Wouldn’t it be great if after adding new content to your WordPress site, the following happened … just from your page URL:
- Readers could easily determine what your post is about,
- Search engines would find your posts faster,
- Each post published on your website or blog would have its own unique identifier, making your content 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 an individual post, category, or other taxonomy (a way to organize things together) like archives.
A permalink is the URL that others 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 blog permanent, hence a permalink.
Why Use Permalinks?
As you probably know, WordPress is one of the best Content Management Systems you can use when it comes to publishing search optimized content.
WordPress is not only great for SEO out of the box, but its SEO aspect can be easily enhanced with excellent SEO plugins.
If you are looking to optimize the SEO aspect of your website, then you cannot ignore the importance of its URLs. Google places considerable weight on the structure of URLs when indexing pages.
Permalinks are used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks also improve the usability, aesthetics, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s see the reason why it’s best to configure your permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a link-naming structure for your posts that isn’t very search engine friendly and looks like this …
As the screenshot image taken from Google search results below shows, many site owners have not yet set up their permalinks to publish search optimized content online …
Although Google is still indexing the above sites, the owners of these sites are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get the maximum SEO benefit from 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 offers the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published posts, so your content can go from something that is non-SEO friendly like this …
To this …
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display your posts using SEO-friendly URLs instead of the default URL structure and help every new post you add automatically get better indexing in search engines.
Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress administration area select, Settings > Permalinks …
This will bring 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 will need to specify a different Permalink structure than the one set by default.
Common Settings – Permalinks
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:
Instead of this …
(Using post name permalinks helps visitors and search engines understand what your page is about)
Search Engine-Friendly Tags
“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year the post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2010’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘04’)
- %day% – The day your post gets published (e.g. ‘02’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘06’)
- %minute% – Minute of the hour (e.g. ‘16’)
- %second% – Second of the minute (e.g. ‘05’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of the post (e.g. ‘1113’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of the post title. For example, if your post title is ”Ten Best Hotels In Cote D’Azur!”, the postname tag will convert this into “ten-best-hotels-in-cote-dazur” (all lower case letters and removed punctuation symbols) in the URL. Tip: You can edit this text 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 …
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.
Optional Permalink Settings
In this section, you can enter custom structures for your category and tag archive pages.
This changes the ‘base’ category or tag of your URLs using the following structure:
For example, changing your category base to “travel” will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/travel/uncategorized/’.
So, if you make the following change in your permalinks Optional > Category base settings section …
Your ‘category archives’ page URL will go from this …
To something like this …
If you leave the fields blank the default settings will be used.
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 – Tips
Set Up Categories
To get the best SEO benefit from using Permalinks, it’s important 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 expert Joost de Valk, here are some things to keep in mind if you are wondering whether you should add categories to your permalink structure 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 use categories 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 decrease 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 adding category vs no category there really is no ideal permalink structure to use. Choose the permalink structure that you think will suit your site best. SEO experts recommend making your web addresses short enough to be attractive and long enough to be descriptive.
We provide detailed information about WordPress categories in another tutorial.
Make Your Content Timeless
Another useful 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 syntax when setting up your blog’s URLs.
(Avoid setting up permalinks 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 the answers they are searching for.
Changing Permalinks In Blog With Published Content
Normally, your site’s permalinks should be configured when you install a new WordPress site. This should be part of your website planning process.
If your site is already established or you have a lot of content already indexed in the search engines and you want to change the permalink structure, make sure that this is really something that needs to be done, as changing permalinks after your site has been up and running for a while could create issues and errors.
Add 301 Redirects
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or their web developers) are completely unaware of the search-friendly URLs feature of WordPress.
Maybe you started out using the default WordPress URL structure and now you want to optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your website or blog was originally set up to display post dates in your web address and now all of your posts are showing as being two or three years old and you want to delete the date portion of the URLs.
To modify your permalinks without negatively affecting your site’s SEO you will need to add ‘301 redirects’ to reassign links using the old permalink structure to page URLs using the new permalink structure.
A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently relocated to another destination. 301 redirects are the most efficient and search engine friendly way to redirect users to new site destinations and avoid page errors if 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 set up a redirection system before messing with the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your do this using redirection 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 issues and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up URL redirections using redirection plugins or use the services of a professional)
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, see the WordPress codex below:
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