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 add new content to your site, and the following would then happen … all from your web address:

  • Potential visitors could quickly tell what your content was about,
  • Search engines could find your posts faster,
  • Every single post you create on your site would have a unique ID, 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 your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that other people use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to content items on your blog. Some people refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.

Why Use Permalinks?

Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.

WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can use that can easily help to enhance its SEO aspect.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing content.

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

Now … let’s see why you should configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOWordPress uses the above link with a string query to find information inside its database. It doesn’t really help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As the screenshot image below shows, many site owners have not set up their sites to use WordPress permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, they are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get the maximum 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 characters.

WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

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

Changing WordPress Permalinks

In your WP dashboard menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.

Permalinks > Common Settings

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

Change your permalink settings 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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/europe-cruises/romantic-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=8506

Using permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your page is about

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

Creating SEO-Friendly Tags

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

  • %year% – The year the post gets published, four digits (e.g. ‘2015’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘02’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘24’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘27’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘37’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8215’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the 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 characters and punctuation symbols deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the words in your post title 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

Practical 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 …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Choosing ‘Post name’ is the same as choosing the ‘Custom Structure’ setting and using the /%postname%/ tag.

Optional Permalink Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

If you need to configure custom structures for your tag and category pages here is where you would do this.

This changes the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:

  • domain.com/category_base/category_name
  • domain.com/tag_base/tag_name

For example, changing your category base to “recipes” will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/category_name/’.

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

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

To this …

How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Remember to save any changes after you have finished …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 most SEO benefit from using Permalinks, remember to set up your WordPress Categories correctly. If you do not have any categories set up, adding a category tag to your permalink forces WordPress to 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 or not to add categories to your permalink structure:

  • If your category slug is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), you may want to use categories 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 and reduce 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 really is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that 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 other articles.

Avoid Setting Up Permalinks That Time-Stamp Your Posts

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

Avoid using URL structures that date your content

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

Visitors are less likely to click on a post if it is several years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.

Changing Permalinks In Site With Published Content

Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Important

If your website 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 making changes to permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while could create issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen earlier, many site owners (or their web developers) seem to be unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your website or blog was originally set up 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 delete the date tags of your URLs.

To change your URL structure without affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you should use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links set up using the previous URL structure to post URLs that use the new structure.

A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently moved to another location. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new website destinations and avoid running into page errors if following an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can WP site or blog using a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.

WordPress redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

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

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"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)