Optimize WordPress permalinks for search engines

If you have a WordPress blog, you must customize your permalink settings to give your posts a fighting chance to rank high in search engines. In this video, Eric Stegemann (@EricStegemann) of Tribus Real Estate shows the March 6 crowd at #SMMOC, the Orange County Social Media Mastermind Roundtable, how to optimize WordPress permalinks for search engines.

For those of you watching with the sound turned down (don’t worry I won’t tell your boss), here are some details mixed in with an overview of what Stegemann explained.

What’s a permalink?

The word permalink is fancy talk for the web address of an individual blog or forum post. It is a blog post’s URL.

Search engines and URLs

Stegemann says the most important item for search engine optimization is your URL. For details about that, read the SEOmoz blog’s post “11 Best Practices for URLs“.

Content before settings

Before any of this technology can help your blog posts’ search engine rankings, organize your posts into a few main categories of content. See Lorelle VanFossen’s post on categories versus tags for help.

WordPress settings

First, an important note: You can’t change this particular WordPress setting on “WordPress.com” blogs (like the one used as an example in the video). Not sure which kind of blog you have? Follow along and you’ll find out soon enough.

From the menu of the left-hand side of your WordPress admin page, click on “Settings” and then “Permalinks.” Take a look at the image on the right. If you don’t see that “Permalinks” option, then you are probably on a WordPress.com blog; you won’t be able to make this change and you should head over to the Problogger post that explains how to move a blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Once you’re in the Permalinks settings, jot down the option currently selected under “Common Settings.” If “Custom Structure” is on, then also copy the text in that box.

Now, under “Common Settings,” click on “Custom Structure” and then enter “/%category%/%postname%/” (without the quotations) into the box immediately to the right. Here is what your changes should look like:

Once that’s done, hit the “Save Changes” button on the bottom and you’re done.

Everything changes

If you’ve made those changes correctly, every blog post on your site now has a new URL. What happens to links form external sites pointing to those old posts?

I’m not sure exactly how WordPress performs all of its magic, but I just made these changes last night and important links (from Google and from ReadWriteWeb) to my old posts are still working.

If you know of other sites that link to particular posts on your blog, visit at least a couple of those sites now. Make sure that the links to your posts still works. If not, you might want to consider reverting to your old settings.

Posterous and WordPress are magical URL converters

Last year, Steve Rubel waved goodbye to blogging and introduced many people to The Steve Rubel Lifestream, powered by Posterous. Since then, Posterous’ traffic has skyrocketed, possibly assisted by  Austin Statesman’s choice to use it to power their A Day in the Sun project.

I don’t intend to switch to Posterous anytime soon (I agree with Mark Krynsky’s thoughts on Posterous as a lifestreaming service), but I did select it recently when I created Freedom Communication’s Social Freedom blog, mostly because of the ability to create posts via email from multiple contributors.

The magic

In the two weeks of using Posterous, a rarely mentioned Posterous feature has totally impressed me. It magically (okay, “programmatically” might be the factually correct word here) transforms web addresses into pictures, videos and audio players.

I’ve created a post on my personal Posterous blog to illustrate this feature in an admittedly overstated way.

The magic is that I didn’t have to download, crop or resize any of the images that you see there. I didn’t have to embed an MP3 widget and tell it where to find the audio file. I didn’t have to copy and paste any embed codes for the videos. I didn’t even have to tell Posterous the width of those videos or images. See, I told you. It’s magic.

Bonus WordPress magic

Much to my surprise, previewing this blog post showed met that WordPress also has similar URL-transforming tricks hidden up its already-powerful sleeves.

I now invite all blogging pros to chime in with “how did you not know about this” comments below.

For those who were as shocked about some of this as I was, I’ve copied and pasted what I typed into the Posterous example. Here, you can see how it turned out in WordPress:

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Resolution: Always check links before retweet

There’s a good chance you followed a link on Twitter to get to this post. I thank the person who sent you this way. If that person retweeted this link, I’m confident that he or she checked it and didn’t blindly hit the retweet button.

