Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish a new page on your WordPress site, and the following happened … all from your post address:
- Visitors could tell what the post was about,
- Search engines could easily discover your post and correctly index its content for better search rankings,
- Every single item of content on your site would have a unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.
Well, with WordPress permalinks you can easily do this!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that other people will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to posts 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 you can use when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be further fine tuned with excellent SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to pay special attention to the structure of a site’s URLs when indexing site pages.
Permalinks are used to make the 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 review the reason why it’s best to use permalinks in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly link-naming structure for your posts that looks like this …
The link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find data within your database. It doesn’t really help your website with on-site SEO.
As you can see from the screenshot below, many WordPress users have not set up their sites to use permalinks …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the best possible SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to set up 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 pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To something like this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the default linking structure and help every new post you add to your site get better indexing results in search engines like Google.
Changing Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin click on, Settings > Permalinks …
This brings you to 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 search engine friendly URLs instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
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 …
(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 permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your post is about)
“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, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2018’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘12’)
- %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘21’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘23’)
- %minute% – The minute your post is published (e.g. ‘53’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘56’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘2069’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”Ten Signs That You’re About To Get Fired From Your Job!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-signs-that-youre-about-to-get-fired-from-your-job” (all letters converted to lower case and punctuation symbols deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the words 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 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 …
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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in the ‘Custom Structure’ setting.
Optional Permalink Settings
In this section, you can set custom structures for your category and tag archive pages.
This changes the ‘base’ tag or category of your URLs using the following structure:
For example, using “travel” as your category base will make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/travel/uncategorized/’.
So, if you add the following to your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will change from looking like this …
To something like this …
If you leave these fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.
Remember to save your changes when done …
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
To get the greatest 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 expert Joost de Valk, here are some 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 add the category tag 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.
- Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? 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 category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. Choose the 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.
Avoid Time-Specific Permalink Syntax
Another useful tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your aim is to run a news website or there is a special reason why you need to date your content, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink syntax when setting up your site’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your posts)
Although setting up URL structures that date your posts may be considered 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 the answers they are searching for.
Changing Your Permalink Structure In Site With Indexed Content
Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your website is already established or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you want 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 earlier, many site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your website or blog was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to delete the date tags in your URLs.
To modify your URL structure without affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you will need to add ‘301 redirections’ to reassign all links that use the old permalink structure to post URLs that use the new permalink structure.
Search engines interpret a ’301′ code as a link that has been permanently relocated to another destination. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid running into page errors if clicking on an old link.
To effectively change your syntax and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to set up your redirection system before messing with 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 help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up 301 redirects using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex below:
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum