In a recent post on my forum, we were discussing permalink structure. The topic of that discussion was which permalink structure was best. The thread brought up some interesting points, and I thought I would share my conclusions here for your consideration. If you blog and you use WordPress, you'll want to give this some thought...
What is Permalink Structure?
It is the permanent link structure for your individual blog posts. The default link structure includes a question mark and the Post ID, which would look like this:
By customizing your permalinks, you can make the URL or link to the same blog post look like this instead:
You can customize your Permalink Structure by clicking Options > Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard or admin panel.
Why Does Permalink Structure Matter?
It has been said that the URL structure (whether it is a static page or a blog post) carries weight in regards to search engine ranking. You may have even heard that major search engines wont read anything after the question mark (?) in a URL, but that's obviously not the case since we see these types of links in search results every day now.
That said, search terms that appear in the URL are generally bold, other otherwise highlighted in the search results.
The URL should contain relevant information about the page content, and not information that isnt useful to either humans or bots. So you want your link structure to create URLs that both define the content and include relevant keywords.
It's a well known fact that the structure of the URL alone can increase click-through rates. Not to mention it just plain looks better and gives your site a more professional appearance.
Which Permalink Structure Should You Use?
When you go to Options > Permalinks, you will notice there are several options for setting up your Permalink Structure. The default choices are default, date and name based, numeric or custom:
date & name: http://www.clicknewz.com/2007/05/24/sample-post/
Here on ClickNewz I use a custom Permalink Structure that is coded like this:
What that structure does is create URLs to individual blog posts that contain the Post ID and the Post Name. Here is an example of a permalink created using this structure:
After much consideration, this is the Permalink Structure that makes the most sense.
Unless the date is highly relevant to your blog posts, its simply unnecessary. In most cases you dont want to 'date' your content, but would prefer it to be (and seem) relevant to anyone reading it at anytime.
I had considered using the category name in the URL at one point, but I often assign an individual post to more than one category. For the sake of keeping URLs as short as possible, I decided to leave this out.
The Post ID may not seem necessary or relevant at first glance, but it can certainly be a useful addition to your Permalink Structure. It allows WordPress to locate a blog post even if you leave out the rest of the URL - such as Post Name. Let me show you an example:
This could be particularly useful if you have long post titles, and plan to email links to individual blog posts. You can use the shorter version of the URL (only containing the Post ID) and your readers will still be taken to the appropriate page on your blog.
Changing Your Permalink Structure
With these tips in mind, you may be considering a change to the Permalink Structure on your blog. But you dont want to change all of the links on your archived posts, and run the risk of creating a lot of 404 - File Not Found errors when people click through from the search engines or from other sites that link to you.
In the forum thread, a great plugin was recommended:
This creates a 301 Redirect from your original links to the new links created when you change your Permalink Structure. That way if someone clicks on one of your old links, they will be redirected to the correct post or page on your blog, even though the link for that page/post has changed.