress is known as Plain. This is the simplest but least SEO-friendly option. The Plain WordPress permalink uses numbers automatically generated by the platform and looks something like yourwebsite.com/?=123.
  • Day and name: The Day and name WordPress permalink structure reflects the exact date of when the post was published and the title of the post. This is very useful for news organizations or other types of websites when the date is significant to the information. For example: yourwebsite.com/2023/03/01/blog-post-title.
  • Month and name: Similar to the Day and name WordPress permalink structure, the Month and name permalink structure shows just the month and year when something was published. This is useful for timestamping information that isn’t required to be as specific as Day and name. For example: yourwebsite.com/2023/03/blog-post-title.
  • Numeric: The Numeric permalink structure in WordPress uses the post ID number in the URL. It’s not advisable to use this permalink structure, as it’s not very SEO or user-friendly. Typically, you’d use this for content not focused on generating organic traffic, such as online databases. For example: yourwebsite.com/archives/12345.
  • Post name: This permalink structure takes the blog post’s name and turns it into the URL, creating something like yourwebsite.com/blog-post-title. This is often the most recommended method, as it’s both SEO and user-friendly. The use of keywords and phrases in the framing of this permalink helps tell both search engines and users what the page is about. It’s also easier to remember or guess for someone looking to share or find the post.
  • Custom structure: A custom permalink structure in WordPress gives you the opportunity to create your own structure that’s personalized to your exact needs.

The different types of WooCommerce permalink structures

WooCommerce is a popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress and has its own additional set of permalink structures specific to product URLs. Here are the types of WooCommerce permalink structures:

  • Default: Default permalink structures are simple and what WordPress automatically generates for product URLs. This structure displays the product ID in the URL. Like the Plain permalink structure for WordPress, this is not SEO or user-friendly, as it doesn’t provide any information to search engines or visitors. For example: yourstore.com/?product=12345.
  • Shop base: The shop base permalink structure takes the word “Shop” (or the custom name you give your shop page, if you choose to modify it) and includes it in the base of the URL. For example: yourstore.com/shop/product-name. 
  • Shop base with category: The shop base with category permalink structure is similar to the shop base permalink structure but has more information. This structure includes categories so that the permalink will look something like yourstore.com/shop/category-name/product-name. 
  • Custom base: The Custom base permalink structure is precisely what it sounds like — store owners can fully customize the URL. You can determine what is best for your needs, and build the URL structure around that.

Advanced: How to change WordPress permalinks in phpMyAdmin

Before we break this down, it’s important to stress that changing permalinks in phpMyAdmin is not recommended unless you are an advanced user experienced with database management. In all cases, make sure you have a backup of your website

If you’re not comfortable with this or any of these terms, we very much recommend using the WordPress dashboard for updating permalinks.

But, if you still want to modify permalinks in phpMyAdmin, these are the steps:

  1. Log in to phpMyAdmin.
  2. Find your WordPress database on the left-hand side. 
  3. Select the wp_options table. 
  4. There, find permalink_structure in the option_name column. 
  5. Click Edit, and change the option_value field to your desired permalink.
  6. Click Go.

Again, we highly recommend using the WordPress dashboard to change or update your permalinks. 

Frequently asked questions about WordPress permalinks

Are permalinks important for SEO?

Yes, permalinks play an important role in successful SEO. While only one of many factors, search engines use permalinks to better understand the content of individual pages and the structure of a website as a whole. 

A well thought-out permalink structure that uses relevant keywords can help both visitors and search engines understand why your site is relevant and should be valued.

Where are permalink settings located in WordPress?

Like all tools and services within the WordPress platform, finding your permalink settings is fairly easy. 

Log in to WordPress as the administrator. The permalink settings are located in the wp-admin dashboard under Settings → Permalinks. Here, you’ll be able to adjust or customize your permalink structures. There are several common options, such as Plain, Day and name, Month and name, Numeric, and Post name. Select your desired choice, and click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget that changing permalink settings can alter the URLs of your current posts and pages. Before you decide to change your permalink structure settings, create a detailed plan that utilizes proper 301 redirects in order to prevent any issues or lost traffic. 

What is the default permalink structure in WordPress?

The default permalink structure in WordPress is the Plain structure, so it’s something like: http://www.yourwebsite.com/?p=123.

The above number is the ID WordPress automatically generates for the said page or post. But unfortunately, this type of structure gives Google or other search engines no information about the content of the page. Therefore, in the majority of cases, it’s best to go with another option.

Can you create a custom permalink structure in WordPress?

Yes, you can create a custom permalink structure in WordPress. By customizing a permalink, you can control the way your links look and highlight the most important information while improving SEO, making your links more trustworthy and clickable.

Will changing permalinks affect previously published posts?

Yes. Without proper preparation, changing WordPress permalinks runs the risk of breaking the connections between links and hurting the overall search rankings of a website. Any user who clicks on an old URL will end up seeing a 404 error.

But, if you plan ahead, strategize, and set up 301 redirects following your permalink change, you’ll avoid these risks. 

What should I do if I can’t change my WordPress permalinks?

There are a couple of things you can try if you’re having trouble changing the permalinks of your WordPress site.

First, try resetting your permalinks. Go to Settings Permalinks on your WordPress dashboard. Without selecting anything, click Save. This sometimes can trigger a reset for any issues you might be having. 

If that doesn’t work, check for issues with plugins or themes. Deactivate each one by one, and check if your permalinks work. There might be something going on that you don’t realize, and this process might also reset it.

What is the difference between a permalink and a URL?

Permalinks and URLs are essentially interchangeable terms as they are both used to direct you to a specific place online. The term permalink is more often used when describing a specific, categorized ending added to a primary domain (yoursite.com) by a content management system. 

However, the permalink structure, in its entirety (yoursite.com/blog/what-is-a-permalink) is a URL. 

What is the difference between a permalink and a slug?

A permalink and a slug are connected to each other, and both are part of the URL of a website.

A permalink is the full URL to a specific page or piece of content. It consists of the domain name, directories (if applicable), and the slug. Meanwhile, the slug is the part of the permalink that follows the domain name, highlighting a particular page or post in a simple and easy-to-read form. It’s the part of the permalink that explains the page’s content.

In the following URL, /check-out-this-website is the slug:


Understanding how permalinks work in WordPress

If you run a website built with WordPress, knowing how permalinks work within the platform is vital for continued success and growth. You want to use a system that makes it easy for both visitors and search engines to find and understand the content on individual pages and find their place within your website as a whole. 

If the publication dates of new posts are important, you might choose to use the Day and name structure. If you’re going to lump groups of similar products together within an online store, you may want to include categories as part of your permalink structure.  

No matter your choice, it’s best to not change the structure very frequently. So consider it carefully. If you do decide to make a chance, make sure you plan the update carefully and always have a backup of your WordPress site on hand. 

To optimize the performance, security, and growth of your WordPress site, check out Jetpack’s full suite of tools

This entry was posted in Learn. Bookmark the permalink.

Jen Swisher profile

Jen Swisher

Jen is a Happiness Engineer for Jetpack. She has been working with WordPress and Jetpack for over a decade. Prior to starting at Automattic, Jen has helped small businesses, local non-profits, and Fortune 50 companies create engaging web experiences for their customers. She is passionate about teaching others how to create on the web without fear.

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