Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why Permalinks and How Do You Use Them?



Originally uploaded by gravityfailsme
Almost every day, permalinks are used and casually referred to. The unspoken assumption assumes a common knowledge as to what permalinks are and how they are used.

In the course of reading a book or article, I often come across certain words again and again until they are familiar. But some how along the way, I never did learn the meaning. Sometimes, I even have acquired a wrong definition that is not corrected until I go to the dictionary and look up the word. That is not the case with permalink. Not a wrong definition, but I have never looked up what it actually means and does.

Wikipedia defines permalink as a portmanteau word made up from permanent link which never changes. Thereby, any link disintegration is avoided. Most weblog use permalinks as an URL that points to particular blogging entry long after it has been moved from the front page to the archives. Making it useful for tracking and saving pervious blogs.

Here is another word, portmanteau. It is a word that is made up from two other words. An example is blog. It is made from web and log as in journal. A blog is a journal online.

Although other types of websites may use permalinks, it found more readily in weblogs. This is because a blog with continuous new entries will feature an entry for only a short time before it is move from its front page to the archives.

Many visitors to weblogs want to store the URL for a particular entry that is on the front page. They may find when they revisit the site that the article that they want to store has been replaced by another entry. So many bloggers prominently post permalinks so that the visitor will store the long lived URL or permalink for reference.

Weblogs use permalinks in numerous other ways. They can be used for link tracing, link trackbacks and various feeds since they refer to specific weblog entries.

There is not one correct way to format permalink URL. Generally, permalinks are made of a string of characters which represent the date and time of posting and author. Then if the article is renamed, edited or archived, the permalink functions as a internal database identifier. For example, Blogger has a feature which a post's ID is placed in the Blogger template and a permalink is created.

While Blogger takes care of permalinks for you, users of Wordpress weblogs can take a more active role. If you use Wordpress you can customize your permalink from the WordPress admin panel.

The Wordpress default permalink is considered ugly and unprofessional. The URL looks something like this:

http://domainname.com/index.php?p=15 (where 15 is the post number)

This Permalink is ugly with all the letters and question mark. It does not give the reader information about the post other than the number. The default does work on all server environments such as Linux and Windows.

Wordpress does offer three options to change the permalink to being pretty which can give more information about the entry in the permalink title.

The first option gives the posts' date and name and looks something like this:

http://domainname.com/2007/08/03/sample-post/

The second option is numeric and looks something like this:

http://domainname.com/archives/123.

The third option is custom in which you can specify the permalink structure you want. This is useful if you want to add keywords to your URL for seo purposes.

The writer at bloggerholic.com gave his method of adding keywords to the permalink. The format is:

/%category%/%postname%-%post_id%.htm

He goes on to say that he added post_id%.htm to distinguish between other posts with the same name.

So the he states that the resulting URL will look something like this:

http://domainname.com/search-engine-optimization/how-to-create-seo-titles-using-permalinks-31.htm.

If you wish, you could use .html instead of .htm as show in the example. Either way, you will not create actual .html files. It is just an illusion and does not offer any search engine benefits. It just gives a cleaner look and you can number your posts per example.

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