Choosing the Right Permalinks for Your WordPress Blog

Which one?

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series. Check out the rest here!]

This is the continuation of not only the larger series about launching a WordPress-Powered blog but also a continuation of the previous post about optimal WordPress Settings for that new installation.

The topic of permalinks is one of hot debate (at times) and you can surely do your due diligence and scope out the many different and varying perspectives on what is the “best” strategy for permalinks for your blog.

For those that need a quick primer, a “permalink” is:

A permalink, or permanent link, is a URL that points to a specific blog or forum entry after it has passed from the front page to the archives.

In the context of blogging it’s most simply understood as a direct and permanent link to a specific blog post. But, as you can see above, the Default look is a little bit hard to read and remember, right? What does “?p=123” even mean to anyone?

Nothing, that’s what. So, one of the numerous benefits of using WordPress is that you can declare a Pretty Permalink structure or in laymen’s terms a “more readable” link to your blog post.

But, as with anything, there are a few things you should know:

3 Different Types of Permalinks:

WordPress provides three different types of permalinks for you to use:

1. Default

This is the “ugly” mode of permalinks in WordPress and the always look something like this:

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/?p=123[/cc]
Note the ending . Not too attractive, right?

2. Pretty Permalinks via mod_rewrite

These are typically what’s used and helps make the URL more readable to your visitors. You can choose a number of different “looks” as presented by WordPress:

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/category/post-name[/cc]

or

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/year/month/day/post-name[/cc]

and a few others.

3. PATHINFO

Most of you won’t even know what this means (or even care) but essentially this is just like a “Pretty Permalink” except it adds the actual path to the address which is typically adding “index.php” to the link:

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/index.php/yyyy/mm/dd/post-name/[/cc]

If you’re interested in knowing even more deetail you can download this plugin that will tell you the type of permalink being used.displays the type of permalinks and any detailed information on the internal rewrite rules used by WordPress.

Which One is Right for Me?

Of course the natural question is to decide which one is right for you and your blog. The answer is this: It Depends.

Why? Because you should choose the right type of permalink structure as it relates to these three things:

  1. Content Focus
  2. Information Architecture
  3. Performance Impact

The first point helps you decide which permalink structure to use because depending on your content (and how you’re displaying the content) you’ll be able to choose the right one.

For example, if your blog is more of an archive of research reports that are time-sensitive then you’ll most likely want to choose a permalink structure that has the dates explicitly within the URL. Makes sense, right? Blogs related to events like sports might be better situated for date-based permalinks.

The other point is how you “architect” your blog – that is, how are you presenting the information via internal linking? For example, if you’ve crafted a design in such a way where it showcases different categories plainly and a lot of traffic will be heading toward these top-level categories then you’ll want that in your permalink structure. A practical example of this might be a news-heavy blog or a blog about tutorials covering different types of apps.

The third consideration is that of performance because the simple fact is this: Pretty permalinks tax your server and computing/processing power from your hosting provider.

I will admit that most hosting providers now give a new blog enough computing power for no one to notice but if you’re a performance junkie and/or are having issues with performance (that is, load times for your users) then you might want to come back to this section and do some research.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to start your permalink structure with the following:

  • Category
  • Tag
  • Author
  • Post Name

Why? Because these are text fields (your actual page slugs) and your WordPress application has to figure out whether or not they are actually “Posts” or “Pages” in your system.

Two solutions for those that are performance-inclined is to delineate posts by adding something like “year” or “posts” to the permalink structure:

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/year/post-name[/cc]

or

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/posts/post-name[/cc]

or even

[cc]http://YourDomainName.com/blog/post-name[/cc]

I’ve seen it done every single way so you make the call. The criticism, of course, is that it’s not “perfectly pretty” because you have to add one more word to your URL.

So, Mr. TentBlogger… What Do You Use?

For my blogs I’ve chosen to “risk” the performance hit (which is not really a “risk” much at all anymore, besides the fact that I’ve customized my environment) and use the following structure:

[cc]http://DomainName.com/post-name[/cc]

And this is the code that I use to do this:

[cc]/%postname%/[/cc]

You can see it here:

This one!

Again, I feel comfortable with the performance hit because I don’t have any issues in that department and the way that I’m creating the architecture for my blogs works with this system.

What About My Categories?

Make your categories SEO Friendly too!

Glad you asked! I’ve released a WordPress Plugin here that’ll help you capture (and “fix”) your categories in WordPress for the most SEO-friendly experience ever.

Check it out here!

Other Permalink Settings, Options:

Here are your other options though available with WordPress. I’d suggest thinking about it considerably and making your choice and sticking with it!

[cc]%year%[/cc]

What this does: The year of the post, four digits, for example 2004.

[cc]%monthnum%[/cc]

What this does: Month of the year, for example 05.

[cc]%day%[/cc]

What this does: Day of the month, for example 28.

[cc]%hour%[/cc]

What this does: Hour of the day, for example 15.

[cc]%minute%[/cc]

What this does: Minute of the hour, for example 43.

[cc]%second%[/cc]

What this does: Second of the minute, for example 33.

[cc]%postname%[/cc]

What this does: A sanitized version of the title of the post (post slug field on Edit Post/Page panel). So “This Is A Great Post!” becomes this-is-a-great-post in the URI (see Using only %postname%). Starting Permalinks with %postname% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons.

[cc]%post_id%[/cc]

What this does: The unique ID # of the post, for example 423.

[cc]%category%[/cc]

What this does: A sanitized version of the category name (category slug field on New/Edit Category panel). Nested sub-categories appear as nested directories in the URI. Starting Permalinks with %category% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons.

[cc]%author%[/cc]

What this does: A sanitized version of the author name. Starting Permalinks with %author% is strongly not recommended for performance reasons.

Of course, if you need any more information you can check out the permalink section over at WordPress.org.

So, What Are You Using?

Love to hear your thoughts on this and also what you’re using (or going to use)!

Let’s hear it in the comments.

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series. Check out the rest here!]

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