The upcoming WordPress version 4.2 will add new functionality that automatically sets pretty permalinks by default. Of course, WordPress will first of all check that these are supported by your web server. Before we go into a little more detail about this news, we will briefly explain what Pretty Permalinks are. Essentially, the URLs of the posts and pages on your site are known as the Permalinks. These are the URLs that you would enter into the browser window in order to visit the required web page, and as such are the URLs that are used to link to your site or pages. For obvious reasons, permalinks are extremely important and integral part of the internet. When it comes to WordPress there are many ways of forming the permalinks, and you can see a screenshot of the WordPress Permalink Settings screen below: As you can see the default setting, otherwise known as “ugly permalinks” is in the following format:
The number on the default permalink simple refers to the ID of the table row in your wp_posts table of your database. The question mark and number is a query string that identifies the data to query from that posts table. So, in contrast to the default WordPress setting, Pretty Permalinks are permalinks that have a friendly more helpful URL layout, such as
The proposal to change the default settings to Pretty Permalinks was first made 7 years ago, when Denis-de-Bernardy proposed some code that would implement it. The discussion has been long with some users stating that it should not be forced on the user, and others expressing surprise as long as two years ago that the proposal had not been implemented. Of course, the implementation of Pretty Permalinks goes much further than switching the default setting, and user otto4242 on Reddit gave a great summary of why. In essence Otto 4242 explained that for pretty permalinks to work the web server much be able to write to the .htaccess to work, and for something to be implemented in WordPress it must not break sites or cause errors. For example Nginx has its own set of rules which are harder to automatically configure. Fortunately, where the .htaccess doesn’t work, then pathinfo permalinks can be attempted, which look like the example below:
Even when users were aware that Pretty Permalinks were due to be implemented, further discussions revolved around whether the date should be included in the default Pretty Permalinks, or just the post name. Even the maker (Joost De Valk) of the popular Yoast SEO plugin chimed in, with support for just including the post name:
Unfortunately, the WordPress developers disagreed, and it looks like the date and post name will be included by default. Therefore, for many, this will not simplify the process (a point quickly made on Reddit), but for the not so savvy WordPress users we think it is still a massive improvement over having Ugly Permalinks.
Pretty Permalinks are Good for SEO
As Joost De Valk mentioned, userability and memorability is one of the key things when it comes to choosing your Permalink Structure. But from a fundamental perspective, Google itself has confirmed that Pretty Permalinks are important for SEO in their Search Engine Optimization Start Guide, the relevant parts are summarized below:
- Using descriptive categories and filenames on your website will not only ensure better organization, but could improve the crawling of your site by the search engines.
- It is easier and more friendlier for people to link to your content, which is great for SEO.
- Visitors may be intimidated by long and cryptic urls that create few recognizable words, and they would find it hard to revisit the site from memory and therefore less likely to create a backlink from it. In addition, the link may be easily broken if users leave parts of it out, especially if the link contains many parameters.
- Some users will use the URL of the page as an anchor text. If the URL contains relevant words it provides the reader with more information and may increase the CTR.
In addition this helpful video by Matt Cutts (head of Google’s web spam team, although he currently is on a break) gives further clarification on whether it is a good idea to have keywords in the URL path or filename:
The video above is direct response to a question – “Does Google give higher importance to keywords in the path versus the filename?”. The short answer is no, but Matt Cutts confirms that how you structure your Permalinks could be important from a user perspective, with help category based permalinks could see an increase in CTR (Click Through Rate). The more you research into the use of Pretty Permalinks, the more you will come to see how important they are, not just from an SEO perspective, but from a useability perspective too.