Wouldn’t it be great if you could just publish a new post on your WordPress website or blog, and the following took place … all from your post URL:
- Potential site visitors could quickly understand what your content was about,
- Search engines would be able to find your pages faster,
- Every content item published on your website would have a unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress permalinks you can!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that other people will 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?
As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can use that will help to enhance its SEO aspect further.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.
Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks are also used to improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s take a look at why it’s best to use permalinks 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 …
WordPress uses the link structure with a string query shown above to locate information within its database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.
As you can see from the image below taken directly from Google search results, many WordPress users are still using out of the box settings when publishing content online …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the best possible SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you will want to make sure to 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 gives you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something like this …
In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you add get better indexing results in Google.
Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WordPress dashboard and click on 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 “pretty” permalinks instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by default.
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)
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 and search engines understand what the post is about)
How To Add Search Engine-Friendly Tags In WordPress
“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year of the post, four digits (e.g. ‘2010’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘03’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘18’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘01’)
- %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘27’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘02’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘2551’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the 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 lower case characters and punctuation symbols deleted) 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 choosing the ‘Custom Structure’ setting and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to configure custom structures for your tag and category archive page URLs you can do this in this section.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category of your URLs using the following structure:
For example, using “recipes” as your category base will make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/uncategorized/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from this …
To something like this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save any changes when 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 – Additional Information
Set Up Your Categories
To get the best 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 points to consider if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:
- If your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. Use a permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. Your post URLs should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide more information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Don’t Use Date Permalinks
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you run a news site or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your post URLs, avoid using date-based permalink options for your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures 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 the answers they are searching for.
What About Established Blogs?
Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website or blog is already established 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 doing so could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.
Use 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your site was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is showing as being old and you want to remove the date portion of your permalinks.
The best way to change your permalinks without affecting your site’s SEO or rankings in a negative way is to use ‘301 redirects’ to point links using the previous permalink structure to links that use the new permalinks syntax.
Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has been permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors if following an old link.
To effectively change your syntax and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to install and set up 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 any problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up link redirections using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)
Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation below:
"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)