Wouldn’t it be great if you could just add new content to your WordPress website, and the following took place … all from your post address:
- New visitors could quickly determine what your page is about,
- Google could discover your posts faster,
- Each content item you create on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making things easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks you can easily do this!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
Permalinks – Definition
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 other people will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in emails pointing to articles on your site. Some people also call permalinks “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the web address pointing to each post on your site permanent, hence a perma-link.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you have probably heard by now, WordPress is one of the best CMS tools you can use when it comes to SEO.
WordPress is not only well optimized right out of the box, but there are excellent SEO plugins you can use that can easily help to enhance its SEO aspect.
If you focus on the SEO aspect of your site, then you cannot ignore the importance of its site’s URLs. Search engines like Google place considerable weight on the URL structure of a site.
Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review the reason why it’s best to set up permalinks when publishing content in WordPress.
Typically, a default WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t search engine friendly and looks like this …
As the screenshot image taken from Google search listings below shows, many site owners are still using out-of-the-box settings when publishing content …
Although these sites are getting their content indexed on search engines, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the best possible SEO benefit from using WordPress 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 numbers and symbols.
WordPress lets you create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can go from this …
To this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up your WordPress permalinks to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you publish automatically get better indexing in search engines like Google.
Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
Log into your WP dashboard section and 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 a “pretty” permalink instead for our posts. To do this, we need to specify a different Permalink structure than the default one.
Permalinks > Common 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)
If you use the custom permalink structure shown in the example above, your URL would look something like this:
Instead of this …
(Using post name permalinks helps search engines and visitors understand what your content is about)
Search Engine-Friendly Tags
“Pretty” permalinks, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year of the post, displayed as four digits (e.g. ‘2013’)
- %monthnum% – The month your post gets published (e.g. ‘06’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘21’)
- %hour% – The hour the post gets published (e.g. ‘07’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘58’)
- %second% – The exact second your post is published (e.g. ‘16’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘8475’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of your post title. For example, if your post title is ”It Ain’t Worth Doin’ No More!”, the postname tag will convert this into “it-aint-worth-doin-no-more” (all letters converted to lower case and no punctuation marks) in the URL. Tip: You can edit the words 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 …
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’ setting.
Optional Permalink Settings
If you need to configure custom structures for your category and tag pages you can do this in this section.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag of your URLs using the following structure:
For example, changing your category base to “news” would make your category links display as ‘http://domain.com/news/uncategorized/’.
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 this …
If you leave these fields blank WordPress uses the defaults.
Remember to save your 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 Notes
Set Up Your Categories
To get the best 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 some things to consider if you are wondering whether or not to add categories to your permalinks:
- If 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.
- Do you plan to post content under only one category or multiple categories? If you plan 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 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 web address 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 site is a news blog or you have any special reason to add dates to your URLs, avoid choosing date-based permalink settings when setting up your site’s URLs.
(Avoid using URL structures that date your posts)
Visitors are less likely to click on a post that is several years old, even if the content is relevant to what they are searching for.
What About Established Blogs?
Normally, it’s best to set up your permalinks when you perform a new WordPress installation. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your site has been running for a while or your site already has many posts indexed in the search engines and you would like to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is something that absolutely needs doing, as doing so could create SEO issues and loss of traffic.
Use 301 Redirection
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are unaware of the permalinks feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you would like to improve your SEO. Perhaps your site was originally set up to display post dates in your URLs and now all of your posts are perceived as being outdated and you want to remove the date portion in the permalinks.
The best way to modify your permalink structure without negatively affecting your site’s SEO is to use ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links that use the previous permalink syntax to URLs that use the new permalinks structure.
A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated. 301 redirects are the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new web page destinations and avoid ‘404’ (Page not found) errors if clicking on an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid damaging your search rankings, sending visitors to error pages, etc. you should set up your redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your do this 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 issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a 301 redirection system for your changed permalinks using plugins or get professional help)
Congratulations! Now you know about the built-in system WordPress uses to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. To learn more about using Permalinks, see the WordPress codex here:
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