My resolution isn’t all that exciting, so I searched Twitter for interesting link-related resolutions to share with Almighty Link readers. My favorite find was this message from self-proclaimed political junkie Diana Lynn W. (@La_Diana):

New Years resolution: to always check links before I retweet them.

Here are more 2010 promises and goals that people on Twitter have made regarding hyperlinks.

  1. pixelcurious
    pixelcurious New Years resolution: to post at least one link to something creative every day. Design, music, cooking… or just something small & nifty.
  2. Julia Schrenkler
    juliaschrenkler 2010 resolution: Spread the gospel to abolish “Click here” for links. If you can’t give it up just use a late 90’s web design on the page.
  3. G~Lori
    Bama_GLori I think my fellow tweeps resolution for 2010 should be: more original tweets, less links. #ohyeahiwentthere
  4. Larry Sivitz
    larrysivitz SEO New Year’s Resolution 002: One link from each of the .edu, .org and .gov TLD gene pools each month. #seoresolutions
  5. Poser Exposer
    twittposers Happy New Year back! My resolution (for this account) is to link to a website so I can give more info. Can’t always explain in 140 chars..
  6. Kevin B McDonald
    kevinbmcdonald http://tinyurl.com/yel5ods My resolution…post one link and profile of a missing child each day. Maybe if people pay attention, we can help
  7. Don Schnure
    DonSchnure My New Years resolution – kill Twitter spam. Tweet a link selling something and I WILL delete you. U won’t waste my time in 2010
  8. Levi Wallach
    dvdmon I have a resolution 4 Twitter – stop with the marketers – ban anyone who has marketing keywords in their profile or posts links re markting!
  9. Marion Abrams
    Madmotion 2010 resolution – I will not follow any link preceded by “check it out.”
  10. Laura Thornton
    laurathornton My #1 resolution is to know my network better. Let me know what your blog link is. I will def. check it out and comment.
  11. Dave Sparks
    ourbuddydave Resolution for @scj: Fix CMS *again* so links work on smart phones! At least links work at @dmregister and other newspapers I read online.

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

If you liked this post, you might want to read “Imagine Twitter without links.”

Use MapaTwit to find Rick Sanchez or map any Twitter user

Rick Sanchez on TwitterHave you ever seen a Twitter user with a pair of long numbers listed as his location? The example on the right is from the profile of CNN’s Rick Sanchez. Where and what the heck is ÜT: 41.273614,-72.751469?

Rick is using ÜberTwitter on his Blackberry to update his location from where he is tweeting. The numbers are the longitude and latitude of his location. That might work for computers, but we humans need some help.

I’ve created a little bookmarklet that simply finds a Twitter’s location on Google Maps. If you aren’t using Internet Explorer, all you have to do is drag this little button to the bookmarks/favorites bar on your browser:

MapaTwit

If you’re using Explorer, right-click on that button, select “Add to favorites,” click on the “Links” folder and then hit the “OK” button.

Now, just go to a person’s Twitter page. Try Rick Sanchez. Once the page loads, click on your shiny new MapaTwit button and you’ll be magically transported to a Google Map of  Branford, Connecticut (or wherever Rick might be right now).

The tool also works with non-cryptic locations that you might not be familiar with. For example, if you’re looking at Jerry Livesey’s Twitter page, you might want to know where to find Gavilan Hills. Just hit the MapaTwit button to find out.

Keep in mind, anyone can change their Twitter location manually, so make sure to take other steps to verify a tweet if you are planning to use it in a story you are writing.

Also keep in mind, I am not a developer by trade and this tool was something I created for my 140pix project. I can’t provide any guarantee that it will work for every computer on every browser, although it has worked for me on most major browsers.

Developers: feel free to take the code, modify it, make it better, redistribute it, etc.

What bookmarklets do you use on a regular basis? Do you have any tools to help verify tweets? Did my MapaTwit work for you? Share in the comments, please.