Permalinks are key to blogs – they let us find the posts that we are looking for and allow us to link to them. Every post and page has a permalink which is created automatically for it but we do have the option of improving them to really get them working for us.

Since they are created automatically, many of us just forget about them and get on with writing our posts and interacting with our readers. However, with a little bit of effort when we set up our blog and we can make the permalinks much more useful for our readers and attractive for Search Engines.

So what is a Permalink?
A Permalink is simply the individual address of a page on your blog which is otherwise known as its URL. Theres nothing mysterious about it. Every page on every website has an address and its what both your readers and Search Engines use to identify it. The main permalinks that people refer to on blogs are those for the individual posts but also each category and each monthly archive has its own unique one too.

Why are permalinks important?
Most blogging systems have a basic and rather uninspiring permalink structure as their standard set-up which simply includes the number they have allocated to the post or category. The format is something like:

www.betterbusinessblogging.com/?p=14

Not very helpful to your readers and absolutely no help to Search Engines.

However, by making a couple of small changes and including the name of the post in the permalink, you can make it much more useful. Immediately people will have a better idea of what it contains and, if you have keywords in your post title, then you are giving Search Engines a real boost as well.

What are the options are available?
If you are using a system like WordPress, then the options are endless. Apart from the standard or default setting above, there is also two preset possibilities using the Date and name version’

www.betterbusinessblogging.com/2006/12/17/name-of -post/

and the numeric version

www.betterbusinessblogging.com/archives/14/

By far the most useful, however, is the custom version which gives you almost total flexibility with the elements that can include in the permalink – WordPress allows you to include the year, month, category, post name, author and a number of other options. These options can be changed from the Administration area by going to Options > Permalinks and then selecting the format that you require or creating your custom format.

What is the best permalink format?
While I dont think you can say that there is a single best format, my personal preference is to use a combination of the category and the name of the post in the permalink such as

www.betterbusinessblogging.com/category-name/name-of post/

Why that combination? Personally, I like to make the best possible use of all elements of SEO and so prefer to include the category that the post belongs to rather than the date – the categories, of course, should also be descriptive and include relevant keywords.

Including the name of the post is essential in my opinion, whatever other elements you decide to include. Not only does it provide additional information about the post, it will hopefully have at least one keyword for the search engines. Does this create more work for you in the future? Not at all. Once you have chosen the structure, WordPress still creates the permalink automatically for you by using your post’s title and inserting hyphens in between the words instead of spaces.

Importantly, you can also modify the exact form of the words that appear as the ‘post name’ element in the permalink by changing the post slug. You can find this as one of the boxes on the right hand side of the page when you write or manage your posts.

Word of Warning
At the start of this post, I mentioned that a permalink is the address of your page. When a Search Engine indexes a page or a blogger links to a post, they do so using the page’s permalink thats how people can then find your post. If you decide to change your permalink format after you have been posting for a while, then you run the risk of breaking these links so do be careful.

If you change from the default ?p=14 to a friendly, custom, permalink then you will be ok – the database should still recognise the original default setting as well as the new friendly one. However, changing from one custom permalink to another will need additional work to maintain your inbound links.

Conclusion
Getting the best out of your permalinks may seem a small element but it is another important building block in creating a blog which has all the elements in place to push your business forward. Easy to recognise addresses online are beneficial for your readers and Search Engines so take a moment or two to create the best one for you when you set up your business blog.

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