Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply add new content to your WordPress site, and the following would then take place … all from your post URL:
- Site readers could glean what your post is about,
- Search engines would be able to easily find your page and correctly index the content for better search results,
- Every single content item created on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making your content easier to manage.
Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you 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 group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the web address that other people will use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a particular post on your blog. 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 Do I Need To 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 the SEO aspect can be easily improved using 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 URLs when indexing its site pages.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks are also used to improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s turn our attention to why you should use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate information within your database. It doesn’t really help your website with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the image below, many WordPress site owners are still using default permalink settings when publishing their content online …
Although Google is still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get greater SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-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 pages can go from this …
To this …
In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish on your site or blog automatically get better indexing results in search engines.
Changing WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin click on, 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 search engine friendly URLs instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
Common Settings – Permalinks
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 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 visitors and search engines understand what your post is about)
Adding Pretty URL 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 of the post, four digits (e.g. ‘2017’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘10’)
- %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘07’)
- %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘05’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘09’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘25’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘7036’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”Ten Signs That You’re About To Get Fired From Your Job!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-signs-that-youre-about-to-get-fired-from-your-job” (all letters converted to lower case and no exclamation 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 correctly formatted 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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in ‘Custom Structure’.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to configure custom structures for your category and tag archive page URLs you can do this in this section.
You can change the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “recipes” 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 …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave these fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save your 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 the maximum benefit out of 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 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 permalinks or not:
- If your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to use the category tag 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 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 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 provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.
Avoid Using Time-Stamping URLs
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you run a news site or there is a special reason why you need to create dated web URLs, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalinks when setting up your URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
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 Already Has Lots Of Indexed Posts?
Normally, it’s best to set up your 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 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 issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, many WordPress users (or their web developers) are unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your site was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is perceived as being outdated and you want to delete the date tags of your URLs.
To modify your permalink structure without affecting your site’s SEO or rankings in a negative way you will need to add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links set up using the previous permalinks syntax to URLs using the new permalink structure.
A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 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 when they click on an old link.
To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to install and set up your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site using plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up URL redirections using redirection plugins 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. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:
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