Permalink Optimization

If you’re reading this, you probably know what a permalink is. This article is about optimizing your permalinks for both search engines and your readers. That said, do not change your permalink structure if you can help it. If you’re starting a new blog, put a bit of thought into your permalink structure of choice. Otherwise, you should probably leave them alone. By changing your permalink structure, you’re basically killing off all of your search rankings and incoming links (kind of defeats the purpose). However, if you are an .htaccess expert (and feel like setting up a complex redirection scheme), you could update your permalink structure (though I’d still advise against it).

Some of the More Common Permalink Structures

WordPress’s default format for permalinks is http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=456. The number “456” is the numerical id for the post. If your permalinks look like this, then change them immediately. They’re not very user-friendly, and they won’t rank well in search engines. Even if you’ve been blogging for awhile, you can go ahead and change them. Doesn’t that contradict what I said earlier? No, because the default permalinks always work, and will just redirect people to the updated URL.

The current most popular structure is date-based. It looks like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/2007/10/26/the-best-post-ever/. I use this format for the URLs here at Webmaster-Source, and they tend to do well in search engines. You’ll note that an URL-friendly version of the post title is part of the URL. Search engines like that. You’re post titles probably have some good keywords that help to define the actual post, which works to your advantage, as search engines factor URL keywords into their rankings. The date in the URL is also useful. Readers can tell, at a glance, when the post was written, and it unlocks a neat trick. Just delete the “26/the-best-post-ever/” part from your browser’s location bar, and press enter. What do you see now? All the posts written in October 2007! Isn’t that useful?

If you want to go crazy with the keywords, then here’s another method: http://www.yourdomain.com/tutorials/the-best-post-ever/. That’s /the-category/the-post-name/. Michael uses this format over at his blog Pro Blog Design. It looks pretty good, and a little less “blog-like.”

Does your blog have a lot of authors? Maybe you should consider putting the author’s name in the URL like this: http://www.yourdomain.com/steve/the-best-post-ever/. Then you can set-up pages at yourdomain.com/steve/, and for the other users. Using some templates, and a bit of PHP, you can make the pages into mini “blogs” that show all the posts by that user. I’ve never seen anyone do this so far, so you can be the first. :D

Permalink Setup

In WordPress, the permalink structure is set-up on the Options -> Permalinks page in the admin panel. You can choose of the default options (the only one I recommend is “Date and name based”) or you can enter some gibberish into the “Custom structure” field. If you want “Date and name based,” then select the appropriate option, otherwise go with the gibberish.

The “Custom structure” field expects you to enter something along the lines of /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/. That’s actually the code for the “Date and name based” permalink structure. The tags you may want to use in the field are:

  • %year%
  • %day%
  • %month%
  • %category%
  • %postname%
  • %author%

There are a few others, but you probably won’t have any use for them. Would you really want to use %second% or %minute%? I doubt it.

After you finish editing your permalink structure, click the update button. That should be all, unless you get an error message back. If WordPress tells you that it can’t update the .htaccess file, then you need to either add the supplied code yourself, or CHMOD the .htaccess file.

After updating your permalinks, make sure they work. Visit a few posts on your blog, and check to see if they load correctly. If everything is fine, happy blogging!

  • http://www.problogdesign.com/ Michael from Pro Blog Design

    Interesting ideas there Matt. I never thought of flicking through monthly archives by the URL before.

    When I set up my permalinks, I was thinking of the more traditional type of web site, with folders and such (An article page would be in a category folder. The URL would then reflect that). It just made more sense to me I suppose (And like you said, it’s less bloggy ;) ).

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    “I never thought of flicking through monthly archives by the URL before.”
    It’s real useful. By the way, I checked your blog to see if you can do that.. Despite the fact that you use the /category/post-name structure, it still works. Try it. Archives for Oct. 2007: http://www.problogdesign.com/2007/10/

    I agree about the categories making sense if you think of them as folders (directories to Linux/Unix users). However, there was an additional point I wanted to raise in the post, but I forgot.

    /category/post-name/ is good for blogs with a lot of long, timeless content, while /year/month/day/post-name/ is a better option for news sites, and large multi-author blogs with several posts per day (Engadget, for example).

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  • http://www.gaozari.ro Robert

    hi, i'm wondering..Permalinks matter on Google optimization? I mean..right now i have that kind of permalinks: mysite/postname. i think i will have a better optimization if i use mounth day and postname, or it doesn't matter for google?

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

    Yes, they do make a difference. "mysite/postname" actually performs better than with "site/month/day/postname" because of the higher keyword density in the URL.

    <a href=”http://http://www.seomoz.org/blog/11-.....-for-urls/“target=”_blank”>http://www.seomoz.org/blog/11-best-practices-for-

    • http://www.gaozari.ro Robert

      tx a lot :)

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