Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new page on your website, the following could take place … just from your URL:
- Visitors could easily understand what your post was about,
- Search engines could find your pages faster,
- Every single piece of content added to your site would have a unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – What Are They?
A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (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 emails pointing to a specific post on your blog. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be considerably enhanced with SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Google tends to pay special attention to the structure of URLs when indexing its site pages.
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 review the reason why it’s best to use permalinks in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a URL-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate data within your database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot image below taken from Google search results, many site owners have not yet configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content online …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get optimal 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 this …
To something like this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display your posts using SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you add to your site automatically get better indexing in Google.
How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks
From your WP administration menu, click on 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
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 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 and search engines understand what the page is about)
How To Create Pretty WordPress URLs
“Pretty” permalinks, or SEO-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. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘09’)
- %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘28’)
- %hour% – The hour your post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘28’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘36’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘9831’)
- %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 lower case letters and exclamation symbols removed) 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 …
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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in ‘Custom Structure’.
Optional Permalink Settings
Here you can configure custom structures for your category and tag page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag URLs using the following structure:
For example, changing your category base to “travel” will make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/travel/category_name/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from this …
To this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank the defaults will be used.
Remember to save your 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 – Additional Notes
Use Descriptive Categories
To get greater SEO benefit from using Permalinks, remember 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 or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If your category slug 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 decrease the SEO benefit.
- Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you are going to post content under multiple categories, then it’s recommended that you do not use 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 perfect permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Avoid Setting Up URL Structures That Time-Stamp Your Posts
Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news, or you have a special reason to create dated post URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink options when configuring your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
People are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.
What About An Established Site?
Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your site has been running for a while or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is something that absolutely needs doing, as changing permalinks after your site has already been going for a while can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.
As you’ve seen earlier, some WordPress users (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe 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 two or three years old and you want to delete the date portion in your URLs.
To edit your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings you will need to add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign all links set up using the previous permalinks structure to URLs using the new permalink structure.
A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has been permanently relocated. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if following an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to set up a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can site using a WordPress 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 a link redirection system for your changed URLs using a WordPress plugin or get professional help)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex below:
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