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 add a new post to your WordPress site, and the following took place … just from your post address:

  • Potential site visitors could assess what the content is about,
  • Search engines would discover your pages faster,
  • Every piece of content you create on your website would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Are Permalinks?

A permalink is the permanent URL to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that other people will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to your posts. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.

Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be considerably fine tuned using excellent 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. Google tends to give special significance to 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 see the reason why it’s best to use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …

How To Change WordPress PermalinksThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find information inside its database. It doesn’t really mean anything to visitors or search engines, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot image below shows, many WordPress site owners have not yet configured their sites to use WordPress permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, these site owners 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 search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.

WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This step-by-step tutorial explains how to set up your permalinks in WordPress to help you get better indexing in search engines.

Changing WordPress Permalinks

In your WP administration menu, select Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 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 …

Change 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/river-cruises/river-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=5258

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

(Using permalinks helps search engines and visitors understand what the content is about)

Pretty URL Tags

“Pretty” permalinks, or search engine-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:

  • %year% – The year your post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2016’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘10’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘15’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘59’)
  • %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘7416’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all lower case characters and removed punctuation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the wording in your post title 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Here you can set custom structures for your tag and category archive pages.

This changes the ‘base’ category or tag of your URLs using the following syntax:

  • domain.com/category_base/category_name
  • domain.com/tag_base/tag_name

For example, using “recipes” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/category_name/’.

So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Remember to save any changes after you are done …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With 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 – Additional Information

Categories

To get the best benefit out of using Permalinks, it’s important 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 expert Joost de Valk, here are some things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to add categories 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 copy and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • 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 using category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. Your web addresses should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide more information about WordPress categories in another article.

Avoid Using Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Posts

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news, or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your URLs, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink syntax for your blog’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your posts)

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 Blog With Indexed Content

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be configured when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Warning

If your site 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 something that absolutely needs doing, as doing so can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Add 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or their web developers) are unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your website 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 remove the date tags in the permalinks.

The best way to change your URL structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or rankings is to add ‘301 redirects’ to point links that were set up using the previous permalinks structure to page URLs that use the new permalink syntax.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines 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 running into page errors if they click on an old link.

To create an effective permalink structure change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your do this using WP redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.

WordPress plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up link redirections using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)