How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Learn how to set up permalinks in WordPress for improved content navigation and better search engine optimization …

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing content on your site, the following could take place … just from your web address:

  • Visitors could assess what the post is about,
  • Google could find your pages faster,
  • Every single content item on your website would have its own unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.

Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – What Are They?

A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that people and search engines use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to posts on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

Hopefully, by now you probably know that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that can help to improve its SEO aspect.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the URL structure of a site.

Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.

Now … let’s turn our attention to the reason why it’s best to use permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With PermalinksThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find data inside its database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot image below shows, many site owners have not set up their permalinks to publish search optimized content online …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, many site owners are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get the greatest SEO benefit out of using 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 numbers and symbols.

WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can go from this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display your posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing results in Google.

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard click on, Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

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 one.

Permalinks - Common 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

(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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/travel-tips/romantic-cruise-holiday-deals

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=4741

Using post name permalinks helps visitors understand what your page is about

(Using permalinks helps readers understand what your content is about)

Adding Pretty URL Tags In Custom Structure

“Pretty” URLs, or search engine-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:

  • %year% – The year of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘12’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘10’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘16’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘36’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘9101’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of the post title. For example, if the post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all letters converted to lower case and no exclamation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the words in your post titles 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 correctly formatted 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 …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Practical Tip

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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Choosing ‘Post name’ is the same as adding the /%postname%/ tag in ‘Custom Structure’.

Optional Permalink Settings

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

If you need to set up custom permalinks for your tag and category archive page URLs you can do this in this section.

You can change the ‘base’ category or tag of your URLs using the following structure:

  • domain.com/category_base/category_name
  • domain.com/tag_base/tag_name

For example, using “news” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/news/category_name/’.

So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

If you leave the optional settings fields blank the default settings will be used.

Remember to save any changes after you have finished …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

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

Set Up Your Categories

To get the optimal benefit from using Permalinks, it’s important to set up your WordPress Categories correctly. If you do not have any categories set up, adding a category tag to your permalink forces WordPress to use the default category (uncategorized).

According to WordPress SEO expert Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to add the category tag to 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 and reduce the SEO benefit.
  • Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you plan to post content under multiple categories, then it’s recommended that you do not use the category tag in your permalink structure.

Despite being the subject of intense debate in WordPress SEO circles, when it comes to category vs no category there is no perfect permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Your web address should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide more information about WordPress categories in other articles.

Avoid Using URL Syntaxes That Date Your Content

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news site or you have any special reason to add dates to your post URLs, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your blog’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your content)

Visitors 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 The Permalink Structure In Blog With Indexed Posts

Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Important

If your site has been running for a while or you have a lot of content already indexed in the search engines and you would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really necessary, as making changes to permalinks after your site has already been running for a while can create issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirects

As you’ve seen earlier, some website owners (or whoever set up their site) are completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to improve your site’s SEO. Perhaps your website or blog was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to delete the date portion in the URLs.

The best way to edit your URL structure without affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links set up using the old permalink structure to page URLs that use the new permalinks syntax.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors if following an old link.

To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your site using a WordPress redirection plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or use the services of a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

(Set up URL redirections using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your blog’s permalinks to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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