WordPress 4.2 Will Enable Pretty Permalinks as Standard

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WordPress 4.2 Will Enable Pretty Permalinks as Standard

WordPress 4.2 Will Enable Pretty Permalinks as Standard, with the date and post name being included out of the box.

The upcoming WordPress version 4.2 will add new functionality that automatically sets pretty permalinks by default.  Of course, WordPress will 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 website are known as the Permalinks. These are the URLs that you would enter into the browser window to visit the required webpage, and as such are the URLs that are used to link to your website or pages.  For obvious reasons, permalinks are critical 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:

Permalink Settings

 As you can see the default setting, otherwise known as "ugly permalinks" is in the following format:

http://www.hostingtutorial.ninja/?p=123

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 numbers are known as 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

http://www.hostingtutorial.ninja/2015/01/11/sample-post/

or

http://www.hostingtutorial.ninja/sample-post/

The proposal to change the default settings to Pretty Permalinks was first made seven 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 an excellent summary of why.  In essence, Otto4242 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 websites 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:

/index.php/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/

Even that solution is much better than the old default version. Eric Lewis, a contributor on the WordPress ticket related to this implementation stated:

Delivering pretty permalinks by default seems in line with a bunch of core philosophies — great out-of-the-box, design for the majority, simplicity, clean, lean and mean.

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:

From a usability perspective, good URLs should be short and memorable, including the date automatically makes them longer and harder to remember, without adding much. We only need postname, why include more? The date is meta data, no more important than say the author, we don't include that in the permalink either. Also, if you decide to republish a piece because you've updated it (after all, that's what a Content Management System is for) and change the date publication date, the URL would change.

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, usability and memorability are 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 website by the search engines.
  • It is easier and 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 website from memory and therefore less likely to create a backlink from it.  Also, 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.

Also, this helpful video by Matt Cutts (head of Google's webspam 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 usability perspective too.

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