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 Configure WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new post to your site, the following took place … all from your page address:

  • Readers could easily tell what the content was about,
  • Google would easily discover your page and correctly index the content for better search results,
  • Each post added to your site would have its own unique ID, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!

What Are Permalinks?

A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that others will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing readers to content items on your site. 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?

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 great for SEO out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be considerably finetuned with excellent SEO plugins.

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

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEOThe above link structure is used by WordPress to locate information inside your database. It does not mean anything to search engines or visitors, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get maximum SEO benefit out of using WordPress 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 numbers and symbols.

WordPress offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing results in search engines like Google.

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress administration section click on, Settings > Permalinks

How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Configuring 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.

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 …

Change 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/cruise-deals/how-to-save-money-on-cruise-travel

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=8573

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

(Using permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your content is about)

How To Create Permalink Tags

“Pretty” permalinks, or search engine-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. ‘2017’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post gets published (e.g. ‘04’)
  • %day% – The day your post is published (e.g. ‘25’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘15’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8767’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all letters converted to lower case and punctuation symbols deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can 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 Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 With Permalinks

Choosing ‘Post name’ is the same as selecting the ‘Custom Structure’ option and using the /%postname%/ tag.

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

If you need to configure custom permalinks for your tag and category archive pages you can do this in this section.

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

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

For example, changing your category base to “travel” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/category_name/’.

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

Changing WordPress Permalinks

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To something like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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

Remember to save any changes after you are done …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Permalinks – Additional Notes

Categories

To get the best possible SEO benefit out of using Permalinks, it’s important 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are some points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your category 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 or share and reduce the SEO benefit.
  • If you plan to post content under multiple categories, then we recommend not using 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 needs best and that will make your site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other articles.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news site or you have any special reason to create dated web addresses, avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax when configuring your URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts

(Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts)

Although setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, people are less likely to click on a post that is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

Changing Permalinks In Blog With Indexed Posts

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

Important Info

If your site has been running for a while 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 really necessary, as changing permalinks after your site has been running for a while can create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

Add 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some website owners (or whoever set up their site) are 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 optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your website was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being out-of-date and you want to delete the date tags in your URLs.

To modify your URL structure without impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you should use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links that use the old permalink syntax to web URLs that use the new structure.

A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently been relocated to another address. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors if clicking on an old link.

To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can WP site using plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

(Set up link redirections using a WordPress redirection plugin or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:

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!

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