Using WordPress Permalinks

Using Permalinks

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual weblog posts, as well as categories and other lists of weblog postings. A permalink is what another weblogger will use to link to your article (or section), or how you might send a link to your story in an e-mail message. The URL to each post should be permanent, and never change — hence permalink.

Permalink Types

There are three basic types of WordPress permalinks:

Default: “Ugly”

The default looks like

where N is the Post ID number. It works on all server environments, but it doesn’t look as nice as some of the other options.

mod_rewrite: “Pretty Permalinks”

Using mod_rewrite or lighttpd you can produce much nicer permalinks (see Pretty Permalinks). There are many different formats, but the most common, and most versatile looks like

Some people eliminate some or all of the date elements (day, month, year) to have a shorter permalink format.

Pretty permalinks are available under

  • Apache web server with the mod_rewrite module

  • Microsoft IIS 7+ web server with the URL Rewrite 1.1+ module and PHP 5 running as FastCGI
  • Microsoft IIS 6+ using ASAPI_Rewrite
  • Lighttpd using a 404 handler or mod_rewrite (see See Also)

PATHINFO: “Almost Pretty”

PATHINFO permalinks look very much like mod_rewrite permalinks but for one exception: they have /index.php inserted before them, like so:

Otherwise, they are the same as the “pretty” mod_rewrite permalinks, and are similarly flexible. Anything that mod_rewrite permalinks can do, PATHINFO permalinks can do, with the help of that /index.php part.

There is a helpful plugin that displays the type of permalinks being used and detailed information on the internal rewrite rules used by WordPress.

Choosing your permalink structure

In the Settings ? Permalinks panel (Options ? Permalinks before WordPress 2.5), you can choose one of the “common” structures or enter your own in the “Custom structure” field using the structure tags.

Please note:
You never, ever put your site url in the permalinks slot. You must use one of the structure tags, or a combination of tags only.

To activate PATHINFO permalinks, start your permalink structure with index.php/.

Structure Tags

Please note:

You never, ever put your site url in the permalinks slot. You must use one of the structure tags, or a combination of tags only. 

You can use these tags to customize your “Pretty” or “Almost Pretty” permalinks. A few hints:

  • Make sure to end your structure with either %post_id% or %postname% (e.g. /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/) so that each permalink points to an individual post.

  • For performance reasons, it is not a good idea to start your permalink structure with the category, tag, author, or postname fields. The reason is that these are text fields, and using them at the beginning of your permalink structure it takes more time for WordPress to distinguish your Post URLs from Page URLs (which always use the text “page slug” as the URL), and to compensate, WordPress stores a lot of extra information in its database (so much that sites with lots of Pages have experienced difficulties). So, it is best to have at least two path segments in your post’s permalink structure such as /%year%/%postname%/ or even /posts/%postname%/. (Some people recommend /%post_id%/%postname%/ which works for performance reasons but others recommend against it because it is unfriendly to users in the many contexts in which users interact with URLs.) See Otto’s technical writeup on the topic as well as this wp-testers discussion.
The year of the post, four digits, for example 2004
Month of the year, for example 05
Day of the month, for example 28
Hour of the day, for example 15

Minute of the hour, for example 43
Second of the minute, for example 33
A sanitized version of the title of the post (post slug field on Edit Post/Page panel). So “This Is A Great Post!” becomes this-is-a-great-post in the URI (see Using only %postname%). Starting Permalinks with %postname% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons..

The unique ID # of the post, for example 423
A sanitized version of the category name (category slug field on New/Edit Category panel). Nested sub-categories appear as nested directories in the URI. Starting Permalinks with %category% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons.
A sanitized version of the author name. Starting Permalinks with %author% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons

Category base and Tag base

The Category base and Tag base are prefixes used in URLs for category and tag archives, which look like this:

The default values for these are category and tag. You can change them, but you can’t remove them from the URLs altogether.

Custom permalinks work on most systems without any problems, but there are still some conditions where problems occur.

Using %category% with multiple categories on a post

When you assign multiple categories to a post, only one can show up in the permalink. This will be the lowest numbered category (see Manage Categories). The post will still be accessible through all the categories as normal.

Using “Pretty” permalinks


  • Apache web server with the mod_rewrite module installed
  • In WordPress’s home directory,
    • The FollowSymLinks option enabled

    • FileInfo directives allowed (e.g. AllowOverride FileInfo or AllowOverride All)
    • An .htaccess file (if this file is missing, WordPress will try to create it when you activate “pretty” permalinks)
    • If you want WordPress to update the .htaccess file automatically, WordPress will need write access to the file.
  • Mac Users running WordPress locally must edit their httpd.conf file editing the AllowOverride line to read AllowOverride All in the Directory “/Library/WebServer/Documents” host instructions. For Mac OS X 10.5.x and up this file is located in /private/etc/apache2/users/[your-username].conf, otherwise it is located at /etc/httpd/httpd.conf.

