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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a new page to your site, and the following took place … just from your URL:

  • Users could easily tell what the post is about,
  • Search engines would discover your posts faster,
  • Every piece of content published on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what permalinks let you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that people and search engines will use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a particular post on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do We Need To Use Them?

Hopefully, you are probably aware by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that will help to finetune its SEO aspect considerably.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s take a look at the reason why you should use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

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

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

As you can see from the screenshot image below, many WordPress users have not configured their sites to use permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although Google is still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get greater SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

From your WP administration menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

This will bring you to the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With 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 search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by default.

Common Permalink Settings

In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create search engine-friendly URLs …

Change your permalink settings to create search engine-friendly URLs

(Configure 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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/cruise-travel/river-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=8679

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

(Using post name permalinks helps readers understand what your content is about)

How To Create Pretty WordPress URLs

“Pretty” URLs, or search engine-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. ‘2018’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘03’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘16’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post is published (e.g. ‘18’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘31’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘3468’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized 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 letters converted to lower case and removed exclamation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the URL text 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 …

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Practical 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 …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you need to configure custom permalinks for your tag and category pages here is where you would do this.

You can change the ‘base’ category or tag of your URLs using the following structure:

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

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

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the fields blank the defaults will be used.

Remember to save your changes after you have finished …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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

Use Descriptive Categories

To get the optimal benefit out of using Permalinks, you will need 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 keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), 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 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 using category vs no category there is no ideal permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure that 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 cover WordPress categories in another article.

Avoid Setting Up URL Syntaxes That Time-Stamp Your Content

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news blog or there is a special reason why you need to create dated post URLs, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink settings when configuring your blog’s URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your content

(Avoid using permalinks that date your content)

Visitors are less likely to click on a post if it is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What If My Blog Already Has Content?

Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Important Info

If your website or blog has been running for a while 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 making changes to permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while can create issues and errors.

Add 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) seem to be unaware of the permalinks 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. Perhaps your website or blog was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date portion in your permalinks.

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

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid running into ‘404’ (Page not found) errors when they click on an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should install and set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can site or blog using WordPress 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.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress plugin

(Set up URL redirections using a WP plugin or get professional assistance)

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. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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