WordPress Custom Permalinks – Which is Best?

Permalinks is an often discussed topic among those using WordPress; and WordPress custom permalinksdeciding which permalink structure to use is confusing. Ask someone which is the best permalink structure to use and you’ll get a myriad of answers.

Most folks realize that you should not use the default permalink setting that looks like:

http://example.com/?p=123

That’s not SEO friendly at all.

Years ago, I used the date and name based structure.

http://example.com/2010/6/16/post-name

This is better, but really long. Having the date in there isn’t really a benefit.

So in more recent years, I’ve used the category and postname structure. This has been good, as you can use broad keyword phrases for your category names, and more specific long-tail phrases within your post titles to get a SEO friendly URL happening.

http://example.com/affordable-widgets/blue-square-widgets/

While this works good for SEO (even if it can get a bit long), the bottom line is that there is a whole other issue that was being overlooked: performance.

Sites that grow to be really large, with lots of posts and pages, and that use the %category%/%postname%/ structure, are forcing WordPress to store and then render all this extra data when pages are served up to the site visitor.

Why or how is this a problem?

The category and postname fields are text fields. So it forces WordPress to store all this extra information in your database and makes WordPress work harder to distinguish pages from posts.

Here is a quote straight from WordPress.org on this issue:

Make sure to end your structure with either %post_id% or %postname% (e.g. /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/) so that each permalink points to an individual post.
For performance reasons, it is not a good idea to start your permalink structure with the category, tag, author, or postname fields. The reason is that these are text fields, and using them at the beginning of your permalink structure it takes more time for WordPress to distinguish your Post URLs from Page URLs (which always use the text “page slug” as the URL), and to compensate, WordPress stores a lot of extra information in its database (so much that sites with lots of Pages have experienced difficulties). So, it is best to start your permalink structure with a numeric field, such as the year or post ID.

So, what does this mean for you and your WordPress sites?

For best performance and results, use this custom permalink structure:

/%post_id%/%postname%/

The postname will still make your URLs SEO-friendly; the post ID will make them shorter and make less work for WordPress (and store less data) to deliver your content quickly to your site visitor.

Changing Your Permalinks the SEO-friendly Way

To change your permalinks structure without causing broken 404 errors on your site, or losing any ground with the search engines, I recommend this plugin: Dean’s Permalinks Migration

This plugin does all the hard work for you, automatically creating 301 redirects for your links, instead of you having to update your .htaccess file with a ton of 301 redirects manually.

Hope this helped you!

To YOUR Success,

P.S. If you have any questions about permalinks, post them in the comments section below.

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