Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new post on your website or blog, the following could take place … all from your post address:
- Readers could assess what the content was about,
- Google would be able to find your pages faster,
- Every single content item added to your website would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.
Well, this is what a permalink lets you do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalink – What Is It?
A permalink is the permanent URL to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the web address that others use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to articles on your site. Some people also refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your blog permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you are probably aware, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that can easily help to enhance its SEO aspect.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks are also used to improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review the reason why it’s best to configure your permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly link-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find data within its database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot below taken from Google search results, many site owners haven’t configured their permalinks …
Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, they are missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get maximum SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s rankings, 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 content can go from this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you add get better indexing results in search engines.
How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard 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 search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we will 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 SEO-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 visitors and search engines understand what the post is about)
Creating Pretty URL 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 of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2011’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘04’)
- %day% – The day your post is published (e.g. ‘05’)
- %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘04’)
- %minute% – The minute your post gets published (e.g. ‘26’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘38’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘4082’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”Ten Signs That You’re About To Get Fired From Your Job!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-signs-that-youre-about-to-get-fired-from-your-job” (all lower case characters and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the URL text 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 sanitized 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 ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
Here you can set custom structures for your category and tag URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following structure:
For example, changing your category base to “news” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/news/uncategorized/’.
So, if you add the following to 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 WordPress uses the default settings.
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 – Additional Info
Use Descriptive Categories
To get the greatest benefit from using Permalinks, it’s important 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 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 name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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.
- 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there is no perfect permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another article.
Avoid Setting Up URL Structures That Date Your Posts
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or there is a special reason why you need to create dated web URLs, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink options when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures 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 An Established Site
Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your website is already established 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 absolutely something that needs to be done, as doing so can create issues and loss of traffic.
Add 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many site owners (or whoever set up their site) are unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your SEO. Maybe your website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being out-of-date and you want to delete the date portion of the URLs.
To edit your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings you should add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links that use the old permalinks structure to post URLs that use the new syntax.
A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines 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 ”page not found” errors if clicking on an old link.
To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to install and set up a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your do this using WP plugins 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 link redirections using 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 and improve your search results. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum