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 …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new post to your WordPress website, the following could happen … just from your web address:

  • Readers could easily glean what the content was about,
  • Search engines could easily discover your page and correctly index its content to improve your search results,
  • Every single piece of content added to your site would have its own unique ID, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with 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 group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that people and search engines will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to posts on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do You Need To Use Them?

As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be further fine tuned with excellent SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing its site pages.

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

Now … let’s turn our attention to the reason why it’s best to configure your permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOThe above link structure is used by WordPress to locate data inside its database. It doesn’t really help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As the screenshot taken directly from Google search listings below shows, many site owners haven’t set up their sites to use WordPress permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

To get the maximum SEO benefit out of using 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 offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can easily go from this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To this …

How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

By default, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. This tutorial shows you how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to help your content rank better in search engines like Google.

How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress admin and select Settings > Permalinks

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

This will bring you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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 “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by 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 …

Set up 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-tips/best-value-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=9347

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

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

Search Engine-Friendly Tags

“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-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. ‘2016’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %day% – The day the post is published (e.g. ‘30’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post gets published (e.g. ‘16’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘37’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘1983’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of the 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 removed exclamation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the wording in your post title 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 …

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

In this section, you can configure custom structures for your tag and category pages.

You can change the ‘base’ category or tag URLs using the following structure:

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

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

So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

If you leave these fields blank the defaults will be used.

Remember to save your changes when you are done …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

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 Notes

Use Descriptive Categories

To get more benefit out of 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 you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your domain is short and 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 or copy and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • 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 category vs no category there 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 site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another article.

Avoid Setting Up Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Posts

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news, or you have any special reason to add dates to your post URLs, avoid using date-based permalink syntax for your site’s URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your content

(Avoid using URL structures that date your content)

Although setting up permalinks that date your posts may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, people 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.

What If My Blog Has Indexed Posts?

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

Note

If your website or blog is already established or your site already has many posts 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 been running for a while can create SEO issues and errors.

301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some site owners (or whoever set up their site) are 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 website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is showing as being two or three years old and you want to delete the date portion in the URLs.

To modify your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO in a negative way you will need to use ‘301 redirections’ to point links using the old URL structure to web addresses that use the new structure.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirects are 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 create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to set up a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your site 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 problems and troubleshoot any errors.

WordPress plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up 301 redirections using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know how to change your WordPress site or blog permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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