Let’s talk some newbie blogging basics this time for the blogging platform WordPress. When installing a new wordpress blog, I always do these 3 steps before updating themes or adding plugins.

First is go to Settings > General and update blog description as well as timezone. Second on the checklist is to go to Settings > Discussions to update avatar settings (yeah I always do this) and third, go to Settings > Permalink to update the blog’s permalink structure.

So what is a permalink? This is the permanent link of your blog post. This tells the browser which post to display when called from the address bar or when clicked through a link.

By default, a new WordPress blog’s permalink structure is set to the format http://yourblogname.com/?p=123 and the guys at WordPress recommend to change this to “prettier” formats. The given options are as follows:

Day and name: http://yourblogname.com/2010/08/18/sample-post/
Month and name: http://yourblogname.com/2010/08/sample-post/
Numeric: http://yourblogname.com/archives/123
Custom Structure: http://yourblogname.com/%custom-structure%

When you create and publish a post, WordPress assigns a permanent link for the post based on the permalink structure specified in your blog settings. Search engines then use this URL or post slug or permalink when indexing your blog’s contents in its database.

It is called permalink simply because whether the post is displayed in the front page of your blog, or goes into the archives, it is still using the same URL.

For search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, many experts are advising bloggers to use a SEO-friendly permalink structure, and as to which structure is better will be discussed in another post.

Should you decide to change your permalink structure, keep in mind that search engines probably have indexed your previous blog posts using your old permalink structure, and when a someone clicks on any of the old links, visitors will see a “404 error” message, or “page not found.”

You don’t want to lose precious traffic when that happens I bet, thus, it is best to ensure your WordPress blog finds the old links.

For more than 2 years, Bloggista.com has been using the permalink structure Day and name (http://yourblogname.com /2010 /08 /18 /sample-post/).

Although I did not notice any problem with my posts indexed on search engines, I decided to change it to a shorter permalink, this time using the custom structure http://yourblogname.com /blog /%postname%.html which to me is a better structure than the previous one.

And to make sure people are still taken to my old posts when they click it from search engines, or click it on links from other blogs, I found the plugin Permalink Redirect to be a very useful tool to achieve this.

Permalink Redirect plugin allows you to redirect all previous links to a new permalink structure, even if you have change permalinks more than once.

So if you are planning to change your permalink structure and don’t want to break old links and lose traffic and possible search engine penalties, make sure to include this useful plugin in your list. Just search “Permalink Redirect” from your wordpress plugin install dashboard.