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 content to your WordPress site, and the following took place … just from your post address:

  • Potential visitors to your site could quickly gain an understanding of what the page is about,
  • Google would easily discover your posts and correctly classify their content to improve your search rankings,
  • Each item of content on your site would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.

Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!

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 organize things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that other people will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to articles on your site. Permalinks are also referred to as “pretty” URLs.

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

Why Use Permalinks?

As you are probably aware, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to SEO.

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 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 site pages.

Permalinks can be used to make the 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 take a look at why it’s best to configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using PermalinksThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to locate data inside its database. It does not help your website with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot below shows, many WordPress users have not yet configured their permalinks …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

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

To get more SEO benefit out of using WordPress and improve your site’s traffic results, you will want to make sure to configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless numbers and symbols.

WordPress offers you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your content can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

By default, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up your permalinks in WordPress to get better indexing results in search engines.

How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress dashboard select, Settings > Permalinks

How To Configure WordPress Permalinks

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 “pretty” permalinks instead for our posts. To do this, we will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default.

Common Settings

In the Common Settings section, select Custom Structure, then add one or more ‘tags’ (see below) to create SEO-friendly URLs …

Change your permalink settings to create SEO-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:

http://www.mytravelsite.com/travel-tips/how-to-save-money-on-cruise-travel

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=7965

Using post name permalinks helps visitors understand what the post is about

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

How To Add SEO-Friendly Tags In WordPress

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

  • %year% – The year the post gets published, four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month your post gets published (e.g. ‘05’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘22’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘16’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘20’)
  • %second% – The exact second the post gets published (e.g. ‘55’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘3268’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted 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 characters converted to lower case and exclamation marks removed) 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 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 …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks

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

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

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

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

So, if you make the following change in 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 …

How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

If you leave the fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.

Remember to save any changes when done …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 – Additional Notes

Use Short, Descriptive Categories

To get maximum SEO 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 permalink structure:

  • If your domain is short and your category slug is short and descriptive (e.g. adds a relevant keyword or keyword phrase to your URL), you may want to use the category tag 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 copy or share and reduce the SEO benefit.
  • 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 really is no ”better” 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 provide more information about WordPress categories in other tutorials.

Avoid Date-Based Permalink Syntax

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news site or you have a special reason to create dated post URLs, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalink settings when setting up your URLs.

Avoid setting up URL structures that date your content

(Avoid setting up permalinks that date your posts)

Visitors are less likely to click on a post that is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to the answers they are searching for.

What About Changing Permalinks In An Established Site?

Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you create a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.

Note

If your website or blog 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 something that needs doing, as making changes to permalinks after your site has already been running for a while could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirects

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, many site owners (or whoever set up their site) 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 improve your site’s SEO. 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 portion of your URLs.

The best way to modify your permalink structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links set up using the old URL syntax to web addresses that use the new structure.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently moved to another location. 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 clicking on an old link.

To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should configure a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your do this using WP redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to assist you with setting up and redirecting your permalinks correctly to avoid issues and troubleshoot any errors.

WordPress redirection plugin Simple 301 Redirects

(Set up URL redirections using a WP plugin or use the services of a professional)

Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your blog’s permalinks to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the official WordPress documentation here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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