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 publish new content on your site, and the following took place … just from your page URL:

  • Visitors could understand what your page is about,
  • Google would find your pages faster,
  • Every single post created on your website would have its own unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Is A Permalink?

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that others will use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to articles on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.

Why Use Permalinks?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications you can use when it comes to SEO.

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

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing its content.

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

Now … let’s turn our attention to why you should set up permalinks in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLsWordPress 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 search engine optimization.

As you can see from the image below taken from Google search results, many site owners haven’t yet set up their sites to publish search optimized content …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get the maximum SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, 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 characters.

WordPress allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default URL structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing in search engines.

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin click on, Settings > Permalinks

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Setting Up 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we 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 SEO-friendly URLs …

Change your permalink settings to create SEO-friendly URLs

(Change 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/travel-europe/romantic-european-river-cruises

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=5960

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

(Using post name permalinks helps readers understand what the post is about)

Creating SEO-Friendly Tags

“Pretty” URLs, or search engine-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 your post gets published (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘14’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘17’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘49’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘1641’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized 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 letters converted to lower case and no punctuation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the URL 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 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

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

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

For example, using “recipes” as your category base would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/category_name/’.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save your changes after you have finished …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 Short, Descriptive Categories

To get more SEO benefit from using Permalinks, you will need 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 some 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. 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 and reduce the SEO benefit.
  • Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? 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 category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose a 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 detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news or time-specific information, or there is a special reason why you need to create dated website addresses, avoid using date-based permalink syntax when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts

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

Although setting up permalinks that date your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, visitors are less likely to click on a post that is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

Changing The Permalink Structure In Site With Many Published Posts

Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Disclaimer

If your site has been running for a while or your site already has many posts indexed in the search engines and you would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is something that absolutely needs doing, as changing permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while can create issues and loss of traffic.

Use 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some website owners (or their web developers) are completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your site was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is showing as being old and you want to delete the date tags in the permalinks.

The best way to edit your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links set up using the previous permalinks syntax to page URLs that use the new structure.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new web page destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors when clicking on an old link.

To create an effective syntax change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to add your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

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

Simple 301 Redirects - WP redirection plugin

(Set up link redirections using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)

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

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"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