Wouldn’t it be great if you could just add new content to your WordPress website, and the following happened … just from your post address:
- Potential visitors could glean what your content is about,
- Google would easily find your posts and correctly index their content for better search results,
- Every post added to your website or blog would have a unique identifier, making your content easier to manage.
Well, this is what a WordPress permalink lets you do!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
What Is A Permalink?
A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the web address that visitors and search engines will use to link to your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to your posts. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your blog permanent, hence a permalink.
Permalinks – Why Do We Need To Use Them?
As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems available when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can use that will help to fine tuned its SEO aspect considerably.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks can be used to make the 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 may need to use permalinks in WordPress.
Normally, a default WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find information within its database. It doesn’t really help your website with on-site search engine optimization.
As the screenshot image below shows, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their sites to use WordPress permalinks …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, they are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get greater SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s rankings, you will want to make sure to configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.
WordPress allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can easily go from this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
By default, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to help your content rank better in Google.
How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin click on, Settings > Permalinks …
This brings 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 one.
Permalinks - 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 search engine-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 permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what the content is about)
Pretty URL Tags
“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. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘09’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘05’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘06’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘25’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘32’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘1158’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of the post title. For example, if your post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all lower case characters and removed punctuation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the URL text 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 selecting ‘Custom Structure’ and adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Permalinks – Optional Settings
In this section, you can set up custom structures for your category and tag page URLs.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “news” as your category base would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/news/uncategorized/’.
So, if you enter the following in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To this …
If you leave the optional settings fields blank the default settings will be used.
Remember to save any changes when you are 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 Information
To get the 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, WordPress will 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 consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If your category slug 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 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 using category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best. SEO experts recommend making your web address short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in other articles.
Don’t Use Date Permalinks
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site provides news or time-specific information, or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink options when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your content)
People are less likely to click on a post if it is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.
What About Changing Permalinks In Established Sites?
Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website or blog has been running for a while or your site already has many posts indexed in the search engines and you would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is absolutely necessary, as doing so could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.
Add 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are completely 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 website or blog was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date tags in the URLs.
To modify your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings you will need to use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links that use the previous permalinks syntax to links using the new permalinks structure.
Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has been permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if following an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should add your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can WP site using plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or use the services of a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up URL redirections using a WP redirection 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 official WordPress documentation here:
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