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 adding a new post to your WordPress website or blog, the following took place … all from your post URL:

  • Site readers could gain an understanding of what your post was about,
  • Search engines would discover your pages faster,
  • Every piece of content published on your website or blog would have a unique ID, making things easier to manage.

Well, this is what a permalink lets you do!

Permalinks – What Are They?

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that others use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to content items on your website. Some people refer to permalinks as “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your site permanent, hence a permalink.

Why Use Permalinks?

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

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that will help to finetune its SEO aspect considerably.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.

Permalinks can be used to turn 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 why it’s best to set up permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

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

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With PermalinksWordPress uses the link structure with a string query shown above to find information inside its database. It does not mean anything to visitors or search engines, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site search engine optimization.

As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress users are still using out-of-the-box settings when publishing content online …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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

To get the most SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s rankings, you should configure 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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display your posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you publish get better indexing in search engines like Google.

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

From your WordPress dashboard menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

This will bring you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Changing 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 a search engine friendly URL instead for our posts. To do this, we will 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 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/river-cruises/romantic-european-river-cruises

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=6627

Using post name permalinks helps visitors understand what your page is about

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

Pretty URL Tags

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

  • %year% – The year the post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘09’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘07’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘14’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘407’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted version of the post title. For example, if your 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 removed punctuation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the wording in your post titles 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 …

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

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

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

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

So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

If you leave these fields blank the default settings will be used.

Remember to save your changes after you are done …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Permalinks – Additional Info

Use Short, Descriptive Categories

To get more benefit out of 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 plugin developer 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 category slug 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 share and decrease 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.

Despite being the subject of intense debate in WordPress SEO circles, when it comes to category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Use a permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. Your post URLs should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in another article.

Make Your Content Timeless

Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news site or you have any special reason to date your site’s content, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink syntax for your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your content

(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)

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

Changing Your Permalink Structure In Site With Indexed Content

Normally, your permalinks should be configured when you install a new WordPress site. 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 something that absolutely needs doing, as changing permalinks after your site has already been going for a while can create issues and errors.

Add 301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are completely 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 showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to remove the date tags in the URLs.

To change your URL structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings you will need to add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links that use the old URL syntax to web URLs using the new permalink structure.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently moved to another destination. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors if they click on an old link.

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

You can WP site or blog 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 any problems and troubleshoot any errors.

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

(Set up 301 redirections 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 search rankings. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

***

"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

Disclaimer: This site is not directly associated with WordPress or any of the products promoted on this site. We may derive a financial benefit from purchases of any third-party services and/or products advertised on our website. All images and descriptions sourced from product websites are the copyright of their respective owners and have been used only for illustrative or training purposes.

***

Did you enjoy this post? Please feel free to use the share buttons below to share this tutorial with other WordPress users.

Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and at minimal cost!

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