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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after publishing new content on your site, the following happened … just from your page URL:

  • Potential site visitors could understand what the content is about,
  • Google would be able to easily discover your page and correctly classify your content for better search rankings,
  • Every item of content created on your site would have a unique ID, making your content easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks this is really easy to do!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

What Are Permalinks?

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual WordPress post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize 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 emails pointing to articles on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

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

Why Use Permalinks?

As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available 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 can help to enhance its SEO aspect considerably.

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 URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s review why you should configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress site owners haven’t configured their permalinks to publish search optimized content …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

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

To get the best SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s rankings, you will want to make sure to 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 allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can easily go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display your posts with search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you add to your site get better indexing results in search engines like Google.

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WP admin menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

This will bring up 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 need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by 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 …

Configure your permalink settings to create search engine-friendly URLs

(Configure 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/europe-travel/romantic-cruise-holiday-deals

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=985

Using post name permalinks helps search engines and readers understand what the post is about

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

WordPress Permalink Tags

“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. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘09’)
  • %day% – The day the post gets published (e.g. ‘17’)
  • %hour% – The hour the post is published (e.g. ‘18’)
  • %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘33’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘02’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘8221’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all lower case characters and no exclamation marks) 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 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 …

Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

If you need to set up custom permalinks for your category and tag URLs you can do this in this section.

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

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To something like this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

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

Remember to save your changes after you are done …

How To Configure 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

Use Short, Descriptive Categories

To get the best 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are a few points to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:

  • If your domain is short and your category 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 are going 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 ”better” permalink structure to use. Use a permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. Your post URLs should be short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your goal is to run a news website or blog or you have a special reason to create dated web URLs, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalinks when setting up your URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that date your posts

(Avoid using URL structures that time-stamp your posts)

Although setting up permalinks that date your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, visitors are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.

What About Changing Permalinks In Blogs With Indexed Content?

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

Disclaimer

If your site has been running for a while 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 can create SEO issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen earlier, many WordPress users (or their web developers) are unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

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

The best way to change your URL structure without negatively impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links set up using the previous URL syntax to URLs using the new permalink structure.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently been relocated to another destination. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid running into ”page not found” errors if they click on an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you should add your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

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

Simple 301 Redirects - WP plugin

(Set up 301 redirects using a WordPress redirection plugin or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search search rankings. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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