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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just publish content on your website or blog, and the following took place … just from your web address:

  • Visitors could glean what the content was about,
  • Search engines could find your pages faster,
  • Each piece of content added to your website or blog would have its own unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks this is really easy to 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 URL that visitors and search engines use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to articles on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

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

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily enhanced using SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s review the reason why it’s best to configure your permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOThe above link structure is used by WordPress to locate information inside its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the screenshot below taken directly from Google search results, many site owners are still using out of the box permalink settings when publishing their content …

How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

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

To get greater SEO benefit from using 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 allows you 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 …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you add to your site get better indexing results in Google.

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin select, Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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 a “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the 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 …

Configure your permalink settings to create SEO-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/travel-europe/cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=199

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

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

Creating Pretty WordPress URLs

“Pretty” URLs, 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. ‘2010’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘02’)
  • %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘31’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘20’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘10’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘37’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘8598’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if your post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all lower case letters and no exclamation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this wording 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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This section lets you set up custom structures for your category and tag archive page URLs.

You can change the ‘base’ tag or category 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” would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/news/category_name/’.

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

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Remember to save your changes when you have finished …

Configuring Your WordPress 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

Categories

To get 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 a few points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:

  • If your category slug 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 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 we recommend not using 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 really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Many SEO experts recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other articles.

Avoid Using Time-Specific Permalink Syntax

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your URLs, avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts

(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)

Although setting up permalinks that date your posts 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 Site Has Lots Of Indexed Content?

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. 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 really necessary, as changing permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while could create issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some website owners (or their web developers) seem to be unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your SEO. Perhaps your website or blog was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date tags of the URLs.

To modify your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings you will need to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links that were set up using the old permalinks structure to web URLs that use the new syntax.

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

To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should add your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can site using a WP redirection plugin 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 - WP redirection plugin

(Set up a 301 redirection system for your changed URLs using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to change your permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

***

"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