When setting up a WordPress blog, one of the most important things you can do from the start is to choose the best permalink structure. These are not only better for your users to make sense of them, but also for SEO. What is a permalink?
Permalinks are what you see on a wordpress blog as the URL. By default, WordPress blogs appear something like this:
What exactly is the ?p=23? Yeah, well if you don’t know, then you can imagine that search engines do not either. In order to rank higher and push your SEO to the top, you need to use what many call Pretty Permalinks. A pretty permalink is basically a way to make your URL have rich keywords in their title. For example, lets assume you are setting up a blog for a Party Supply Store. Instead of www.partystore.com/blog/?p=23 you would have the URL as www.partystore.com/blog/best-balloons-for-birthdays.
When a Search Engine sees this they can spider it and see that you are talking about the best balloons for birthdays and not just a random number generated by the blog.
So how do you setup Pretty Permalinks within WordPress? There is tons of info out on the web, but here is a link that covers setting them up in detail. http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks
One of the biggest problems people might have is that you need to setup your .htaccess file to be writable so you can make this change within WordPress. Once that is done, you can modify the Permalink Structure. To find the setting within WordPress, just go to Settings, Permalinks. Note: If you have a blog that has been setup and running for a while, you will need to make sure you install a WordPress Plugin as in Redirection.
What is the best Permalink Structure for SEO? Well to be honest, I have researched this one for about 1 week straight and the conclusion is: There is not really a consensus on it, but many people state either solely using /%postname%/ or using the /%category%/ %postname%/.
The reason people state simply %postname% is that it is keyword rich and shows those words closer in the title. The reason many state /%category%/ %postname%/ is because many times your category has those rich keywords. I think a lot of it depends on things as in how many categories you usually apply to one post as it only takes one.
After deliberating for about 1 week, I choose / %postname%/. Why? It gets right to the point with what you are talking about and puts those keywords up nicely in the front of the URL. However, maybe one of the biggest reasons is, this appears to be what all the SEO Guru blogs are doing.
Here are some of the top SEO blogs that use the / %postname%/ this permalink structure:
Matt Cutts – http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/
Yoast – http://yoast.com/blog/
SEOmoz.org – http://www.seomoz.org/
BlueHatSeo.com – http://bluehatseo.com/
Here are some of the top SEO blogs using the /%category%/ %postname%/ structure:
Grey Wolf – http://www.wolf-howl.com/
SeoPedia.org – http://seopedia.org/
One thing I noted on the solely / %postname%/ structure is that WordPress has a warning about using this structure, http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks#Using_only_.25postname.25.
This is further explained in this blog post, http://dougal.gunters.org/blog/2009/02/04/efficient-wordpress-permalinks
They would recommend that you use a number to start your permalink structure as in with the %post_id% or %year% as this way WordPress itself can find the entry faster. This threw a wrench in the whole decision for me, but to be honest, I had to finally come to the reasoning that if Matt Cutts blog and SEOmoz can survive this currently, my blogs would be able to and by the time I reach their status, there might be a fix for that anyways.
Anyways, in a nutshell, one thing that is 100% conclusive is that, when it comes to pretty permalinks vs. ugly permalinks, always go with Pretty Permalinks.
In conlcusion, what is not 100% sure yet is the best Permalink structure, however it appears that possibly the most popular is the / %postname%/ and second would probably be /%category%/ %postname%/.
I would love to hear what others out there think on this?