Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new post on your WordPress website, the following took place … just from your web address:
- Site visitors could gain an understanding of what your content was about,
- Google would be able to easily discover your page and correctly classify the content to improve your search results,
- Every piece of content you create on your site would have a unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this is very easy to do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
A permalink is the permanent URL to an individual WordPress 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 an email pointing to content items on your website. Some people also refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are 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 cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing site pages.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also 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.
Normally, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL structure for your posts that looks like this …
The above link structure is used by WordPress to locate data within its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot below taken from Google search listings, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content online …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are missing out on extra 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 configure 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 something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display posts using SEO-friendly URLs.
How To Configure WordPress Permalinks
In your WP administration menu, select 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.
Permalinks - Common Settings
In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create SEO-friendly URLs …
(Configure 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 understand what the post is about)
Creating Permalink Tags In Custom Structure
“Pretty” permalinks, 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. ‘2013’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘02’)
- %day% – The day your post is published (e.g. ‘24’)
- %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘07’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘33’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘50’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘9180’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all characters converted to lower case and removed exclamation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in the ‘Custom Structure’ option.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
If you need to set up custom structures for your tag and category URLs you can do this in this section.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “recipes” would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/category_name/’.
So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave these 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 – Tips
Set Up Your Categories
To get the greatest SEO 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:
- 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 decrease 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Use a permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. Many SEO experts and webmasters recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Avoid Setting Up URL Structures That Date Your Posts
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news website or blog or you have a special reason to create dated web addresses, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink syntax when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
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.
Changing The Permalink Structure In Blog With Indexed Content
Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website has been running for a while 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 can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.
As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress users (or their web developers) seem to be unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your SEO. Maybe your website or blog was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being out-of-date and you want to remove the date portion in your permalinks.
The best way to modify your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to use ‘301 redirects’ to reassign all links that use the previous permalinks syntax to URLs that use the new permalinks structure.
Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new web page destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors when following an old link.
To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site or blog using plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up link redirections using plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your WordPress site to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation below:
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