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 …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing content on your site, the following could take place … all from your page URL:

  • Site visitors could easily gain an understanding of what your post is about,
  • Google could find your posts faster,
  • Every content item created on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making your content easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks you can!

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 group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that other people will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to content items on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your site permanent, hence a permalink.

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily fine tuned with excellent SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special significance to the URL structure of your site.

Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into memorable 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 why you should configure your 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 …

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

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

To get the best possible SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s rankings, 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 offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

By default, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your permalinks in WordPress to help your content rank better in Google.

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

From your WordPress main menu, select Settings > Permalinks

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

This brings up the Permalink Settings screen …

Setting Up 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 “pretty” permalinks 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 search engine-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:

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

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=4024

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

(Using permalinks helps visitors understand what your post is about)

WordPress Permalink Tags

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

  • %year% – The year of the post, four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘04’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘30’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘54’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘12’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘6953’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if the 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 punctuation symbols removed) 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 With Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Configuring 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 selecting ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

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

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Remember to save any changes when done …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 the greatest benefit from 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:

  • If your category slug 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.
  • 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 category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. Your post URLs should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Create Timeless Posts

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or blog or there is a special reason why you need to date your content, avoid using date-based permalink syntax for your blog’s URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your content)

Although setting up URL structures that date your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, people are less likely to click on a post that is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.

Changing Your Permalink Structure In An Established Blog

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

Useful Info

If your site is already established 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 could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Add 301 Redirection

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

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your site 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 tags of your URLs.

The best way to change your permalink structure without impacting your site’s SEO in a negative way is to add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links set up using the previous permalink structure to web addresses using the new permalinks syntax.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if clicking on an old link.

To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to configure a 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 get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.

WP redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up 301 redirections using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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