So, some things have changed since 2007 – I now use the very same permalink structure I warn against below. There are a few reasons for this:
- WordPress now deals with permalink structure changes much better these days and will automatically 301 redirect the old URLs for you (in most cases).
- Even if WordPress didn’t do it automatically, I’m now comfortable setting up 301 redirect via .htaccess (which is what I do, because I don’t quite trust leaving it to WordPress).
- Having the category in the permalink does provide SEO benefits – I don’t care so much about getting the keywords in the URL (you can get that through postname), but I do like the benefits for the site structure (pseudo folders creating a silo structure).
There are still some problems with the
/%category%/%postname%/ permalink structure: if you have a lot of pages (more than 50ish), this permalink structure can really slow down your site. Having said that, even this problem is likely to disappear, as it looks like they’ll change the way this works in WordPress 3.3.
This is only my second post since launching www.scratch99.com and I’ve already changed the Permalink structure! In this article, I examine why my original structure:
doesn’t work for me.
After installing WordPress, I was keen to customise it. Whilst searching for information, I found the WordPress Customisation Guide by Elliot Back, which introduced me to the concept of permalink customisation. Note that this is quite dated (October 2004) and the method described to set up permalinks has changed (WordPress now sets up .htaccess for you, rather than you needing to copy code to it).
http://www.yourdomain.com/?p=123, but you can change this to a variety of styles which are more user friendly, and more importantly, search engine friendly.
After reading Elliot’s article, I knew I wanted to change my permalink structure, but the article doesn’t give much information on what to change it to, so I went searching for further information.
This lead me to Fintan Darragh’s Ultimate WordPress SEO Tips, which recommends removing all non-essential tags from the permalink structure and replacing them with keyword rich tags such as
%category%, which makes your links more search engine friendly.
After searching some more, I found quite a few sites recommending
/%category%/%postname%/ as the permalink structure.
This appealed to me. Date information is not particularly important for my blog, as it will be more category than date driven. Using
/%category%/%postname%/ would ensure that only useful, keyword rich, information would be included in my links.
So my initial decision was made. I changed the permalink structure and published my first post.
Problem with using
Having made the initial decision, I quickly decided that I’d made a mistake.
Why? My blog is new, so my categories are not yet settled. What I write about may change as my blog matures. I will probably need to reorganise my categories at some point in future, probably several times. Each time I change a category, it will break some of my permalinks, resulting in bookmarks, links to my stories, etc that no longer work.
There are redirect plugins that can help if you do change the permalink structure, but it is far simpler if you pick a suitable structure first and don’t change it.
Therefore, my caution for beginners: Having
%category% in your permalink structure is not sensible, unless you are very sure that your categories won’t change.
It seems obvious in hindsight, but when you are busy trying to sort out your theme, the multitude of plugins you can use, etc, it’s easy to overlook this. I’d found a lot of information on the benefits of using category, but none that mentioned any potential problems.
My New Permalink Structure
I’d only made one post and it was just an introduction to my blog (not something people would link to or be particularly interested in). Therefore I decided to change my permalink structure before my second post. But to what?
My first thought was to just use
/%postname%/. I have seen articles recommending this for ultimate SEO benefits, and lets face it, it is oh so web 2.0 (think Delicious for example).
However, there are potential problems with this approach, outlined on the WordPress Codex site, so it’s not worth risk.
Instead, I decided to put something short before
%postname%. Although the date is not particularly important to me, I decided to use:
Adding the year and month number wastes only a little space and the information is marginally useful.
Hopefully this will be the last change for me! What do you use for your permalinks? Are there any other traps for newcomers to be aware of?