When you create or update a “pretty” permalink structure, WordPress will generate rewrite rules and attempt to insert them into the proper .htaccess file. If it can’t, it will say something like You should update your .htaccess now and print out the rules for you to copy and paste into the file (put them at the end).

In WordPress 2.0+ versions, you’ll probably need to do this only once, because WordPress does the rewriting internally. If you ever move your WordPress home directory (Blog address), you’ll need to repeat this step.

WordPress will play nice with an existing .htaccess and will not delete any existing RewriteRules or other directives. If you have other mod_rewrite rules, put yours before WordPress’s.

Where’s my .htaccess file?

WordPress’s index.php and .htaccess files should be together in the directory indicated by the Blog address (URI) setting on your General Options page. Since the name of the file begins with a dot, the file may not be visible through an FTP client unless you change the preferences of the FTP tool to show all files, including the hidden files.
Some hosts (e.g. Godaddy) may not show or allow you to edit .htaccess if you install WordPress through the Godaddy Hosting Connection installation.

Creating and editing (.htaccess)

If you do not already have a .htaccess file, create one. If you have shell or ssh access to the server, a simple touch .htaccess command will create the file. If you are using FTP to transfer files, create a file on your local computer, call it 1.htaccess, upload it to the root of your WordPress folder, and then rename it to .htaccess.

You can edit the .htaccess file by FTP, shell, or (possibly) your host’s control panel.

The following permalink rewrite code should be included in your .htaccess file:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

If your .htaccess file contains errors that bring down your site (“Internal Server Error (500)”), you will need to use FTP or your host’s control panel to delete the rogue .htaccess file.

Automatically updating .htaccess

If WordPress can’t update your .htaccess file automatically, it will tell you something like If your .htaccess file were writable, we could do this automatically, but it isn’t… near the bottom of the Settings ? Permalinks panel.

If you want to let WordPress do this, you’ll need to give WordPress write access to the .htaccess file. The exact permissions necessary depend on your server setup. Try adding write permissions for the owner, then group, then world, testing after each change; once WordPress has edited the file successfully, don’t add any further write permissions.

After applying the permalinks, you should change the permissions to something stronger like 660 or 644 to prevent others on the server from potentially having access to it.

Permalinks without mod_rewrite

“Pretty” permalinks usually require mod_rewrite, and IIS (common on Windows servers) does not support mod_rewrite. (If you are using Apache 2.0.54, on Windows, mod_rewrite may work, provided it is enabled in apache\conf\httpd.conf.)

If you are using IIS 7 and have admin rights on your server, you can use Microsoft’s URL Rewrite Module instead. Though not completely compatible with mod_rewrite, it does support WordPress’s pretty permalinks. Once installed, open the web.config file in the WordPress folder and add the following rule to the system.webServer element


        <rule name="Main Rule" stopProcessing="true">
            <match url=".*" />
            <conditions logicalGrouping="MatchAll">
                <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsFile" negate="true" />
                <add input="{REQUEST_FILENAME}" matchType="IsDirectory" negate="true" />

            <action type="Rewrite" url="index.php/{R:0}" />

There’s a full installation guide on the IIS site. The module is available for x64 and x86 systems.

If this isn’t an option, you can try PATHINFO permalinks; put index.php/ at the start of your custom permalink structure:


This option may not always work, especially in cases of WordPress running on IIS 6. To make this option work on IIS, add these 2 lines to a php.ini file and store that file in your webroot :

 cgi.fix_pathinfo = 1
 cgi.force_redirect = 0

Another solution exists using IIS’ custom 404 redirects. It requires that your web host allows you to add a custom 404 redirect, but it doesn’t require you to install any 3rd party mod_rewrite software and it also doesn’t require that your permalink structure begin with /index.php/.

Tips and Tricks

Avoiding interpretation as an archive link

Note that even though one might never make more than one posting a
day, and thus wishes to use e.g., %year%%monthnum%%day%, links so
generated will however be interpreted as the archive of all posts for
that day. One needs at least %year%%monthnum%%day%%hour% to target an
individual post.

Check for permalink structure

A way to check if the blog has a permalink structure is:

if ( get_option('permalink_structure') != '' ) { echo 'permalinks enabled' }
This entry was posted in WordPress SEO. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.