Wouldn’t it be great if after adding new content to your website, the following happened … just from your web address:
- Potential visitors to your site could glean what the content was about,
- Google would easily find your post and correctly classify the content to improve your search rankings,
- Every item of content created on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.
Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
What Are Permalinks?
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that others use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to a specific post on your blog. Permalinks are sometimes referred to as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you are probably aware, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be further fine tuned using SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the URL structure of a site.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s turn our attention to why you should use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.
Normally, a default WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the above link structure with a string query to find information within its database. It doesn’t really help your site with on-site SEO.
As the screenshot image taken from Google search results below shows, many site owners haven’t yet set up their permalinks …
Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, many site owners are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get more SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you will want to make sure to configure your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.
WordPress offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you publish get better indexing results in Google.
Changing Your WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WP dashboard section and click on Settings > Permalinks …
This brings 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 a “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.
Common Settings – Permalinks
In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create search engine-friendly URLs …
(Set up your permalink settings to create SEO-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 visitors understand what your post is about)
How To Create Pretty WordPress URLs
“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year the post gets published, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘07’)
- %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘10’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘22’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘30’)
- %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘32’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8678’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if your post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all lower case letters and punctuation symbol removed) in the URL. Tip: You can edit this wording 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 …
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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in ‘Custom Structure’.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to set up custom structures for your category and tag archive pages you can do this in this section.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “travel” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/uncategorized/’.
So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save your changes after you are done …
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
To get the most SEO 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some points to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:
- If your category slug 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 or copy and decrease 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 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 ”better” permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. Your web addresses should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide more information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Create Timeless Posts
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website is a news blog or you have a special reason to create dated post URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink options when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your content)
Although setting up URL structures that date your content is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, visitors are less likely to click on posts that are a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
Changing Your Permalink Structure In Blog With Indexed Content
Normally, your 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 you have a lot of content already 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 could create SEO issues and errors.
Use 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your site was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date portion of the permalinks.
To edit your permalinks without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings you will need to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links set up using the previous permalinks structure to web addresses using the new permalink syntax.
A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently been moved. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors if they click on an old link.
To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should install and set up your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your do this using a WordPress plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up 301 redirections using redirection plugins or get professional help)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation here:
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