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 SEO-Friendly URLs

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new post on your website or blog, the following could take place … all from your post address:

  • Potential site visitors could easily glean what your page was about,
  • Google would be able to find your pages faster,
  • Every single piece of content created on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks you can!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – What Are They?

A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that other people will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to content items on your blog. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do We Need To Use Them?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.

WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be further fine tuned using excellent SEO plugins.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Google tends to give special consideration to the URL structure of your site.

Permalinks can be used to make the links on your site into “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 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 …

Setting Up Your WordPress PermalinksWordPress uses the link structure shown above to find data within your database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress site owners haven’t yet set up their sites to publish search optimized content …

How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get greater SEO benefit out of using 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 the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can easily go from this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display your posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you add get better indexing results in Google.

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress dashboard area and click on Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Changing Your WordPress 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 “pretty” permalink 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 …

Set up your permalink settings to create search engine-friendly URLs

(Configure 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/travel-europe/how-to-save-money-on-cruise-travel

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=3845

Using post name permalinks helps visitors understand what your page is about

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

SEO-Friendly 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. ‘2017’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘24’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘20’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘42’)
  • %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘02’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘9180’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the 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 letters converted to lower case and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 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 Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Changing WordPress Permalinks

This section lets you configure custom structures for your category and tag page URLs.

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

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

For example, changing your category base to “travel” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/category_name/’.

So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save your changes when finished …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Use Descriptive Categories

To get greater benefit from 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 and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your category slug 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 or share and decrease 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 category vs no category there is no ideal permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure 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 other tutorials.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your goal is to run a news website or there is a special reason why you need to create dated website addresses, avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that time-stamp your content

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your content)

Although using URL structures that time-stamp your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, 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.

Changing Your Permalink Structure In An Established Blog

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.

Note

If your website or blog is already established or your site already has a lot of content 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 up and running for a while could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Use 301 Redirects

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

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your site was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being out-of-date and you want to remove the date tags in your permalinks.

To modify your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings you will need to add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links set up using the previous permalink syntax to URLs using the new permalink structure.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has been permanently moved elsewhere. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if 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 your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your site using plugins 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 any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress redirection plugin

(Set up 301 redirections using a WordPress plugin or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your WordPress site or blog permalinks to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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