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 after publishing a new post on your WordPress website, the following took place … all from your post address:

  • Potential site visitors could understand what your page is about,
  • Search engines would easily discover your page and correctly index the content for better search results,
  • Each content item created on your website would have its own unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks you can easily do this!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Are Permalinks?

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

A permalink is the web address that visitors and search engines use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to articles on your site. Permalinks are also referred to as “pretty” URLs.

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

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

Hopefully, you are probably aware by now that, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to SEO.

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

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of your URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing site pages.

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

Now … let’s see why it’s best to use permalinks in WordPress.

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLsThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate data inside its database. It does not mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.

As you can see from the screenshot image below taken directly from Google search results, many WordPress site owners have not yet set up their sites to use permalinks …

Changing Your 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 more SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.

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

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

By default, WordPress URLs are not very search engine-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure your permalinks in WordPress to help your content rank better in Google.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WP admin and select Settings > Permalinks

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

This will bring 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 will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the 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 …

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/budget-travel/top-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=1735

Using permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what your page is about

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

Creating Pretty URL Tags In Custom Structure

“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% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘01’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘19’)
  • %hour% – The hour your post gets published (e.g. ‘15’)
  • %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘58’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘38’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘7416’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted 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 characters converted to lower case and exclamation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this 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 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in the ‘Custom Structure’ setting.

Optional Permalink Settings

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Here you can enter custom structures for your tag and category archive page URLs.

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

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

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

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Remember to save your changes when finished …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Categories

To get the best possible SEO benefit out of 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 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. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), 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.
  • Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? 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 ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose a permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Your web address should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide more information about WordPress categories in other articles.

Avoid Using Permalinks That Date Your Content

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless you plan to run a news website or blog or there is a special reason why you need to create dated post URLs, avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts)

Visitors are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What If My Site Has Lots Of Published Posts?

Normally, your site’s permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.

Warning

If your site 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 really something that needs to be done, as doing so could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirection

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

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your site was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being out-of-date and you want to delete the date tags of your permalinks.

To modify your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO in a negative way you should use ‘301 redirects’ to point all links that were set up using the old URL structure to web URLs using the new structure.

Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently moved. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors if clicking on an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should install and set up your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your do this using a redirection plugin like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WordPress plugin

(Set up URL redirections using a WordPress plugin 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. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

***

"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use cPanelHow To Use cPanel

cPanel is a powerful and simple-to-use web hosting management software application that gives website owners the ability to quickly and easily manage their servers and websites using a simple and intuitive dashboard.

This video course will teach you how to use the main features of cPanel to manage your web hosting.

More info: How To Use cPanel

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Add A WordPress Site To FacebookHow To Add A WordPress Site To Facebook

Learn how to add your WordPress site to Facebook. Learn how to obtain and set up a free SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate for your WordPress site, how to change your site protocol from "http" to "https" (secure site) and how to set up a Facebook app and import your entire WordPress site into Facebook.

More info: How To Add A WordPress Site To Facebook

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Need a new website or blog in a hurry?

This video course shows you how to quickly install and configure a WordPress website or blog on your own domain name and be up and running in no time!

More info: Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Set Up WordPress On LocalhostHow To Set Up WordPress On Localhost

Learn how to install, set up, and locally host a fully functioning WordPress site on your computer.

More info: How To Set Up WordPress On Localhost

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Install, Set Up & Use WordPress MultisiteHow To Install, Set Up & Use WordPress Multisite

Learn how to quickly and securely set up an online community of websites or blogs using the powerful WordPress Multisite feature.

More info: WordPress Multisite

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Sell Online With PayPalSell Online With PayPal

This video course shows you how to set up PayPal on your website to receive payments online, with additional tips on using PayPal payment tools.

More info: Sell Online With PayPal

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress SecurityWordPress Security

Learn how to keep your WordPress site or blog secure and protected from malware, hackers and brute-force attacks.

More info: WordPress Security

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Set Up A Forum On WordPressHow To Set Up A Forum On WordPress

Learn how to set up a forum for your visitors, prospects, customers, members, or affiliates using WordPress.

More info: How To Set Up A Forum On WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use FTPHow To Use FTP

This video course shows you how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to transfer and upload files between your hard drive and your server using a free FTP program called Filezilla.

More info: How To Use FTP

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Using Layers WPUsing Layers WP

Learn how to use Layers WP, a powerful, flexible and user-friendly WordPress theme that lets you build professional and stunning websites easily using point-and-click.

More info: Using Layers WP

Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

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