Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish a new page on your website or blog, and the following happened … all from your page URL:
- Site readers could easily understand what your content was about,
- Google could find your posts faster,
- Every single post on your website would have its own unique ID, making things easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress 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 web address that other people use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to articles on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily enhanced using excellent SEO plugins.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of your URLs. Google tends to give special significance to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing site pages.
Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review why it’s best to set up permalinks in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
WordPress uses the link structure with a string query shown above to locate information within your database. It does not help your site with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot image below, many site owners have not configured their sites to publish search optimized content …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the greatest SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s rankings, you should configure 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 go from this …
To this …
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WP permalinks to display posts using SEO-friendly URLs.
How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard click on, 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 default one.
Common Permalink Settings
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)
If you use the custom permalink structure shown in the example above, your URL would look something like this:
Instead of this …
(Using post name permalinks helps visitors understand what the content is about)
Creating Pretty WordPress URLs
“Pretty” URLs, or search engine-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year the post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘03’)
- %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘04’)
- %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
- %minute% – The minute your post gets published (e.g. ‘37’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘10’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘4042’)
- %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 letters converted to lower case and no exclamation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the words in your post titles 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 …
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’ setting.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
This section lets you configure custom structures for your category and tag archive pages.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “recipes” will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/uncategorized/’.
So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave the fields blank the defaults will be used.
Remember to save any 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 – Tips
Use Short, Descriptive Categories
To get the best SEO benefit out of 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 some points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If 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 or copy 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 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 really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. SEO experts recommend making your web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide more information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Avoid Using URL Syntaxes That Time-Stamp Your Posts
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news or time-specific information, or you have a special reason to add dates to your post URLs, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink syntax when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that date your posts)
Although setting up URL structures that date your posts may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, 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.
Changing Permalinks In Blog With Published Posts
Normally, it’s best to set up your site’s permalinks when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your website or blog has been running for a while 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 doing so could create issues and loss of traffic.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your website was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are perceived as being out-of-date and you want to remove the date tags in your URLs.
To change your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO or rankings in a negative way you should add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links that use the old permalinks syntax to post URLs using the new permalinks structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently relocated to another destination. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid page errors when following an old link.
To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site using redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or use the services of a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up URL redirections using plugins or get professional help)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:
"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