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 …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a new page to your WordPress website, and the following would then take place … just from your web address:

  • Potential visitors could quickly glean what your page is about,
  • Search engines could discover your pages faster,
  • Every content item published on your website or blog would have a unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks this is really easy to do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

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 web address that people and search engines will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to content items on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your site permanent, hence a permalink.

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be further enhanced using excellent SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special significance to the structure of a site’s URLs when indexing its pages.

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOWordPress uses the above link structure with a string query to locate information within its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although Google is still indexing the above sites, they are potentially missing out on additional 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 offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can go from this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display your posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish automatically get better indexing results in search engines like Google.

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress administration area and select Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Set Up Your 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 one set by default.

Common Settings

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 search engine-friendly URLs

(Change 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 permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what the page is about

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

How To Add SEO-Friendly Tags In Custom Structure

“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-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. ‘2013’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘11’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘22’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘30’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘53’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘2069’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all characters converted to lower case and removed punctuation symbols) 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 sanitized 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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you need to configure custom permalinks for your tag and category URLs you can do this in this section.

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


For example, changing your category base to “topics” would make your category links display as ‘’.

So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Remember to save any changes when finished …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With 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 Info

Set Up Categories

To get more SEO 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 expert and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind 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. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), 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 copy or share and reduce the SEO benefit.
  • 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 using category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news website or blog or there is a special reason why you need to create dated website URLs, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink settings for your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your content)

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 The Permalink Structure In Site With Indexed Posts

Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.


If your website or blog 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 really necessary, as making changes to permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while can create SEO issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some site owners (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to improve your SEO. Maybe your site was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is perceived as being out-of-date and you want to delete the date portion in the permalinks.

The best way to change your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links set up using the previous URL structure to post URLs using the new permalinks structure.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors when clicking on an old link.

To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can site using a WP 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 any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

WP plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up a 301 redirection system using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation below:


"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum