Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new page to your site, the following took place … all from your post address:
- Users could quickly gain an understanding of what your page was about,
- Search engines would easily discover your posts and correctly index their content for better search results,
- Every single post created on your site would have its own unique ID, making your content easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
What Are Permalinks?
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 web address that other people use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to articles on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your site permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?
As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can use that can easily help to enhance its SEO aspect.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of its URLs. Google tends to give special consideration to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing content.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks are also used to improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s take a look at the reason why it’s best to use permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the above link with a string query to locate data inside your database. It does not help your site with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot image taken directly from Google search listings below shows, many WordPress users haven’t yet set up their sites to use WordPress permalinks …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get maximum SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-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 pages can go from this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WP permalinks to help your content rank better in search engines.
Setting Up WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin menu, click on Settings > Permalinks …
This brings 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
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)
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 readers and search engines understand what the page is about)
Adding Search Engine-Friendly Tags In WordPress
“Pretty” permalinks, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘01’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘21’)
- %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘21’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘16’)
- %second% – The exact second the post is published (e.g. ‘05’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘6557’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all lower case characters and punctuation marks removed) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the wording 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 choosing ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
This section lets you configure custom structures for your category and tag page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “news” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/news/uncategorized/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from this …
To this …
If you leave the fields blank the defaults will be used.
Remember to save your 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 – Additional Notes
Set Up Categories
To get the best benefit out of using Permalinks, it’s important 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 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 copy or share and reduce the SEO benefit.
- If you plan 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 tutorials.
Don’t Use Date Permalinks
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website is a news blog or you have a special reason to create dated website addresses, avoid using date-based permalink syntax for your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
Visitors are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
Changing Permalinks In Blog With Published Posts
Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website 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 really something that needs doing, as doing so could create SEO issues and errors.
Add 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are unaware of the SEO-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 SEO. Maybe your website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date tags of your URLs.
The best way to edit your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to add ‘301 redirects’ to point links using the previous permalink structure to destinations that use the new syntax.
A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into page errors when following an old link.
To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can site or blog using a redirection plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a redirection system for your changed URLs using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:
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