Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish content on your website, and the following would then happen … all from your URL:
- Site visitors could quickly glean what the page is about,
- Google could easily find your posts and correctly index their content to improve your search rankings,
- Every single content item added to your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
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 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 URL pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Use Them?
Hopefully, you are probably aware by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be considerably improved with excellent SEO plugins.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the structure of a site’s URLs when indexing its pages.
Permalinks can be used to make the links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s see why it’s best to set up permalinks when publishing content 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 find information within its database. It doesn’t really mean anything to either search engines or visitors, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.
As you can see from the screenshot below, many WordPress users are still using out-of-the-box settings when publishing content online …
Although Google is still indexing the above sites, many site owners are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get the best 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 numbers and symbols.
WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This tutorial explains how to configure your WordPress permalinks to help you get better indexing in search engines.
Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WP dashboard and 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 “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.
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 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 understand what your page is about)
“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. ‘2017’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘02’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘09’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘02’)
- %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘11’)
- %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘36’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘9907’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your 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 characters converted to lower case and exclamation marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the words in your post titles in the post slug field on the Add/Edit Post/Page screens.
- %category% – A correctly formatted 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
If you need to set up custom structures for your tag and category archive pages here is where you would do this.
You can change the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “travel” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/uncategorized/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave these fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save any changes when finished …
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
Set Up Your Categories
To get greater SEO benefit out of 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 plugin developer 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 domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), you may want to use the category tag in 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 reduce 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 category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. SEO experts recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another article.
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 create dated web addresses, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink syntax for your URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
Although using URL structures that date your content is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, visitors are less likely to click on posts that are a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
What About Blogs With Published Posts?
Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you perform a new WordPress installation. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your site has been running for a while or your site already has many 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 been running for a while could create SEO issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) are completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your site’s SEO. Perhaps your website was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to delete the date tags in the URLs.
The best way to modify your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to add ‘301 redirections’ to point all links using the old permalink syntax to post URLs that use the new structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved to another location. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new site destinations and avoid ‘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 add a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site or blog using a redirection 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 using a WordPress plugin or use the services of a professional)
Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your WordPress site or blog to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex below:
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