Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply add content to your website, and the following happened … just from your page address:
- Potential visitors could quickly assess what the post is about,
- Google could find your pages faster,
- Every post published on your website or blog would have a unique ID, 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 group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that people and search engines use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to content items on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?
Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that can help to enhance its SEO aspect.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of its URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the URL structure of a site.
Permalinks can be used to make the 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 the reason why it’s best to set up permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the link structure shown above to locate information within its database. It does not help your site with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress site owners haven’t yet set up their permalinks …
Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, these site owners are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the most SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.
WordPress offers you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something like this …
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This tutorial explains how to configure your WP permalinks to help your content rank better in Google.
How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin area 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 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 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:
Instead of this …
(Using permalinks helps readers understand what the content is about)
“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, four digits (e.g. ‘2018’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘02’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘28’)
- %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘06’)
- %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘08’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘44’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘4865’)
- %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”The Five Don’ts Of DIY Home Repair!”, the postname tag will convert this into “the-five-donts-of-diy-home-repair” (all characters converted to lower case and punctuation marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the URL wording 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 ‘Custom Structure’ and adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
If you need to configure custom structures for your category and tag archive pages you can do this in this section.
You can change the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “recipes” as your category base will make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/category_name/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …
To this …
If you leave the fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save any changes after you are 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 greatest SEO 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 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 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 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to using category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Your post URLs should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Avoid Setting Up URL Syntaxes That Date Your Content
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news website or blog or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your post URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink options when setting up your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures 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 what they are searching for.
What If My Site Already Has Published Posts?
Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.
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 want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really something that needs doing, as doing so could create issues and loss of traffic.
Use 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started out, 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 posts are showing as being two or three years old and you want to delete the date tags in the URLs.
To change your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings you will need to use ‘301 redirects’ to point links that were set up using the old URL syntax to destinations using the new structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors when following an old link.
To effectively change your syntax and avoid damaging your search rankings, 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 plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up 301 redirections using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:
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