Wouldn’t it be great if you could just add content to your WordPress website, and the following would then take place … all from your post URL:
- Site readers could quickly gain an understanding of what the page is about,
- Search engines would discover your pages faster,
- Every single item of content added to your site would have a unique ID, making your site easier to manage.
Well, with permalinks this can easily be done!
How To Set Up And Use WordPress Permalinks
What’s A Permalink?
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 web address that others will use to link to articles or sections of your site or the links you send in an email pointing to a particular item of content on your site. Permalinks are often referred to as “pretty” URLs.
Permalinks make the URLs to each post on your website permanent, hence a perma-link.
Permalinks – Why Do You Need To Use Them?
Hopefully, you probably know by now that, WordPress is one of the best CMS applications you can use when it comes to SEO.
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 site, then you should not ignore the importance of your URLs. Google tends to pay special attention to the structure of your site’s URLs when indexing content.
Permalinks can be used to turn links on your site into memorable and more “search engine friendly” URLs. Permalinks can also improve the aesthetics, usability, and forward-compatibility of your links.
Now … let’s review the reason why you may need to configure your permalinks in WordPress.
By default, a WordPress installation uses a non-search engine friendly URL structure for your posts that looks like this …
As you can see from the image below taken from Google search results, many WordPress users haven’t yet configured their sites to publish search optimized content …
Although these sites are still getting their content indexed on search engines, many site owners are potentially missing out on extra SEO benefits.
To get maximum SEO benefit out of using and improve your site’s traffic results, you should 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 gives you the ability to create a custom URL structure for your published and archived posts, so your pages can go from this …
To something with an SEO-friendly URL like this …
In this tutorial, you will learn how to configure the Permalinks section of your WordPress site to display posts using search engine-friendly URLs instead of the out-of-the-box linking structure and help every new post you add to your site or blog get better indexing results in Google.
Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
In your WordPress admin section 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 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:
Instead of this …
(Using permalinks helps readers and search engines understand what your page is about)
How To Add Search Engine-Friendly Tags In Custom Structure
“Pretty” URLs, or SEO-friendly URLs, are created by adding one or more ‘tags’ in the Custom Structure field:
- %year% – The year your post is published, four digits (e.g. ‘2011’)
- %monthnum% – Month of the year (e.g. ‘02’)
- %day% – Day of the month (e.g. ‘05’)
- %hour% – Hour of the day (e.g. ‘24’)
- %minute% – The minute the post is published (e.g. ‘33’)
- %second% – The exact second your post gets published (e.g. ‘49’)
- %post_id% – The unique ID # of your post (e.g. ‘6987’)
- %postname% – A sanitized version of the 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 lower case letters and exclamation marks deleted) in the URL. Tip: You can always 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 …
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 selecting the ‘Custom Structure’ option and adding the /%postname%/ tag.
Optional Permalink Settings
This section lets you configure custom structures for your tag and category page URLs.
You can change the ‘base’ category or tag for your URLs using the following syntax:
For example, using “topics” as your category base will display your category links as ‘http://domain.com/topics/category_name/’.
So, if you add the following to 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 the fields blank WordPress uses the default settings.
Remember to save your 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 – Tips
To get the maximum 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 some things 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 is short and descriptive (e.g. uses a relevant keyword or keyword phrase), 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 share and reduce the SEO benefit.
- If you are going to post content under multiple categories, then it’s recommended that you do not use 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 is no ”better” 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 cover WordPress categories in other articles.
Avoid Time-Stamping Permalinks
Another great tip from Joost de Valk is that unless your website is a news blog or you have any special reason to add dates to your URLs, it’s best to avoid using date-based permalinks when configuring your URLs.
(Avoid setting up URL structures that time-stamp your content)
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 Permalinks In Site With Published Content
Normally, your permalinks should be set up when you first install WordPress. This should be part of your site planning process.
If your website has been running for a while or you have a lot of content already 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 can create SEO issues and errors.
As you’ve seen in the above screenshots of actual search results, some WordPress site owners (or whoever set up their site) seem to be completely 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 optimize your site better for search engines. Perhaps your website or blog was configured 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 your permalinks.
The best way to change your permalinks without negatively impacting your site’s SEO is to use ‘301 redirections’ to reassign links that were set up using the previous URL syntax to web URLs using the new permalinks structure.
A code ‘301’ is interpreted by search engines as a link that has permanently been moved to another location. 301 redirection is the most effective and search engine friendly way to redirect visitors to new website destinations and avoid page errors when following an old link.
To create an effective syntax change and avoid SEO problems, sending visitors to broken links, etc. you will need to add a redirection system before changing the permalink structure of your site.
You can add a link redirection system to your site or blog using a WP plugin 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 problems and troubleshoot any errors.
(Set up a link redirection system using plugins or get professional assistance)
Congratulations! Now you know how to set up your blog to display SEO-friendly URLs for your posts. For additional information on using Permalinks, refer to the official WordPress documentation below:
"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