Implemented Pretty Permalinks

After much internal debate, I finally decided to change my WordPress blog to use pretty permalinks. It was a difficult decision to make with lots of pros and cons to consider. I placed an asterisk next to cons that turned out to be irrelevant.

Cons to using or switching to pretty urls

  • I like the flexibility and quickness of accessing posts by their id numbers. I didn’t want to have to type out the whole url of a post when using pretty yet longer urls.*
  • Because of the above, I have been using ?p=num since the beginning. I feared breaking links to my blog entries.*
  • Changing the url structure so drastically could hurt rankings, and thus my blogging efforts will be for naught. ~*
  • My site stats won’t be as accurate because each post will have two different urls associated with it. I will lose historical data.
  • I tend to change my mind with the post titles so I didn’t want to commit to using urls that are dependent on the title.
  • (this wasn’t part of decision-making but realized after the fact) My custom search engine for my blog relied upon the parameters like ?p and ?m to differentiate the different types of results. I can’t do that anymore. I could add /post/ to the url pattern but that would make the urls even longer, resulting in higher likelihood of truncation. Bummer.

Pros to switching to pretty urls

  • My biggest pet peeve when looking at site stats is not knowing what entry is being referenced. All I see is /blog/?p=1. Using pretty permalinks will help me see which post I am seeing stats for.
  • Outside of stats, it helps me, visitors, search engines to see descriptive urls.
  • It turned out I can still access posts with their id numbers.
  • Because I can still access posts with id numbers, existing backlinks will still work.
  • I found and installed a permalink redirect plugin that will do a 301 redirect from the old urls to the new urls. This should help the search engines recognize the change in urls, thus reducing the likelihood of duplicate content issues.

I decided upon the pattern that uses /year/month/date/post_id/ instead of other recommended patterns such as /post_name/post_id/ or /category/post_name/. Since my posts tend to have multiple categories, I didn’t want to deal with the complications of using a url that involved the category. For me, the advantage of using the time-based url pattern is that navigating up the “directory” structure still showed posts for the day, month, or year. Another bonus, which I appreciate from sites that use this structure, is being able to see at a glance the age of a post. For certain topics, timeliness is a important to consider.

I will be keeping my eye on the results of implementing this change. I am going to watch for:

  • effects on traffic
  • effects on ranking
  • how long it takes for the new urls to replace the old ones in the index

Update: Less than an hour after implementation, google blogsearch of my blog already updated a bunch of the urls.

Update 6/04/2007: Two days** after implementation, a site search showed Google has indexed the new urls. I went through the pages of results to see if all urls had been re-indexed but the change stopped at around 50 results. The weird thing is that none of the posts were indexed with the new urls. The results showing the new urls were navigational links like months, categories, and feeds. Yahoo and Microsoft have not indexed the new urls.

Update 6/05/2007: Site search for takethu.com/blog/ still doesn’t show individual posts being indexed with the new url. However, if I do a sitesearch for takethu.com/blog/2007, for example, I can see the new urls for some posts.

My concern about losing traffic has been alleviated. My traffic has increased, and not only is at a record high for the month, but is at the second highest point ever since I started this site over 1.5 years ago.** The highest point was when people were searching about the tax due date this year and found my blog post, so that is an outlier that I would remove. Discounting that anomalous spike, this is the highest traffic level this domain has ever had in one day. Well, it’s only been three days since I switched to permalinks, but the results are promising.

Update 6/13/2007: After a week and a half, about 200 of the results in a site search show the updated urls.
** This was what I observed in my particular experience for my site. Your mileage may vary.

2 thoughts on “Implemented Pretty Permalinks”

  1. I did exactly the same thing on my own blog a year or two ago! :)

    Other advantages:
    - When people see your links in plain text e-mails and such, they have an idea what they’ll be finding.
    - When you want to link to old articles, it’s a lot easier to just remember /nice-title than ?entry=459.

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