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 …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just add a new page to your website, and the following happened … just from your post URL:

  • Users could easily assess what your post was about,
  • Google would easily discover your page and correctly classify your content for better search results,
  • Every single piece of content published on your website would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what a WordPress permalink lets you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalink – What Is It?

A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that others will use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to content items on your website. 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 Use Them?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that will help to enhance its SEO aspect considerably.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing its content.

Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.

Now … let’s review why you may need to use permalinks in WordPress.

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

Changing WordPress PermalinksThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find information within its database. It doesn’t really mean anything to either visitors or search engines, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the image below taken from Google search results, many WordPress users are still using out of the box permalink settings when publishing content …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, these site owners are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get the maximum SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to 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 and archived posts, so your content can easily go from this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish get better indexing results in search engines.

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

From your WP dashboard menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This brings you to 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 “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by default.

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 search engine-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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/cruise-deals/how-to-save-money-on-cruise-travel

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=651

Using post name permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your content is about

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

How To Use Permalink Tags

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

  • %year% – The year your post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘30’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘23’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘48’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘02’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘5608’)
  • %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 letters converted to lower case and removed punctuation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this 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 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 …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this section, you can set custom structures for your category and tag URLs.

You can change the ‘base’ tag or category for your URLs using the following structure:

  • domain.com/category_base/category_name
  • domain.com/tag_base/tag_name

For example, using “topics” as your category base would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/topics/category_name/’.

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

If you leave these fields blank the defaults will be used.

Remember to save your changes when finished …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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 Descriptive 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 some things to consider if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), you may want to add categories to 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.

Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there 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 site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another article.

Make Your Content Timeless

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news or time-specific information, or you have a special reason to create dated post URLs, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink options when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your content

(Avoid setting up URL structures 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 what they are searching for.

What If My Site Already Has Content?

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Important

If your website is already established or you have a lot of content already 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 running for a while could create issues and errors.

Use 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your website or blog was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being outdated and you want to delete the date portion of the URLs.

To modify your URL structure without impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you should use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links using the old URL syntax to web addresses that use the new permalink structure.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved elsewhere. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid running into page errors when they click on an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to install and set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can WP site using redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress redirection plugin

(Set up a redirection system for your changed permalinks using plugins or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your WordPress site or blog permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"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