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 after adding new content to your WordPress website or blog, the following could happen … all from your post address:

  • Potential site visitors could gain an understanding of what your post is about,
  • Google could easily find your pages and correctly classify their content for better search results,
  • Each piece of content added to your website would have its own unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks you can!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Is A Permalink?

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

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

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

Why Use Permalinks?

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 right out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that can help to enhance its SEO aspect further.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of its URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s take a look at why you should configure your permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.

By default, a 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 within 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 users haven’t configured their sites to use WordPress permalinks …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get the best possible SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should set up 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 and archived posts, so your content can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you publish automatically get better indexing in search engines.

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress admin and click on Settings > Permalinks

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This will bring you to 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 search engine friendly URLs 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 search engine-friendly URLs …

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

(Change 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/travel-europe/romantic-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=6160

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

(Using permalinks helps visitors understand what the 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 the post gets published, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2015’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post gets published (e.g. ‘40’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘29’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘3940’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if the 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 marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this 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 …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Changing 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Optional Permalink Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

This changes the ‘base’ category or tag for 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 “topics” would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/topics/uncategorized/’.

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

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

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

How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

To something like 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 your changes when 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

Categories

To get maximum benefit out of using Permalinks, remember 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 and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are some points to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:

  • 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.
  • 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 adding category vs no category there really is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that you think will suit your needs 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 great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you run a news site or there is a special reason why you need to date your site’s content, avoid using date-based permalink settings when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts)

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

What If My Site Has Lots Of Indexed Posts?

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

Important

If your website 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 necessary, as making changes to permalinks after your site has been running for a while can create SEO issues and errors.

Use 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your website or blog was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is showing as being two or three years old and you want to remove the date tags of your permalinks.

The best way to edit your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links that use the previous URL syntax to URLs that use the new permalink structure.

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 users to new website destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors if they click on an old link.

To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to add your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can site or blog using a WordPress plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress redirection plugin

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

Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your blog to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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