Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply add content to your WordPress site, and the following would then take place … just from your page address:
- Potential visitors could quickly understand what the page is about,
- Google could discover your posts faster,
- Every single post added to your site would have its own unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
Permalinks are the permanent URLs 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 your posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to a particular item of content on your website. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
Hopefully, you probably know that, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can use that will help to finetune its SEO aspect considerably.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special significance to the URL structure of your site.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into “prettier” and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s see why you should set up permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
WordPress uses the above link with a string query to find information within its database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.
As you can see from the image below, many WordPress users haven’t yet set up their sites to publish search optimized content …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, many site owners are missing out on additional SEO benefits.
To get the maximum SEO benefit from using WordPress 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 characters.
WordPress gives you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can easily go from this …
To something like this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts with SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you publish get better indexing results in search engines.
Setting Up WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress dashboard menu, select Settings > Permalinks …
This brings up 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 one set by default.
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 post name permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what the post is about)
Pretty URL 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 is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2016’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post is published (e.g. ‘08’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘28’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘07’)
- %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘17’)
- %second% – The exact second the post is published (e.g. ‘47’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘4104’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”The Five Don’ts Of DIY Home Repair!”, the postname tag will convert this into “the-five-donts-of-diy-home-repair” (all characters converted to lower case and exclamation symbols deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit this wording 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 choosing ‘Custom Structure’ and adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to configure custom permalinks for your category and tag archive page URLs you can do this in this section.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag URLs using the following structure:
For example, changing your category base to “news” would display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/news/uncategorized/’.
So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings field …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To this …
If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save your changes when you have finished …
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 Categories
To get greater 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 Joost de Valk, here are some things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalink structure:
- If your domain is short and your category name 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.
- If you plan 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 adding category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your site best and that will make your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We cover WordPress categories in another article.
Avoid Using URL Structures That Date Your Posts
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your goal is to run a news website or there is a special reason why you need to create dated post addresses, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink settings for your URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
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.
What If My Site Already Has Lots Of Published Content?
Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.
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 doing so could create issues and loss of traffic.
As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many site owners (or their web developers) seem to be unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to improve your SEO. Maybe your website or blog 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 delete the date portion in the permalinks.
To change your permalinks without negatively affecting your site’s SEO you will need to use ‘301 redirections’ to point links set up using the previous permalinks syntax to web addresses that use the new permalinks syntax.
Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has permanently moved elsewhere. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid running into page errors when following an old link.
To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should add your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can WordPress site using plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid any issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up URL redirections using redirection plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know how to configure your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation here:
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