Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new page on your WordPress website, the following could take place … all from your post URL:
- Visitors could quickly determine what the page is about,
- Google could easily find your pages and correctly index their content to improve your search rankings,
- Each post published on your website would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.
Well, this is what permalinks let you do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
What Is A Permalink?
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that other people use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to your posts. Some people refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?
Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be further improved with excellent SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you should not ignore the importance of its URLs. Google places considerable weight on the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks are used to make the 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 take a look at why it’s best to configure your permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
WordPress uses the link structure shown above to locate information within your database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.
As you can see from the screenshot image below, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get greater SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s rankings, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.
WordPress allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish automatically get better indexing in search engines.
Changing Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard select, Settings > Permalinks …
This will bring you to 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.
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 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 post name permalinks helps search engines and visitors understand what your post is about)
Creating SEO-Friendly Tags In Custom Structure
“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, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘03’)
- %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘30’)
- %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘06’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘52’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘32’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘7391’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if your post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all lower case letters and exclamation marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can edit this text 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 adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
This section lets you set up custom structures for your category and tag archive page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following structure:
For example, using “recipes” as your category base would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/uncategorized/’.
So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from this …
To something like this …
If you leave these fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save any changes when 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
Use Descriptive Categories
To get greater benefit from using Permalinks, remember 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If your domain is short and your category name 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.
- 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 using category vs no category there is no perfect permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another article.
Avoid Setting Up Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Content
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your goal is to run a news blog or you have any special reason to date your content, avoid selecting date-based permalink options when configuring your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using permalinks that date your posts)
Although using permalinks that date your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, people 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.
What If My Site Has Content?
Normally, it’s best to configure your site’s permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your website or blog is already established 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 making changes to permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while can create SEO issues and errors.
Use 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) are completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. 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 delete the date portion in the permalinks.
To edit your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO in a negative way you will need to use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links set up using the old permalink syntax to web URLs using the new permalink syntax.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors when clicking on an old link.
To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should set up your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your do this using a plugin 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 301 redirects using plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:
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