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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just publish a new post on your WordPress website or blog, and the following would then take place … just from your post URL:

  • Site readers could quickly assess what your page is about,
  • Google would be able to easily discover your post and correctly index the content for better search rankings,
  • Each piece of content on your site would have its own unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks you can easily do this!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Are Permalinks?

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

A permalink is the URL that others will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to content items on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your site permanent, hence a perma-link.

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

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 right out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that will help to enhance its SEO aspect considerably.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Google tends to give special consideration to the URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s see why it’s best to set up permalinks in WordPress.

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

How To Set Up WordPress PermalinksWordPress uses the link structure with a string query shown above to locate data within its database. It does not help your site with on-site SEO.

As you can see from the screenshot image below taken from Google search listings, many WordPress users have not yet configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

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

To get the greatest SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.

WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display posts using SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you publish on your site get better indexing in search engines.

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by default.

Permalinks > 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

(Configure 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 permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what your page is about

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

WordPress Permalink Tags

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

  • %year% – The year your post is published, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘10’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘15’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘13’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘25’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘48’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘5988’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your 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 letters 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 …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO


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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

If you need to set up custom structures for your category and tag archive page URLs here is where you would do this.

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


For example, using “recipes” as your category base will make your category links display as ‘’.

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you leave the optional settings fields blank the defaults will be used.

Remember to save any changes when you are done …

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 – Tips


To get greater 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 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 the category tag 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 and reduce 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.

Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there really 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 web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Avoid Time-Specific Permalink Syntax

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news, or you have a special reason to add dates to your URLs, avoid selecting date-based permalink options when setting up your URLs.

Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid using permalinks that date your posts)

Although setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, people are less likely to click on a post that is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What If My Blog Has Indexed Content?

Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you perform a new WordPress installation. This should be part of your site planning process.


If your site 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 changing permalinks after your site has already been going for a while could create issues and loss of traffic.

Add 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your website 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 tags of the URLs.

The best way to change your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links that were set up using the old permalinks syntax to links that use the new permalink structure.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has been permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid running into page errors if following an old link.

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

You can WP site or blog using a redirection plugin 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 any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress redirection plugin

(Set up 301 redirects using a WordPress redirection plugin 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 and improve your search search rankings. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation below:


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now