Quite often, in our website reviews, we give people the advice to change their WordPress permalink structure, this post details the why and, more importantly: how to make such a change without losing the traffic that you already have.
It includes a new tool built by yours truly to help you create the necessary redirects. Keep on reading!
Why change your WordPress permalink structure?
Most of the time I tell people to change their WordPress permalink structure, it’s to get rid of the dates in their permalink structure. If their content is “timeless”, it just shouldn’t be there. In my opinion, the only type of site that should have dates in their permalink structure is a news site. All other sites should strive to write content that is “timeless”.
Having a date in your permalink structure has proven to diminish the CTR from the search results for older posts. People are just not likely to click on a result that’s two years old, even though it might very well be that your post has the answer they seek. With Google seeming to use that CTR more and more as a (very valid) ranking signal, that’s becoming a more serious factor each day. I did a long post on WordPress SEO URL / Permalink considerations a while back, you might want to (re-)read that.
Up until WordPress 3.3, there was / is indeed a quite serious performance issue when you have a lot of pages when you use just /%postname%/, luckily, that is solved in WordPress 3.3. I have debated people quite a bit saying that it’s easily solved with some caching but having it fixed in core is a big step ahead, so there are no more excuses to not use /%postname%/.
Changing WordPress permalink structure
There are two steps in changing your WordPress permalink structure. The first is simple, go to Settings -> Permalinks and select Post name:
If you don’t have the post name option yet, you’re not on WordPress 3.3, the release of which is imminent. You could wait a bit for the update, or you could just add /%postname%/ as a custom permalink structure.
The second step is to redirect your old permalinks to your new ones. To do that, you have to add redirects to your .htaccess file, I have created a little tool that generates these redirects for you based on your domain and your old permalink structure. To use this tool, click the button:
There you have it! If you copied the redirect into your .htaccess, you should test whether it’s working. If it’s not, chances are you’re not allowed to use RedirectMatch, which makes changing your WordPress Permalink Structure a bit harder and not something I can easily cover in this post.