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How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply add content to your WordPress site, and the following would then happen … just from your URL:

Well, with permalinks you can!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

Permalinks are the permanent URLs to an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to group things together) like archives.

A permalink is the URL that people and search engines use to link to your articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to a particular post on your site. Permalinks are often referred to as “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?

Hopefully, by now you probably know that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications available when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only well optimized straight out of the box, but there are SEO plugins you can use that will help to improve its SEO aspect further.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Google tends to give special consideration to the URL structure of a site.

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

Now … let’s see the reason why it’s best to use permalinks if publishing content in WordPress.

By default, a WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …

WordPress uses the above link structure with a string query to locate data inside its database. It does not help your site with on-site SEO.

As you can see from the screenshot image below, many WordPress site owners haven’t yet configured their sites to use WordPress permalinks …

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

To get more SEO benefit from using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should configure your permalinks structure to make it more SEO-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 pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

To this …

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to help your content rank better in Google.

Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress admin menu, click on Settings > Permalinks

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

(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/cruise-travel/river-cruise-holiday-deals

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=2687

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

Creating SEO-Friendly Tags

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

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

Permalinks – Optional Settings

In this section, you can set custom structures for your category and tag pages.

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

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

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

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

To something like this …

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

Remember to save any changes when finished …

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 the optimal 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 Joost de Valk, here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure or not:

Ultimately, when it comes to category vs no category there is no perfect 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 articles.

Make Your Content Timeless

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website provides news or time-specific information, or you have a special reason to add dates to your post URLs, avoid selecting date-based permalink settings when setting up your blog’s URLs.

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

Visitors are less likely to click on posts that are several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

Changing Your Permalink Structure In Site With Many Published Posts

Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your website planning process.

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 necessary, as doing so could create SEO issues and errors.

301 Redirection

As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, many WordPress users (or whoever set up their site) are unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your SEO. Maybe your website was configured to display post dates in your web address and now all of your content is perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date portion in your permalinks.

To change your URL structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO or rankings you should add ‘301 redirections’ to point links that use the old permalink structure to post URLs that use the new structure.

A ’301′ code is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirection is the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid running into ‘404’ (Page not found) errors when clicking on an old link.

To create an effective syntax change and avoid damaging your rankings, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to add your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.

You can site or blog using WP plugins 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 problems and troubleshoot any errors.

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

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display search engine-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the WordPress codex here:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

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"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group

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