Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new page to your website, the following could take place … all from your URL:
- New visitors could determine what the post was about,
- Google could discover your pages faster,
- Every single content item published on your site would have its own unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks you can!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
A permalink is the permanent URL to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the web address that visitors and search engines will use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a specific post on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Do You Need To Use Them?
As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily enhanced with SEO plugins.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing site pages.
Permalinks are used to make the links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s see the reason why it’s best to set up permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a URL-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the link with a string query shown above to find data within its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.
As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their permalinks …
Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get optimal SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s rankings, 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 characters.
WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can easily go from this …
To something like this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display your posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish on your site automatically get better indexing in search engines like Google.
Configuring WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WordPress dashboard 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 “pretty” permalinks instead for our posts. To do this, we will 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 permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what the page is about)
Creating SEO-Friendly Tags
“Pretty” permalinks, 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. ‘2011’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘12’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘22’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘10’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘30’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘11’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘204’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if your 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 symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the words in your post title 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 …
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 the ‘Custom Structure’ option and using the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to configure custom structures for your tag and category page URLs here is where you would do this.
You can change the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, changing your category base to “travel” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/category_name/’.
So, if you enter the following 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 the fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save your changes after you have finished …
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 greater benefit out of using Permalinks, remember to set up your WordPress Categories correctly. If you do not have any categories set up, WordPress will use the default category (uncategorized).
According to WordPress SEO plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some points to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:
- If your domain is short and your category is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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 or copy and decrease 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 really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. SEO experts recommend making your web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide more information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.
Avoid Using Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Posts
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you run a news blog or you have a special reason to create dated web addresses, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)
Visitors are less likely to click on posts that are a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
What If My Blog Has Lots Of Content?
Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you perform a new WordPress installation. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website has been running for a while 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 absolutely something that needs doing, as making changes to permalinks after your site has already been running for a while could create SEO issues and errors.
Use 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) are unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is showing as being two or three years old and you want to delete the date portion of your URLs.
To edit your URL structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings you will need to add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links using the previous permalink structure to destinations using the new syntax.
A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently been relocated. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors when clicking on an old link.
To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to install and set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your site 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 problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up link redirections using redirection plugins or get professional help)
Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your WordPress site or blog to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:
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