Wouldn’t it be great if you could just publish new content on your WordPress website, and the following would then happen … all from your page address:
- Readers could easily tell what the page is about,
- Google would discover your posts faster,
- Every single item of content added to your site would have a unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks you can easily do this!
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 organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that others will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to a particular post on your blog. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URL pointing to each post on your site 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 great for SEO out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can install that will help to fine tuned its SEO aspect.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing its site pages.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s turn our attention to the reason why you should configure your permalinks in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate information inside its database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot image from Google search listings below shows, many site owners haven’t yet set up their sites to use permalinks …
Although Google is still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get maximum SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.
WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
In this step-by-step 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 URL structure and help every new post you publish on your site or blog automatically get better indexing results in Google.
How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we will 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 SEO-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:
Instead of this …
(Using post name permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what your content is about)
Creating SEO-Friendly Tags
“Pretty” URLs, 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, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2010’)
- %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘02’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘09’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘13’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘20’)
- %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘56’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘1875’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of the post title. For example, if the 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 lower case characters 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 …
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 selecting the ‘Custom Structure’ option and adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
This section lets you set up custom structures for your tag and category page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category for your URLs using the following structure:
For example, using “travel” as your category base 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 …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To this …
If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.
Remember to save your changes when 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 Info
Use Descriptive Categories
To get the best 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 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 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 share or copy and decrease the SEO benefit.
- 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.
Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there really is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Use a permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Your web addresses should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other articles.
Don’t Use Date Permalinks
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or blog or you have a special reason to date your site’s content, avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax for your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)
Although setting up permalinks 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 the answers they are searching for.
What About Established Blogs?
Normally, it’s best to set up your site’s permalinks when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.
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 doing so can create issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your SEO. 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 old and you want to remove the date portion of your URLs.
To edit your permalinks without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or rankings you should add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links set up using the old permalink syntax to web URLs that use the new permalink structure.
Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new website destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors when they click on an old link.
To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to install and set up your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can site using a redirection plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a redirection system using redirection plugins 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, see the official WordPress documentation here:
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