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How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Wouldn’t it be great if after adding a new post to your website, the following took place … just from your web address:

Well, with WordPress permalinks this can easily be done!

How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks

Permalinks – Definition

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

A permalink is the URL that visitors and search engines use to link to posts or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing readers to articles on your site. Permalinks are often called “pretty” URLs.

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

Permalinks – Why Do I Need To Use Them?

Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to SEO.

WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but the SEO aspect can be easily finetuned with SEO plugins.

If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site or blog, then you cannot ignore the importance of your site’s URLs. Search engines like Google tend to give special significance to the structure of URLs when indexing content.

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 see the reason why you may need to configure your permalinks in WordPress.

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

WordPress uses the link structure shown above to locate information inside your database. It doesn’t really mean anything to either visitors or search engines, and it doesn’t help your website with on-site search engine optimization.

As you can see from the screenshot image below, many site owners have not set up their sites to publish search optimized content …

Although Google is still indexing the above sites, they are potentially missing out on additional SEO benefits.

To get more 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 pages can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …

To this …

By default, WordPress URLs are not very SEO-friendly. In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure your WordPress permalinks to display posts with search engine-friendly URLs.

Configuring WordPress Permalinks

In your WordPress administration section click on, Settings > Permalinks

This brings you to 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 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 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/cruise-travel/romantic-european-river-cruise-destinations

Instead of this …

http://www.mytravelsite.com/?p=2681

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

Creating Pretty URL Tags In Custom Structure

“Pretty” permalinks, or SEO-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 adding the /%postname%/ tag in the ‘Custom Structure’ option.

Permalinks – Optional Settings

If you need to configure custom permalinks for your tag and category archive page URLs here is where you would do this.

This changes the ‘base’ category or tag URLs using the following structure:

For example, changing your category base to “news” 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 section …

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

To something like this …

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

Remember to save any changes when you have 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 Info

Use Short, Descriptive Categories

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

Ultimately, when it comes to using category vs no category there really is no perfect permalink structure to use. We recommend choosing the permalink structure you think will suit your needs best and that will make your site’s web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.

We provide more information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.

Avoid Date-Based Permalinks

Another tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your site is a news site or you have a special reason to create dated web addresses, it’s best to avoid selecting date-based permalink syntax for your site’s URLs.

(Avoid using permalinks that date your content)

Although using permalinks that time-stamp your posts is better that using no permalinks at all from an SEO point-of-view, people are less likely to click on a post that is a couple of years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.

What About An Established Blog?

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

If your website or blog has been running for a while or your site already has a lot of posts indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really something that needs doing, as making changes to permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while could create issues and errors.

301 Redirects

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

Maybe when you started, your site used the default WordPress permalinks and now you would like to improve your SEO. Perhaps your website or blog was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date portion in the URLs.

To modify your permalinks without affecting your site’s SEO or existing rankings in a negative way you should use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links that were set up using the previous URL structure to web addresses that use the new permalink syntax.

Search engines interpret a code ‘301’ as a link that has permanently relocated to another destination. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new web page destinations and avoid ”page not found” errors when clicking on an old link.

To effectively change your permalink syntax and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you will need to configure your redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.

You can add a link redirection system to your site or blog using WP redirection plugins like Simple 301 Redirects, or Redirection, or get a professional to help you set up and redirect your permalinks correctly to avoid problems and troubleshoot any errors.

(Set up a link redirection system for your changed permalinks using a WordPress plugin or get professional assistance)

Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts and improve your search results. To learn more about using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation below:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

***

"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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