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 …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new post to your WordPress site, the following happened … just from your post URL:

  • Visitors could assess what the page was about,
  • Google would find your pages faster,
  • Every item of content published on your website would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks you can!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

A permalink is the permanent URL to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that others will use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a specific item of content 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 Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can use that can further help to fine tuned its SEO aspect.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special consideration to the structure of a site’s URLs when indexing its content.

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 see the reason why you should configure your permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

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

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLsThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate data inside its database. It does not help your website with on-site search engine optimization.

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, these site owners are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.

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

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

To this …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing in search engines.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

In your WP administration menu, select Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This will bring up the Permalink Settings screen …

Setting Up 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 a “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.

Common Settings – Permalinks

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

(Set up 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/budget-travel/top-ten-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=2353

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

(Using permalinks helps readers understand what your page is about)

How To Create Pretty WordPress URLs

“Pretty” permalinks, 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, four digits (e.g. ‘2011’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘03’)
  • %day% – The day your post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘41’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘3046’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your 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 letters and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this 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 correctly formatted 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:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 choosing the ‘Custom Structure’ setting and adding the /%postname%/ tag.

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Changing WordPress Permalinks

If you need to set up custom structures for your category and tag archive pages here is where you would do this.

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

  • 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/uncategorized/’.

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

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

If you leave the optional settings fields blank the defaults will be used.

Remember to save any changes when you have finished …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

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 more benefit from using Permalinks, remember 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 a few points to consider if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • If your domain is short and your category name is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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 copy and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • If you plan to post content under multiple categories, then we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.

Despite being the subject of intense debate in WordPress SEO circles, when it comes to using category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure you think will suit your site best. Your web address should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Avoid Setting Up Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Posts

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news blog or there is a special reason why you need to date your site’s content, avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your blog’s URLs.

Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts

(Avoid setting up URL structures that date your content)

Although setting up permalinks that date your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO aspect, visitors are less likely to click on a post if it is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

Changing The Permalink Structure In An Established Site

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

Warning

If your website or blog is already established or your site already has a lot of content indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is absolutely necessary, as making changes to permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while could create SEO issues and errors.

Add 301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your SEO. Perhaps your site was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date portion of the URLs.

The best way to edit your permalink structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or rankings is to add ‘301 redirects’ to point all links set up using the old URL structure to links using the new permalink syntax.

A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines 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 web page 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 will need to configure a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can WordPress site using redirection 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 problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP redirection plugin

(Set up a 301 redirection system using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-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

***

"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.