Which WordPress permalink structure should you choose?

Andrea Vascellari asked on Twitter:

is there still value in using the date in permalink structure? i.e. /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/ Or is the postname “enough”?

Good question. There have been varying opinions about the usefulness of permalink structures in WordPress. If you’re not familiar, permalinks are a fancy name for how WordPress URLs look:

Permalink Settings ‹ Christopher S. Penn : Awaken Your Superhero — WordPress

Some folks say they should be post name only. There’s no category, no year, no month, just the name of the post. Many folks advocate that this is better SEO than any other format because the URL is least cumbersome. Once upon a time, that was true, but Google’s algorithm continues to reduce the impact of anything you can game or control. That said, this is still a cleaner, more attractive look for your URLs.

On my blog, I use the date permalink structure. The reason I use the date-based permalink structure has nothing to do with SEO and everything to do with analytics. By having the date-based permalink structure, I can see when my most popular posts were written. Here’s an example, in the Site Content/Pages report:

Pages - Google Analytics

I can see in the last 30 days that there are 3 posts from prior years that are still incredibly popular. That’s fairly useful. Now, let’s kick it up a notch a bit. (yes, I overuse that expression. Too much Emeril) Suppose I wanted to see what were the most popular posts of this quarter:

Pages - Google Analytics

The fact that some very old posts are still attracting high amounts of volume indicate to me that I need to go back and revise them, make sure they’re still relevant. The older they are, the more likely they are in need of some freshening up.

Now let’s dive even more into the weeds. Suppose I wanted to look at the most popular posts from this quarter that I had actually written this quarter, to see what’s popular among my new stuff? We turn on the advanced filter, type in Match RegExp for Pages, and search for this pattern: 2012/01|2012/02|2012/03

Pages - Google Analytics

Ah ha! I can see now what’s been working well that I’ve written during this quarter.

I recently used this style of reporting to export a list of URLs for Buffer from December. A lot of people had tuned out, especially in the second half of the month with the holidays, so I queued Buffer up with posts I’d written back then in order to get some more eyeballs on them.

It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to then go and apply this to conversions and see what’s been converting of new stuff or old stuff or stuff written during a certain time period.

So does this mean that the date-based permalink structure is the right way to do it? No. It’s only the right way for me. If the kind of reporting I showed above is of little or no interest to you, then date-based permalinks will only make your URLs unnecessarily longer. What URL structure you should choose should reflect what your needs and goals are.

If you decide that you do want to make a change to your permalink structure for an existing blog, make note of the existing structure and then grab Scott Yang’s Permalink Redirect plugin. This lets you automatically redirect your old structure to your new structure with minimal SEO impact.

Thanks for the question, Andrea!


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How to get better answers to your marketing questions

Probably the most common answer I give to nearly every marketing question I’m asked is “it depends”. While deeply unsatisfying, it’s also the most truthful answer that’s possible for so many questions. Here are a few examples:

What’s the best social network for my business?

It depends. Where are your customers?

Should I join networking groups like BNI or the Chamber of Commerce?

It depends. I work for a company whose ideal audience is the Fortune 500. Most of those folks don’t show up at the local Chamber events. Your ideal audience might be working professionals who attend those kinds of events in droves.

What’s the best time to [insert social media activity]?

It depends. When is your audience actually paying attention to you?

In the beginning stages of any kind of profession or discipline, there are definite right and wrong answers.

Is there a correct way to throw a punch or put on an effective wrist lock? Yes, for beginners, there certainly is. We teach this in the martial arts white belt classes.

Is there a best general rotation for subtlety rogues in World of Warcraft? For beginners, Shadowstep, Ambush, Hemorrhage or Backstab to 5 combo points, and Eviscerate will solve about 90% of your DPS problems.

Rogue

Once you get past the beginner’s stage, however, you get into a territory where the answers aren’t clear cut, and they never, ever will be. Take this as a good sign, a sign that you’ve learned, you’ve grown, you’ve made progress and gotten early gains that have taken you to the next level (literally, in World of Warcraft). Look how the answers change once you have some experience.

Is there a correct way to throw a punch or put on an effective wrist lock? It depends on what your opponent is doing. The correct way to throw a punch at someone charging at you with a machete is very different than the correct way to throw a punch at someone who is wrestling you to the ground.

Is there a best general rotation for subtlety rogues in World of Warcraft? It depends on whether you’re playing PvP or PvE. If it’s PvP, then you have to take into account what your opponent is doing and who they are. You may not want to open with Shadowstep if you’ve got a mage who can blink out at the first sign of trouble. Sap them, open with Ambush, and when they blink, Shadowstep and Gouge or Blind to shut them down.

If you’re asking around with a burning question, and you get “it depends” as an answer, take it as a sign that you need to dig in more and provide more details, more specifics, so that you can get to a better answer. This is a big step, a difficult step for a lot of people who got comfortable with easy questions and answers as a beginner. The more exacting and rigorous you are with your questions, the better and more refined answers you’ll get, answers that will help you to solve your problems and keep you moving forward.

For example, instead of asking, “What’s wrong with my SEO? I’m not getting any results?”, ask very specifically, “I’ve noticed that my site traffic is down primarily in referring sources – search and direct have remained pretty consistent.” That should lead you to the next question, which is, which referring sources are down? Were you getting a lot of traffic from social media sites, and if so, is one of them responsible for the tail-off in traffic? If so, what are you doing differently, or how has your audience changed?

To get better answers, ask better, more refined, more specific questions, and you’ll soon find yourself at levels of skill and insight that you never previously thought possible.


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Why macroeconomics matters to marketers

Those of you who follow me on social networks and/or read my newsletter know that on any given day, 20-40% of what I share is about economics rather than marketing. That seems strange and very off-topic for someone whose supposed focus is about marketing, don’t you think? Here’s why it’s not: for me, understanding economics helps me to better understand the demands that will be placed on marketing.

Signs of the recession - a psychic ATM?

When times are good and businesses are growing, flush with cash and eager to expand, marketing’s role tends to shift towards the upper end of the funnel. Let’s get more eyeballs, let’s get more people talking about us, let’s build our brand and build some buzz.

When times are lean and money is tight, marketing’s role tends to shift towards the bottom of the funnel. We need qualified leads. We need conversions. We need more customers to be buying immediately or as quickly as possible.

Knowing where the economy is (and where it may be headed) allows you to plan better for what will be asked of you as a marketer in the weeks and months to come. If you can foresee, for example, that gasoline prices will be $4/gallon in about 6 weeks and your audience is a B2C audience, you automatically know that there will just be less cash available.

Here’s an example. I recently tweeted that Saudi Arabia launched a fleet of tankers filled with oil to the US to knock down oil prices closer to $100/barrel, down from $1.25. It’ll take at least 30 days to get to Western refineries and then another 30 days or so to work its way through the refining process and get turned into the stuff you buy at the pump, which means that by late May, the oil will be in the system and hopefully prices should stabilize around $3.50-$4.00 a gallon at the pump. That’s ideally timed for the summer driving season to kick off, which means that hopefully the consumer will be somewhat less strained on cash allocated to gasoline. That in turn means they’ll have slightly more cash available for purchasing.

Economics may be known as the dismal science, but without an eye on it, you’re leaving yourself open to the whims and fancies of the market, unable to foresee the future and plan accordingly for it.


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