The importance of permalinks in choosing a hosting service for your WordPress blog

I can remember my neophyte days shopping for a hosting company for my [tag]WordPress[/tag] blog. Such things as price, megabytes/gigabytes, application library, their website, and friend’s recommendations were important to me. Or, so I thought.

You need to pay attention to things such as versions of PHP and MySQL as well the availability of mod_rewrite rules. Not all hosting services are ‘WordPress friendly’.

Here are the minimum requirements according the WordPress Codex:

  • PHP version 4.2 or greater
  • MySQL version 3.23.23 or greater
  • Apache mod_rewrite module (optional)

Yes, the Apache mod_rewrite module is optional for your blog to operate. However, it is not optional if you want permalinks. Clean, stable urls ([tag]permalinks[/tag]) are essential for good search engine indexing and therefore successful blogging. If your hosting service doesn’t have this module installed, consider switching to one that does.

Why were permalinks invented(1)? The structure of publishing platforms makes it impossible to link to or bookmark content on the homepage because content eventually scrolls of the bottom. Another problem is that database-driven publishing platforms result in unstable urls. The problem was solved by creating a post page with a permalink that would take you to the same place tomorrow, next month, or next year.

Besides consistency, there are added benefits of aesthetics and improved search engine indexing.

For example, with permalinks activated this post has the following url:

The importance of permalinks in choosing a hosting service for your WordPress blog

without permalinks activated this post would have the following url:

MediaWhiz Launches New Ad Network – ShoppingAds

Got it? Which url do you prefer? Which url helps the search engines index this post because it contains keywords?

Use the ‘Post slug’ field to keep the url brief and to the point. For this post, I have enter the slug ‘hosting-wordpress’. If I did not enter a Post slug, wordpress would string together the title like this:

There are many permalink tags available and as many opinions on which one is the best. My current preference is to use this tag:
It produces shorter, more concise permalinks than the suggested tag:
If you use the shorter one, just remember not to use the same post slug twice during the same year!

There no need for me to repeat the excellent instructions for setting up WordPress permalinks. You can find them in the WordPress Codex here.

Is the having the Apache mod_rewrite module available, the most important criterium in choosing a hosting service? Maybe not. However, don’t sign up if they don’t have it!