Wouldn’t it be great if you could add content to your site, and the following would then take place … just from your URL:
- Users could easily understand what the page is about,
- Search engines would be able to easily discover your pages and correctly classify their content to improve your search results,
- Every piece of content on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual 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 emails pointing readers to your posts. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Permalinks – Why Do You Need To Use Them?
Hopefully, by now you are probably aware that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications 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 SEO plugins you can install that can easily help to improve its SEO aspect.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks can be used to make the links on your site into “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review the reason why you may need to set up permalinks in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
The above link structure is used by WordPress to find data within its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot image from Google search results below shows, many WordPress site owners haven’t configured their permalinks …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get the best possible SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-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 content can go from this …
To this …
By default, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to set up your permalinks in WordPress to display posts with SEO-friendly URLs.
How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WP dashboard menu, select Settings > Permalinks …
This will bring up 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 search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we 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 …
(Configure 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 readers understand what the page is about)
Creating Pretty URL Tags In Custom Structure
“Pretty” permalinks, 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% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘04’)
- %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘29’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘23’)
- %minute% – The minute the post gets published (e.g. ‘54’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘41’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘1131’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”The Five Don’ts Of DIY Home Repair!”, the postname tag will convert this into “the-five-donts-of-diy-home-repair” (all characters converted to lower case and punctuation marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the wording in your post titles 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 …
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 selecting the ‘Custom Structure’ option and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
This section lets you set up custom structures for your tag and category archive pages.
You can change the ‘base’ tag or category of your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “news” as your category base would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/news/category_name/’.
So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To something like this …
If you leave these fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save your changes when 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 Short, Descriptive Categories
To get the optimal 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 things to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If 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 copy or share 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 we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.
Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Avoid Time-Stamping Permalink Syntax
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you run a news site or you have any special reason to date your site’s content, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax when configuring your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that date your posts)
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 Site With Indexed Posts
Normally, it’s best to configure your site’s permalinks when you perform a new WordPress installation. 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 would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really necessary, as changing permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while can create SEO issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your SEO. Maybe your website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are showing as being old and you want to delete the date tags in the permalinks.
The best way to change your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links set up using the previous URL structure to page URLs using the new syntax.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently relocated to another destination. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid running into ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if clicking on an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to add your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can WP site or blog using a 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 issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a link redirection system for your changed URLs using plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, see 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