Use a smart permalink structure on your blog when setting it up
When I first started to try out blogging a little – more than half a year ago – I had never heard of search engine optimization in my life. For a couple of months I had used the ‘good old’, but highly inefficient and unreadable ?p=%id% default format. Quite some SEO professionals don’t think it matters too much anymore what your URLs look like, but I’m still one of the guys who think it does matter; simply search for ‘php’ on the web, and chances are high you’ll mainly find websites that have nothing to do with PHP, but do have a .php extension visible.
Back on track: When I did start to figure out how to use a smart link structure after reading some about it, I set up the pretty ‘common’ and simple structure ‘/%postname%.html. While this works pretty good – in fact, it’s close to ideal, as it displays the post title and still looks a bit like a static page because of the .html postfix, which is my own favorite, but I doubt it has any ‘real’ purpose.
However, as soon as you change the title of a post, without letting your software – in this case Wordpress – know you don’t want the URL (named ‘excerpt’ with Wordpress), it will simply change your URL and destroy all links pointing to the old one, returning them a happy 404 error. As always, there is a fine solution for this: either add a complete datestamp in your link structure, or make sure you at least put in the %id% tag.
As you can see on this website, I’m using the syntax /%postname%-%post_id%.html, which results in an URL like this one: ‘http://leftblank.nl/use-a-smart-permalink-structure-on-your-blog-when-setting-it-up-287.html‘. The advantage of that is that both your post title will be visible to search engines – and users – so it’ll make perfectly sense what the page is about. The second advantage of using the %post_id% tag is that Wordpress will be able to spot this ID and display the post that matches it, even if you decide to rename its title, without having a complete year/date/time visible in your URL, which will rather look a bit messy than detailed.
To connect my last paragraph with the title; it’s important you use a good link structure from the beginning. There are again a couple of reasons for that: As first one, Wordpress wont let you easily migrate between permalink structures, giving your users still 404 (not found) errors when they browse to your website using an old link, which also goes for web crawlers. The second disadvantage is the penalty a lot of search engines (and ranking websites), such as Google and Technorati give you when you change your URL structure; it’ll take a long while to spider the new pages, often permanent redirects using htaccess will not completely solve that problem as for example Technorati ignores those.
Bottom line: This is my submission for the blog project ran by Daily Blog Tips ‘Blogging Mistakes‘. You can join this project by going to the page and reading the rules/howto’s on it. Doing so will both help your readers, Daily Blog Tips and yourself, as all participants will have to link to the other articles from their blog as well, as soon as they’ve all been send in.
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