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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing a new post on your WordPress site, the following took place … just from your page address:

  • Visitors could easily understand what your page was about,
  • Search engines could easily discover your page and correctly index its content for better search rankings,
  • Every single item of content published on your site would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what a WordPress permalink lets you do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

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

A permalink is the URL that people and search engines will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to content items on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a perma-link.

Why Use Permalinks?

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

WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be considerably enhanced using SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Google tends to give special consideration to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing content.

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

Now … let’s turn our attention to the reason why you may need to configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOWordPress uses the link structure with a string query shown above to locate data within your database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the screenshot image below taken directly from Google search results, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their permalinks …

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, many site owners are missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get the best possible SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you should set up your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.

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

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts with search engine-friendly URLs.

How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin click on, Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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.

Permalinks - Common Settings

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

Change your permalink settings to create SEO-friendly URLs

(Change 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/cruise-travel/romantic-cruise-holiday-bargains

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=7680

Using post name permalinks helps search engines and visitors understand what your content is about

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

How To Create Permalink Tags In WordPress

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

  • %year% – The year the post gets published, four digits (e.g. ‘2018’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘10’)
  • %day% – The day the post is published (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘03’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post gets published (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘54’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘7235’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all lower case characters and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the words in your post title 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 …

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Practical 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 SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Optional Permalink Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This section lets you configure custom structures for your tag and category URLs.

You can change the ‘base’ tag or category URLs using the following syntax:

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

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

So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the optional settings fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save any changes when you are done …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 Short, Descriptive Categories

To get maximum SEO benefit from using Permalinks, you will need to set up your WordPress Categories correctly. If you do not have any categories set up, adding a category tag to your permalink forces WordPress to use the default category (uncategorized).

According to WordPress SEO expert and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are some points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:

  • If your category 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 copy and reduce 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.

Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there is no ideal permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide more information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Make Your Content Timeless

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or blog or you have any special reason to date your site’s content, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink settings when configuring your site’s URLs.

Avoid using URL structures that date your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your content)

People are less likely to click on a post that is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.

What About Blogs With Published Content?

Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you perform a new WordPress installation. This should be part of your site planning process.

Useful Info

If your website or blog 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 something that absolutely needs doing, as making changes to permalinks after your site has already been up and running for a while could create issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen earlier, some WordPress users (or their web developers) seem to be completely unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like 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 posts are showing as being two or three years old and you want to remove the date tags of the URLs.

To modify your permalinks without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings you will need to use ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links using the previous permalink syntax to web addresses that use the new permalink structure.

A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new website destinations and avoid running into page errors if following an old link.

To effectively change your permalink structure and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can 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.

WordPress redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up 301 redirections using a WordPress plugin or get professional help)

Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

Originally published as How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks.