A permalink is the url of a specific post on your blog, or a specific page on a static website.  Visitors to your site might want to use a permalink to link to a part of your site that they’re referencing in their blog or in an email.

Types of Permalinks

The default permalink structure in WordPress shows the main website name plus a number, like http://www.tonibdesign.com/?p=1.  These are often referred to as “ugly” permalinks because no one has any idea of the subject of the link or what it goes to.  Numeric permalinks, one of the custom styles that you can select on the Permalink Structure page, are also “ugly” for the same reason.

Permalinks that show the website name and the title of the individual article, post, or category being referenced are called “pretty” permalinks.  They’re much more desirable from a search engine optimization (SEO) viewpoint, because they give search engines more information to work with when calculating rankings for your site. For example, the permalink for this post is http://tonibdesign.com/2013/05/using-permalinks/.  Search engines will see the keyword “permalink” in the title, and mark this article as more relevant to someone searching for information about permalinks than a default permalink of http://www.tonibdesign.com/?p=1.

To Set Up Permalinks

  1. Click on the Settings link on the bottom right side on the Dashboard.
  2. Click on the Permalinks link on the submenu.
  3. Select one of the common structure options.
  4. Click the Save Changes button.

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After changing the permalink structure, you may need to update your .htaccess file.  You can do this automatically through WordPress, if it’s configured to do this, or  update it yourself using a text editor. The code to be added will appear in a text box below the update message. You can find instructions on how to update your .htaccess file here.

Once you have established your permalink structure, you should not change it, especially if you have a significant number of posts/pages/other links on your site. Updating permalinks to a new structure may involve placing a lot of redirect commands to your old content.

For more information, see the WordPress Codex page on Permalinks