Ontario Journalist, Writer, Photography & Filmmaker

Internetworking Pt III

This is the third in my, hopefully, continuing – but perhaps not regular – series on using the internet and social media for business purposes.

I recently, late October 2010, made some changes to my blog and website. I scrapped my old site and combined everything under the WordPress format. The WP format is easier to update, there’s less work in terms of coding/programming and it means I’m managaing one site instead of two. All good. Right?

At the same time as I redesigned the theme I’d been using to give the new site the look I wanted, I also changed the permalink structure of the blog. Permalinks are links in your various blog posts or links from other sites that bring a reader back to yours. Permalinks are very important for search engine ranking (the coveted Search Engine Optimization, or SEO) and for indexing of the pages of your site.

The default for WordPress is something like rf-photography.ca/?p=123.  It’s pretty much meaningless and nondescriptive.  If your blog has been up and running for a while though, the search engine bots have sped through and used this permalink structure to map your site and it’s what users see when they find a link to your site in search results.  There are several other options for the permalinks in your WP blog/site and these can be found in the admin panel under Settings.

When I changed mine, I changed them to show the date and the title of the post.  Then, in early January 2011, I changed them again to show just the post title.  Why’d I change them again?  Good question.

I changed them initially from the default because I wanted the information shown in search results and in the URL address bar to be more descriptive.  I decided to use the date and post title so that people could see when the post was made.  This also meant I had to change the permalinks in all the articles on the site.  After living with this this structure for a while, I noticed that the number of search strings that were bringing people to my site were down quite a lot compared to before I made the change.  This makes sense, of course.  The search engines needed to go through the site again and re-index everything with the new permalink structure.  This meant my search engine ranking dropped temporarily.  I also felt that, in some cases, the URL links were too long with the date included.  Lastly, I thought that if some searchers saw a date that was older, they may bypass the link on the basis that the information in the link was old or that my site wasn’t updated regularly.  So I changed them again to include just the post title.

The other thing I did was install a plugin to manage permalink redirection.  What’s that?  What it is is a WordPress plugin that allows you to redirect broken links.  By checking the usage stats for my site, I could find links from search engines that were broken and configure those broken links to redirect to the new, correct page.

What’s happened since I made these (final?) changes to my permalink structure and began redirecting broken links?  The number of search strings that bring people to my site has started to increase again.  The search engine ranking of my site for the various search phrases people have used is rising again.

I’ve taken a short term hit for longer term benefit.

What’s this all mean for you?  If you’ve already got your blog set up the way you want, probably not a lot.  If; however, you’re just looking at setting up a blog or haven’t had one up for very long, it could be taken as a bit of a cautionary tale to map out your permalink philosophy ahead of time and if you do change it, make sure you take action to redirect those broken links to the new, proper ones.