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.

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Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding content to your WordPress site, the following took place … just from your post address:

  • Users could easily gain an understanding of what your page was about,
  • Search engines could easily discover your posts and correctly classify their content to improve your search rankings,
  • Each piece of content published on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what WordPress permalinks let you do!

What Are Permalinks?

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that visitors and search engines use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a particular item of content on your blog. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

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

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

Hopefully, you probably know by now that, 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 straight out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily fine tuned using excellent SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing its content.

Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “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 the reason why it’s best to use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a URL-naming structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …

How To Set Up Your WordPress PermalinksThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find data within your database. It does not help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As the screenshot taken from Google search results below shows, many WordPress site owners haven’t configured their permalinks …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

To get optimal SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to 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 allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very search engine-friendly. In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WP permalinks to help your content rank better in search engines like Google.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard click on, Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

This brings up the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Change 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 “pretty” permalinks instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.

Common Permalink 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

(Set up 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/europe-travel/top-10-european-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=1983

Using permalinks helps visitors understand what your page is about

(Using post name permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what the content is about)

How To Use Permalink Tags In WordPress

“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. ‘2018’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post is published (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘14’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post is published (e.g. ‘12’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘43’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘14’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘4339’)
  • %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 exclamation symbols 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 …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

If you need to set up custom permalinks for your category and tag archive page URLs here is where you would do this.

This changes the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:

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

For example, changing your category base to “recipes” will make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/recipes/uncategorized/’.

So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

If you leave the optional settings fields blank the default settings will be used.

Remember to save any changes after you have finished …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Tips

Set Up Your Categories

To get the maximum benefit from using Permalinks, it’s important 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some things to consider if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your category name 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 copy or share and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • If you plan 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 ”better” 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 cover WordPress categories in other articles.

Make Your Content Timeless

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news or time-specific information, or there is a special reason why you need to create dated web addresses, avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax for your blog’s URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content

(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)

Although using URL structures that date your content may be considered better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, people 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.

What About Changing Permalinks In Established Sites?

Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Important

If your website or blog is already established 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 necessary, as doing so could create issues and loss of traffic.

Add 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many site owners (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to improve your SEO. Maybe your website was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date tags of your permalinks.

The best way to modify your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to use ‘301 redirections’ to point links set up using the previous permalinks structure to web addresses that use the new permalinks structure.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved elsewhere. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid page errors if 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 configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can site using a redirection plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or use the services of a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP redirection plugin

(Set up 301 redirects using plugins or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to change your site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here or contact us for assistance with your WordPress site:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

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