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 …

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing new content on your WordPress website or blog, the following happened … just from your web address:

  • Readers could easily understand what your page was about,
  • Search engines could easily discover your pages and correctly classify their content to improve your search rankings,
  • Every item of content you create on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

A permalink is the permanent URL 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 articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to content items on your blog. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your site permanent, hence a perma-link.

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

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

WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that will help to improve its SEO aspect further.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing its content.

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 see why it’s best to use permalinks in WordPress.

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

Configuring WordPress PermalinksWordPress uses the above link structure with a string query to locate data inside your database. It does not help your website with on-site SEO.

As you can see from the screenshot image below, many site owners haven’t configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get optimal SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you will want to make sure to set up your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you publish automatically get better indexing in search engines like Google.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

From your WordPress main menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

This brings 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 search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.

Common Settings – Permalinks

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 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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/travel-europe/7-best-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=840

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

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

Creating Pretty WordPress URLs

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

  • %year% – The year your post is published, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post gets published (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘13’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘11’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post gets published (e.g. ‘49’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘60’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8055’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of the post title. For example, if the 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 no exclamation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

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

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 make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/news/category_name/’.

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

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save any changes after you are done …

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 – Tips

Set Up Your Categories

To get the best SEO 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 expert and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are a few points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category 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.
  • Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you are going to post content under multiple categories, then we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.

Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in other articles.

Avoid Setting Up URL Structures That Time-Stamp Your Posts

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news site or you have a special reason to add dates to your post URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink settings for your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your posts

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

Although setting up permalinks that date your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, visitors are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What If My Blog Has Published Posts?

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be configured when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Important

If your website or blog is already established 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 absolutely something that needs to be done, as changing permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Use 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely 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 optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your site was configured 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 portion of your URLs.

The best way to change your URL structure without impacting your site’s SEO in a negative way is to use ‘301 redirects’ to point links that use the old permalink syntax to URLs that use the new permalinks structure.

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

To effectively change your permalink syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should add your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can WordPress site or blog using redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP redirection plugin

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

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 official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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