Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a new page to your WordPress website or blog, and the following would then take place … all from your URL:
- Potential visitors to your site could gain an understanding of what your post is about,
- Search engines would easily find your post and correctly index the content for better search rankings,
- Every single post created on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that others will use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to your posts. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Do You Need To Use Them?
Hopefully, by now you are probably aware that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be considerably finetuned using excellent SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the structure of URLs when indexing site pages.
Permalinks can be used to make the 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 configure your permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a URL-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the above link structure with a string query to find data inside your database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot image below shows, many WordPress users have not yet set up their permalinks …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, these site owners are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get more SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, 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 numbers and symbols.
WordPress offers you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can go from this …
To something like this …
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very search engine-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.
Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WordPress admin and select 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.
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)
If you use the custom permalink structure shown in the example above, your URL would look something like this:
Instead of this …
(Using post name permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what the page is about)
How To Create Pretty WordPress URLs
“Pretty” permalinks, or search engine-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘04’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘21’)
- %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘18’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘19’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘21’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8221’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if the 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 exclamation marks deleted) 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 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 choosing ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
Here you can set up custom structures for your category and tag page URLs.
You can change the ‘base’ tag or category for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “topics” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/topics/uncategorized/’.
So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save any 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 – Tips
Set Up Categories
To get the optimal benefit from 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 Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure or not:
- 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 categories 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 decrease the SEO benefit.
- Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you are going 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 ”better” permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Create Timeless Posts
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news, or you have a special reason to create dated website URLs, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink options when setting up your URLs.
(Avoid using permalinks that date your content)
Visitors are less likely to click on a post that is several years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
Changing Permalinks In Site With Published Content
Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your site has been running for a while or your site already has a lot of content 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 been up and running for a while can create issues and loss of traffic.
Use 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your website or blog was originally set up 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 portion in the permalinks.
To modify your permalinks without affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you will need to add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links that were set up using the old permalinks structure to web addresses that use the new structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved to another location. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if clicking on an old link.
To create an effective permalink structure change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should install and set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site 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.
(Set up link redirections using a WP 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 results. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:
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