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 you could add a new post to your website, and the following took place … just from your post URL:

  • Site visitors could easily assess what your content is about,
  • Google would be able to find your posts faster,
  • Each post created on your site would have a unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.

Well, this is what permalinks let you 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 group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that others use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to your posts. Permalinks are sometimes referred to as “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a permalink.

Permalinks – Why Use Them?

As you are probably aware, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools available when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be considerably fine tuned with SEO plugins.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you should not ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing its site pages.

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

Now … let’s turn our attention to the reason why you may need to use permalinks in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL structure for your posts that looks like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With PermalinksWordPress uses the link with a string query shown above to locate data within your database. It doesn’t really mean much to anyone, and it doesn’t help your site with on-site SEO.

As you can see from the image below taken from Google search listings, many WordPress site owners have not set up their permalinks …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, they are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get the most SEO benefit from using WordPress 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 numbers and symbols.

WordPress allows you to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can easily go from this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts using SEO-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box URL structure and help every new post you add get better indexing in search engines like Google.

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress dashboard and select Settings > Permalinks

How To Change WordPress Permalinks

This will bring you to the Permalink Settings screen …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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 default one.

Common Permalink Settings

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 SEO-friendly URLs

(Change 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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/europe-cruises/5-best-european-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=7136

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

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

Creating SEO-Friendly Tags

“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-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. ‘2015’)
  • %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘04’)
  • %day% – The day your post is published (e.g. ‘13’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘13’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post gets published (e.g. ‘50’)
  • %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘23’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘953’)
  • %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if the post title is “Top Five Budget Travel Tips!”, the postname tag will convert this into “top-five-budget-travel-tips” (all lower case letters and punctuation mark deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always edit the wording in your post title 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 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 …

Setting Up Your 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

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

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

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

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

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

To this …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.

Remember to save your changes when done …

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using 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

Set Up Your Categories

To get the maximum SEO benefit from using Permalinks, remember 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 and author of the WordPress SEO plugin Joost de Valk, here are a few points 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 is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to add categories 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 share or copy and decrease the SEO benefit.
  • 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 category vs no category there is no ”better” permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. SEO experts recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We cover WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Don’t Use Date Permalinks

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your goal is to run a news site or you have a special reason to create dated website addresses, avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax when setting up your site’s URLs.

Avoid using URL structures that date your posts

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts)

Although using permalinks that time-stamp your content is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO perspective, 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 An Established Blog?

Normally, it’s best to configure your permalinks when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Warning

If your site has been running for a while or your site already has many posts indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is absolutely necessary, as doing so could create issues and errors.

301 Redirection

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

Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Maybe your site was configured to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are showing as being old and you want to remove the date portion of the permalinks.

The best way to change your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to add ‘301 redirects’ to point links that were set up using the old URL structure to URLs using the new permalink syntax.

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

To create an effective permalink syntax change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can site or blog using WordPress plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.

WP redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up 301 redirections using a WP redirection plugin or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know how to change your blog to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

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