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.

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply add new content to your website or blog, and the following would then take place … all from your URL:

  • New visitors could quickly determine what your page is about,
  • Search engines would easily find your posts and correctly classify their content for better search results,
  • Each content item on your site would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that others use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to a particular item of content on your website. Permalinks are also referred to as “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that can help to improve its SEO aspect considerably.

If you are looking to optimize 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 URLs when indexing pages.

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

Now … let’s take a look at the reason why you should set up permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly link-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using PermalinksThe above link structure is used by WordPress to find data inside your database. It does not mean anything to visitors or search engines, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the screenshot image below, many WordPress site owners haven’t yet set up their permalinks to publish search optimized content …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, many site owners are missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get the most SEO benefit from using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to set up your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.

WordPress offers you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can go from this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing in search engines.

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin area click on, Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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 one set by default.

Common Settings

In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create search engine-friendly URLs …

Configure your permalink settings to create SEO-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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/river-cruises/seven-favorite-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=3046

Using post name permalinks helps readers understand what your post is about

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

Pretty Permalink Tags

“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:

  • %year% – The year of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2010’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘11’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘28’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘24’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post gets published (e.g. ‘33’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘28’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘3468’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”Ten Signs That You’re About To Get Fired From Your Job!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-signs-that-youre-about-to-get-fired-from-your-job” (all lower case letters and exclamation symbols deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 selecting ‘Custom Structure’ and using the /%postname%/ tag.

Optional Permalink Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this section, you can set up custom structures for your tag and category archive page URLs.

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

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

To something like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

If you leave these fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save any changes when done …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Permalinks – Additional Info

Categories

To get maximum 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 you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your category slug is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), you may want to use categories 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 we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.

Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there is no ideal permalink structure to use. Use a 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.

Avoid Using Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Posts

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news site or you have a special reason to date your site’s content, it’s best to avoid choosing date-based permalink options when configuring your URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts

(Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts)

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 If My Blog Has Lots Of Content?

Normally, it’s best to set up your site’s permalinks when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.

Important

If your site has been running for a while 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 something that absolutely needs doing, as doing so can create issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) seem to be unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your site was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are showing as being old and you want to delete the date portion of the URLs.

The best way to edit your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO or rankings in a negative way is to add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links using the old permalink syntax to web addresses using the new permalinks syntax.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into page errors if clicking on an old link.

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

You can add a link redirection system to your do this using WordPress plugins 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 any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

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

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for non-techies and beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and grow your business online at minimal cost!