Correctly configuring your websites permalink structure is an important part of building a website that works. Your permalink structure will dictate how easy it is to alter your blog in the future, and how Google views your articles in terms of SEO.
While altering your permalink structure within WordPress is a relatively painless task that requires little technical knowledge, it is always a good idea to understand the nature of the changes you are making. There is no one size fits all solution, but a good knowledge of how permalinks work will ensure you make the best possible decision for your specific project.
It has been widely acknowledged by the SEO community that having keywords in your URL helps your website or individual posts rank for relevant terms related to your website or article. It is maybe therefore surprising that WordPress does not optimize your URL structure straight out of the box, but for whatever reason they have decided not to.
A new WordPress installation will have permalinks that look like this:
These default links are ugly and do not help SEO, but what alternative permalink structure should you choose?
Your WordPress administration panel gives you a number of options to choose from, but you may want to use a custom structure. Here is an image of how your options panel should look. The post name option is new to WordPress 3.3, so if you don’t have it you definitely need to upgrade.
In my opinion your permalinks structure should be as simple as possible, while also containing relevant keywords.
It is unlikely that there is a legitimate reason that you have to include the date, unless you are running a daily news site where your posts are date specific and are quickly superseded by new news.
If you are running a blog or company website and plan on writing content that will be interesting for years to come (as I am here) using the date in your URL can have a negative impact. Why would someone visit an older article when there is a current one in the results?
In almost every circumstance I would suggest using one of only two permalink structures, and these are:
You can add this by clicking the ‘Post Name’ option or adding as a custom structure by placing /%postname%/ in the custom structure text box (as seen below).
To activate this permalink you will have to click custom structure and add
/%category%/%postname%/ to the text field- there is no click option for this perma-structure (as seen below)
Many bloggers use their category names in their permalinks, I choose not to do this for a number of reasons.
1. I like to keep my permalinks as short as possible. While my category name will most certainly reflect the nature of my post, it is my post title that will prove to be the best description as to the content of that particular article. There is really no benefit in keyword stuffing.
2. Throughout the lifetime of a web project I often change my mind about what it is I am looking to achieve. This sudden change of heart will often mean big onsite changes too. Category titles are updated often, and the ease in which this can be done is paramount to my websites success.
If your category titles are contained within the websites permalink structure, and you decide to change this category name, you will have to redirect each and every old post link to the new permalink (containing the new category slug).
If you failed to redirect these permalinks the likely-hood of losing the majority of your traffic overnight would be very high – as people hit your ‘404 page not found’ page with increasing regularity.
However if you decide to update your category name, and your category does not form part of your post URL you will not be required to redirect that post to a new location- as the URL will not have changed.
This is the main reason that I almost never include my category title within my URL’s.
There Are No Right & Wrong Answers!
It’s probably a good idea to understand that there are no definitive answers to how you should use WordPress permalinks, but some uses are obviously more fit for purpose than others. By all means play around with how you use yours, but bare in mind that your URL should adequately describe your content to both your visitors and the search engines that are looking to index it.
My rule of thumb: simplicity always wins! 🙂