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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding new content to your WordPress website or blog, the following happened … all from your post address:

  • Potential visitors to your site could easily glean what the page was about,
  • Google could find your pages faster,
  • Every post added to your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What’s A Permalink?

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 others will use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to articles on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.

Permalinks – Why Do We Need To Use Them?

As you are probably aware, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use 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 finetuned with excellent SEO plugins.

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

Permalinks are 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 turn our attention to the reason why it’s best to configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

How To Configure Your WordPress PermalinksThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find information within your database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As the screenshot image taken directly from Google search listings below shows, many WordPress site owners are still using out of the box settings when publishing content …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

To get optimal SEO benefit from 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 lets you create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can go from this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

By default, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to set up your WP permalinks to help your content rank better in search engines like Google.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard click on, Settings > Permalinks

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Setting Up Your WordPress 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 search engine friendly URLs instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.

Common Settings

In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create search engine-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:

Instead of this …

Using permalinks helps readers understand what your content is about

(Using permalinks helps readers understand what your content is about)

Creating Permalink 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 the post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2015’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘24’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘60’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘25’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘9008’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all characters converted to lower case and removed punctuation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the words in your post titles 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 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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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 Permalinks

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you need to set up custom permalinks for your category and tag archive page URLs you can do this in this section.

This changes the ‘base’ tag or category for your URLs using the following structure:


For example, changing your category base to “travel” will display your category links as ‘’.

So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

To something like this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save any changes when finished …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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


To get maximum SEO benefit from 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 expert and author of the WordPress SEO plugin 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 is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), 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.

Despite being the subject of intense debate in WordPress SEO circles, when it comes to adding category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another article.

Avoid Using Permalinks That Date Your Content

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website is a news blog or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your post URLs, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink settings when setting up your blog’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts)

Although using permalinks that time-stamp your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, 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 Site Already Has Lots Of Content?

Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you perform a new WordPress installation. 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 something that absolutely needs doing, as doing so can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Use 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are 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. Perhaps your website or blog 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 remove the date portion in the URLs.

The best way to modify your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings is to use ‘301 redirections’ to point links set up using the old permalinks structure to links using the new structure.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors when they click on an old link.

To create an effective permalink structure change and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to add a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can WordPress site or blog using 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.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress plugin

(Set up 301 redirections using a WP plugin or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex below:


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