Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new page to your website, the following happened … just from your post address:
- Site visitors could tell what your page was about,
- Google would easily discover your post and correctly classify its content for better search rankings,
- Every piece of content on your website would have a unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this is really easy to do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalink – What Is It?
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that others use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to articles on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.
Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?
As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can use that can further help to fine tuned its SEO aspect.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks can be used to make the links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review the reason why it’s best to set up permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
The above link structure is used by WordPress to locate data inside your database. It does not help your site with on-site SEO.
As the screenshot taken from Google search results below shows, many site owners haven’t yet configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content online …
Although Google is still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get more SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.
WordPress gives you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can go from this …
To this …
By default, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This tutorial explains how to set up your WordPress permalinks to get better indexing in search engines.
How To Configure WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WordPress admin and click on Settings > Permalinks …
This will bring you to the Permalink Settings screen …
As mentioned earlier, by default WordPress web URLs use characters like question marks and numbers to create unique Post Ids and URLs. We want to create search engine friendly URLs instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.
Common Permalink Settings
In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create SEO-friendly URLs …
(Set up your permalink settings to create search engine-friendly URLs)
If you use the custom permalink structure shown in the example above, your URL would look something like this:
Instead of this …
(Using permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your post is about)
Pretty URL Tags
“Pretty” URLs, or search engine-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year your post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘07’)
- %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘08’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘16’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘25’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘12’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘8150’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all lower case characters and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the wording in your post title in the post slug field on the Add/Edit Post/Page screens.
- %category% – A correctly formatted version of the category name. Nested sub-categories appear as nested directories in the URI (Uniform Resource Identifier – the string of characters used in the URL). Tip: You can edit this text in the category slug field in the New/Edit Category screens.
- %author% – A sanitized version of the author name.
Note: When using multiple tags, separate each tag using a ‘/’ (forward slash), or hyphen.
For a quick setup, choose the Custom Structure option, and enter the code below into the ‘Custom Structure’ field …
Or, use one of the following structures:
Tip: If you want search engine friendly URLs for your posts, but don’t want to use a custom permalink structure using tags, then choose Common Settings > Post name instead …
Choosing ‘Post name’ is the same as choosing ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to set up custom permalinks for your tag and category URLs here is where you would do this.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “topics” would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/topics/uncategorized/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To something like this …
If you leave the fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save your changes after you have finished …
Permalinks – Useful Tips
Sometimes, when you are creating a new post and haven’t given the content a post title yet, the WordPress Autosave feature will save your draft with an assigned numerical permalink (see the example URL in the screenshot below) …
To fix this and give the post its proper permalink, go to ‘Edit Post’ …
Click on the ‘Edit’ button in the post slug section …
Select all content in the post slug field and delete it …
Click ‘OK’ …
The post slug entry will be replaced with the correct permalink based on your post title …
Here is a quick recap of the process …
Remember to update your post to save the changes …
Your permalink should now reflect the new post title …
Note also that when you change the URL of a published post, you should also create a redirect link …
If you change your post title at a later date (e.g. you think of a more compelling post title or use a headline generator tool to help you come up with some killer post titles), remember to fix the permalink to match the new post title and add a redirection to the new post URL …
Make sure that your permalinks match the titles of your posts and pages to help site visitors find what they are looking for and ensure that search engines will better index your content …
Permalinks – Tips
Use Descriptive Categories
To get the most benefit from using Permalinks, remember to set up your WordPress Categories correctly. If you do not have any categories set up, WordPress will use the default category (uncategorized).
According to WordPress SEO plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are a few points to consider if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:
- If your domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to use the category tag in your permalink.
- If your post slug (the part of your URL that identifies your post) is too long, it can make your post URL harder to share or copy and reduce the SEO benefit.
- Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you are going to post content under multiple categories, then we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.
Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there is no ideal permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. SEO experts recommend making your web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another article.
Create Timeless Posts
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news blog or you have any special reason to add dates to your post URLs, avoid using date-based permalink settings when setting up your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that date your content)
Although setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, people are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.
Changing Permalinks In Blog With Published Content
Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your site has been running for a while or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is absolutely necessary, as doing so can create SEO issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, many WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) are completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your site was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date tags in the permalinks.
The best way to edit your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO or rankings in a negative way is to add ‘301 redirects’ to point links that use the old permalinks syntax to destinations that use the new permalinks structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid page errors when they click on an old link.
To effectively change your permalink syntax and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to install and set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can WP site or blog using redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up 301 redirections using a WP plugin or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation below:
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group