If you want to change the WordPress permalink structure of your blog or website there are a few things to consider first, and preparations to make before proceeding
The structure of Permalinks WordPress uses is easy to change; selecting a new option and clicking the radio button will take care of it for you. But what is the effect on SEO, what about all the links from other blogs and referrers?
You need to make sure search engines will still be able to find the content, and backlinks from the thousands (hopefully) of sites linking to yours will still send visitors to the correct page.
Here are a few guidelines that will reduce the loss of search engine ranking, and take care of the backlinks.
Prepare Before Changing Permalinks
What should be done before changing the WordPress Permalink structure on a blog or website? Several things in fact.
- A redirect plugin will be needed. The redirect plugin must be one where you can create manual re-directs, eg 404 Redirected
- A Maintenance Mode Plugin. During the process you should place the site in Maintenance Mode. This will stop search engine finding broken links until the structure has been changed and all redirects have been set.
- Sitemap: To make life easier, save a copy of the sitemap as an HTML complete file – this is the easiest way to create a lot of 301 redirects.
Performing the Operation
- Put the site into Maintenance Mode.
- Disable any Cache Plugins, and delete the existing cache.
- Open the redirect plugin page. Using the urls from the sitemap, create a 301 (permanent) redirect to EVERY Page, Post, Tag and Category on the site. The example below uses the 404 Redirected Plugin to create a manual redirect
If the site or blog has a large number of pages or posts, prepare for a long haul at the keyboard. If the site is really big – from thousands of posts or pages in size, ask yourself first if you really NEED to change the URL structure.
WordPress Permalinks Changed; What Next?
After changing the permalink structure, and setting up the re-directs, the next process is monitoring the 404 log, and Google Webmaster Tools “page not found” errors, and fixing any broken links discovered (but you do that anyway, don’t you). This is and always will be an ongoing process. Other people link to your site, sometimes (too often) they don’t create the link correctly, and what should be a backlink passing on search engine ranking becomes a useless link to nowhere, unless fixed.
Worse – Google and other search engines find this broken link and if there are too many, penalise your site or blog.
Why Change WordPress Permalink Structure
One possible reason to change: When you started the blog, you used an early version of WordPress, or did not realise the default permalinks with the question marks and odd characters used really should be changed to search engine (and visitor) friendly URLs.
Should your site or blog already be large and well established, I cannot recommend changing the permalink structure without a really good compelling reason to do so. Once your site has hundreds of pages, and has been around for several years, in all likelihood it is already well ranked, and the additional benefit gained from changing the structure will be small in relation to the work required.