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 you could just publish a new post on your website or blog, and the following took place … just from your URL:

  • Users could quickly glean what your page was about,
  • Search engines would be able to discover your pages faster,
  • Each content item added to your site would have its own unique ID, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks this is really easy to do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual WordPress 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 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 website permanent, hence a permalink.

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

As you are probably aware, 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 its SEO aspect can be easily enhanced using excellent SEO plugins.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot 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 are used to make the links on your site into “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.

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

Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly link-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …

How To Set Up WordPress PermalinksThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find data inside its database. It does not mean anything to either search engines or visitors, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress users haven’t set up their permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get optimal SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to configure your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-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 posts, so your pages can easily go from this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. This tutorial explains how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts with search engine-friendly URLs.

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard area click on, Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Changing 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.

Common Settings – Permalinks

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

Change your permalink settings to create search engine-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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/cruise-travel/romantic-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=160

Using permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what the post is about

(Using permalinks helps search engines and visitors understand what the page is about)

Creating SEO-Friendly Tags In WordPress

“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, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %day% – The day the post is published (e.g. ‘14’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘34’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘41’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘4741’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if your post title is ”The Five Don’ts Of DIY Home Repair!”, the postname tag will convert this into “the-five-donts-of-diy-home-repair” (all lower case characters and no exclamation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the URL 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Or, use one of the following structures:

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Useful 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Remember to save any changes after you are done …

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 – Additional Notes

Categories

To get the best SEO benefit from using Permalinks, you will need 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 points to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:

  • If your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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 copy and decrease 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 ideal permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. Many SEO experts recommend making your web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another article.

Make Your Posts Timeless

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news or time-specific information, or there is a special reason why you need to date your content, avoid selecting date-based permalink options when configuring your blog’s URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts

(Avoid using URL structures that date your content)

Although using permalinks that date your content is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, 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.

Changing Permalinks In Blog With Published Posts

Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Disclaimer

If your website is already established or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really something that needs to be done, as doing so could create issues and errors.

Add 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks 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 web address and now all of your posts are showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to delete the date portion in the permalinks.

To change your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO you will need to add ‘301 redirects’ to point all links that use the previous permalinks structure to web addresses that use the new permalink structure.

A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into page errors if they click on an old link.

To create an effective permalink structure 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 WordPress site or blog using a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or use the services of a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.

WP redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up link redirections using plugins or use the services of a professional)

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. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"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