Wouldn’t it be great if you could just publish content on your website, and the following took place … all from your post address:
- Users could easily determine what your post was about,
- Google could easily discover your posts and correctly index their content to improve your search rankings,
- Every content item on your website would have a unique ID, making your site easier to manage.
Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalink – What Is It?
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 URL that others will use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to your posts. Some people also refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Use Them?
Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can use that can easily help to fine tuned its SEO aspect.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the structure of URLs when indexing its pages.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s take a look at why you should use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly link-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
The above link structure is used by WordPress to locate information within your database. It doesn’t really mean anything to search engines or visitors, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot image below, many WordPress site owners are still using out of the box permalink settings when publishing their content online …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the greatest SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s rankings, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.
WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something like this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display your posts using SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default URL structure and help every new post you publish on your site or blog automatically get better indexing results in search engines like Google.
Changing WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress administration menu, click on Settings > Permalinks …
This brings up 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 “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
Permalinks > Common Settings
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 search engine-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 your post is about)
Search Engine-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. ‘2018’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘10’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘31’)
- %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘17’)
- %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘30’)
- %second% – The exact second the post is published (e.g. ‘47’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘5960’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the 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 lower case characters and no exclamation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 …
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 the ‘Custom Structure’ setting.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
This section lets you set up custom structures for your category and tag archive page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category 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 add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To something like this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.
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 SEO 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 expert 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 is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), 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 copy or 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there really is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure you think will suit your site best. SEO experts recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide more information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.
Don’t Use Date Permalinks
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news, or there is a special reason why you need to create dated post addresses, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink syntax for your URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that date your content)
Although using permalinks that date your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, 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.
Changing Permalinks In An Established Site
Normally, your site’s permalinks should be configured when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.
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 absolutely something that needs doing, as changing permalinks after your site has already been going for a while could create issues and errors.
Add 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some site owners (or whoever set up their site) are unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your site was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being out-of-date and you want to delete the date portion of the URLs.
To edit your URL structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO you should add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links set up using the previous permalinks syntax to post URLs using the new syntax.
A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors when clicking on an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to add 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 use the services of a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a 301 redirection system for your changed URLs using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your blog to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation below:
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