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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply publish a new page on your website, and the following happened … just from your post URL:

  • Potential visitors to your site could tell what the content is about,
  • Search engines would be able to easily discover your page and correctly index its content to improve your search rankings,
  • Every single item of content you create on your site would have its own unique ID, making your site easier to manage.

Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Is A Permalink?

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that others use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a particular item of content on your blog. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?

Hopefully, by now you are probably aware that, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.

WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be further improved with excellent SEO plugins.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the structure of a site’s URLs when indexing pages.

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

Now … let’s take a look at the reason why it’s best to set up permalinks in WordPress.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find information within your database. It doesn’t really help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the screenshot below, many WordPress site owners are still using out-of-the-box permalink settings when publishing their content …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get the greatest SEO benefit from 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 allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

By default, WordPress post URLs are not very search engine-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to help you get better indexing in search engines.

Changing WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard select, Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This brings up the Permalink Settings screen …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.

Common Settings

In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create search engine-friendly URLs …

Configure your permalink settings to create search engine-friendly URLs

(Change 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 post name permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what your page is about

(Using permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what your page is about)

SEO-Friendly Tags

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

  • %year% – The year the post is published, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2010’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘04’)
  • %day% – The day the post is published (e.g. ‘17’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘18’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘45’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘9180’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all characters converted to lower case and exclamation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Useful 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 …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

This section lets you configure custom structures for your category and tag pages.

You can change the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:


For example, using “travel” as your category base would make your category links display as ‘’.

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

How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.

Remember to save any changes when done …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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 – Additional Notes

Use Short, Descriptive Categories

To get greater benefit out of using Permalinks, you will need 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 expert Joost de Valk, here are a few things to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:

  • 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 categories 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 copy or share and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • If you plan to post content under multiple categories, then we recommend not using 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 ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose a 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 provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Make Your Posts Timeless

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news blog or you have a special reason to date your content, avoid choosing date-based permalink options when setting up your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts)

Although using permalinks that time-stamp your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, visitors are less likely to click on a post if it is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

Changing Permalinks In Site With Indexed Posts

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

Useful Info

If your website has been running for a while or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is something that absolutely needs doing, as doing so can create issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some website owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your site was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is showing as being two or three years old and you want to delete the date portion of the permalinks.

The best way to edit your permalink structure without affecting your site’s SEO in a negative way is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links that use the old permalinks syntax to destinations that use the new permalink syntax.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors when they click on an old link.

To effectively change your permalink syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should set up a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your site or blog using redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

(Set up link redirections using plugins or get professional help)

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, see the WordPress codex below:


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie