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 …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just add content to your WordPress website or blog, and the following took place … all from your page URL:

  • Site readers could quickly assess what your post was about,
  • Google would find your pages faster,
  • Each item of content added to your website or blog would have a unique identifier, making your site easier to manage.

Well, with permalinks you can!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

A permalink is the permanent URL to your individual WordPress posts, categories and other taxonomies (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the web address that people and search engines use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to posts on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.

Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a perma-link.

Why Do You Need To Use Permalinks?

Hopefully, you are probably aware by now that, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to publishing search engines optimized content.

WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can install that will help to fine tuned its SEO aspect further.

If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Google tends to pay special attention 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 are also used to improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.

Now … let’s take a look at why you may need to set up permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

Normally, a default WordPress installation uses a URL structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …

Configuring WordPress PermalinksThe link structure shown above is used by WordPress to find information inside its database. It does not mean anything to either search engines or visitors, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site SEO.

As the screenshot image below shows, many WordPress users haven’t set up their sites to use permalinks …

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Although Google is clearly still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are missing out on extra SEO benefits.

To get the greatest 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 search engine-friendly by displaying relevant keywords in your URL, instead of meaningless characters.

WordPress allows you 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 …

Setting Up WordPress Permalinks

To this …

Changing WordPress Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to set up the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to help your content rank better in search engines.

Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Log into your WordPress dashboard and select Settings > Permalinks

Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

This brings you to the Permalink Settings screen …

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

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 …

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:

Instead of this …

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

(Using post name permalinks helps readers understand what the content is about)

Adding Pretty URL Tags In Custom Structure

“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, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2014’)
  • %monthnum% – The month the post gets published (e.g. ‘08’)
  • %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘06’)
  • %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘20’)
  • %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘01’)
  • %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘30’)
  • %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘1458’)
  • %postname% – A correctly formatted 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 letters converted to lower case and punctuation symbols removed) in the URL. Tip: You can 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 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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Or, use one of the following structures:

Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Practical 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 choosing the ‘Custom Structure’ option and adding the /%postname%/ tag.

Permalinks – Optional Settings

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

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

This changes the ‘base’ tag or category of your URLs using the following syntax:


For example, changing your category base to “news” will display your category links as ‘’.

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 …

Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

To this …

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

If you leave the fields blank the defaults will be used.

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 – Tips

Use Descriptive Categories

To get the best benefit from 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 plugin developer Joost de Valk, here are a few points to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalinks or not:

  • 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 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 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 we recommend not using the category tag in your permalink structure.

Ultimately, when it comes to adding category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. Use the permalink structure that you think will suit your needs best. SEO experts recommend making your post URLs short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Avoid Setting Up Permalink Syntaxes That Date Your Content

Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news site or there is a special reason why you need to add dates to your URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink syntax when setting up your blog’s URLs.

Avoid using permalinks that time-stamp your content

(Avoid setting up URL structures that date your posts)

People are less likely to click on a post if it is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What About Blogs With Published Posts?

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


If your website or blog is already established or your site already has a lot of content indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really necessary, as changing permalinks after your site has already been going for a while can create issues and loss of traffic.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in earlier screenshots, some WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) are unaware of the SEO-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started out, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to improve your site’s SEO. Maybe your site was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your content is showing as being 2-3 years old and you want to delete the date tags of your permalinks.

The best way to change your permalinks without impacting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way is to use ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links that were set up using the previous permalinks syntax to post URLs using the new permalinks structure.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently relocated to another address. 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 following an old link.

To effectively change your syntax and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to add a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

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

Simple 301 Redirects - WP redirection plugin

(Set up 301 redirects using redirection plugins 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. For additional information on using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex below:


"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill,

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