The best permalink format for your site is so simple, you’re going to wonder why you never thought of it before. It’s obvious, intuitive, and perfect. In fact, I dare say it’s genius. Want to know what it is?
I told you it was obvious.
Look, you can waste immesurable hours and days trying to determine if
/postname/ is better than
/2012/postname, or you can sit down and remember you’re not making a site for search engines, but for your visitors.
SEO does have a point, don’t get me wrong. If it’s easy for people to find your site, you get more traffic. One of my sites, following the recent Panda and Penguin updates on Google, jumped from 5th place to 3rd on a search for the major keyword. Another went from 12th to 9th (we’re working on that). None of that has to do with me changing anything, or even picking the best SEO plugin. It was done the traditional way.
- I wrote good copy
- I networked with related sites for links
- I advertised
- I was memorable
Those three things, when done correctly, are how you get your site to rank high. And it’s that last item, being memorable, that should drive your URL choices.
A URL like http://example.com/12897342134/jkahsdu.aspx isn’t memorable. It tells me nothing of what your site’s about, what the topics are, what the subject is.
On the other hand, a URL like http://example.com/2011/how-to-save-elephants tells me quite a bit. I know when the post was written, so if there was a big to-do about elephants in 2011, it probably is related. But it’s not always easy to tell someone that URL, nor is it a given I’ll remember it tomorrow. I may remember that example.com had a cool posts about saving elephants, however. It’s certainly more likely I’ll remember it than the other link!
This is where WordPress does something cool, though. See, I can tell someone to go to http://example.com/how-to-save-elephants/ and that will redirect them to the right URL! You can do this on Drupal as well with a module called Global Redirect (Drupal folks, correct me if I’m wrong/there’s a better one).
To me, that says the issue isn’t what permalink pattern you pick, but what permalink slug you use! On that train of thought, what if I made my URL http://example.com/2011/save-elephants instead? Naturally then http://example.com/save-elephants would also work.
Now we can clearly see that ultimate issue is not the permalink structure. The only thing I don’t like about how WordPress defaults URLs is that I have to tell people ‘it’s example dot com slash save dash elephants’ and that’s not as easy as ‘example dot com slash elephants.’ Or even ‘saveelephants, all one word’ (I don’t know why that’s easier, but people tell me it is).
The whole reason people like short URLs is that they’re short and easier to remember. If I told you to get to a site you used http://bit.ly/elephant, you’d have a much higher likelihood of remembering. Invariably, however, we look at branding and think “I don’t want bit.ly to have my name.” That’s a case for Yourls, and now, as long as you customize all your Yourls, you’re in it to win it. I know most people use short URLs for Twitter and such, but I find that making a handy short URL to tell someone ‘go to foo dot in slash facebook’ works astonishingly well. Of course Facebook knows that too, and lets you use http://fb.com/username to find people.(I don’t have a yourls setup here because I’m incapable of finding a short URL I like.)
Sadly, there is one problem with this, and it’s that you can only use each ‘slug’ once, so once you’ve use ‘elephant’ you’re never able to use it again.
Name your slugs wisely and plan, as best you can, for the future.