How to Correctly Change the Permalink Structure of Your Existing WordPress Site

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In our last article, we looked at how to setup your WordPress permalink structure to look good, perform well and be SEO optimized. Once you decide on the permalink structure you want to use, it’s easy to change this link structure on a new WordPress site since you probably don’t have any posts yet. What is your site is already up and running, though? If you just change the permalink structure your old URLs will stop working and you risk losing valuable traffic and search engine rankings. In this article we’ll show you how to change your permalink structure the right way so you keep your traffic and search engine rankings.

The correct way to do this is to use 301 redirects to point your old site URLs to your new URLs. For those of you not familiar with 301 redirects, they are a server-side method of redirecting web traffic to another page when the original page has been permanently moved. Google Webmaster Central has a detailed article on 301 redirects if you want to get down into all the details. The best solution is to keep things simple and manually create the 301 redirects in your .htaccess file.

If your site is larger, creating all those 301 redirects one at a time could be very time consuming. One solution some people have had success with is to install a WordPress plugin to do the work for you. The Platinum SEO Pack plugin has functionality to create “automatic 301 redirects for any permalink changes.” If you like this plugin for SEO, just activate it before you make your permalink structure change and it will take care of the 301 redirects for you. However, you should only have one SEO plugin active at a time so if you are already using another SEO plugin make sure to deactivate it first before making the switch to Platinum SEO Pack.

Another plugin that automatically creates 301 redirects is Dean’s Permalinks Migration. I’ve heard some people swear by this plugin, while others have reported trouble getting it to work properly. It hasn’t been updated in awhile, so make sure to test out your old URLs after to confirm they are redirecting correctly.

As you can see, there are several ways to handle 301 redirects when you make a change to your WordPress custom permalink structure. The most important part is to make sure you do use 301 redirects to point your old site URLs to your new ones. Personally, I like to keep things simple and I’d highly recommend taking the time to add the 301 redirects to your .htaccess file yourself. It may take a little bit of time, but it should be a one time process and you can be sure it works. Plugins like Platinum SEO Pack or Dean’s Permalinks Migration are another option, although I recommend you do thorough testing if you decide to use one of these…

If you’ve tried any of these methods above, please leave a comment below and let me know about your experience. I will keep updating this article as I receive more feedback on which methods work best for all of our visitors.

UPDATE (3-21-11): Since posting this article I’ve had several people mention the plugin “Redirection“. This plugin isn’t specifically designed to handle permalink structure redirects, but it allows you to easily create 301 redirects without having to get into anything too technical. It also has a cool feature that tracks your 404 errors and lets you easily create a 301 redirect for the page that’s no longer there.

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About the Author: Dana Duncan

Hi, my name is Dana, and I've been building websites for over 12 years. It's a topic I'm passionate about and enjoy teaching. Here at All Webmaster.com I teach people how to create and run websites, and show businesses how to build or improve their web presence.

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  • thank you! will use the plug in and thanks for writing this so clear

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Dana Duncan About Picture

Hi, my name is Dana and here at All Webmaster I teach people how to build websites. I've been creating websites professionally for over 12 years and this is where I'll share the things I've learned so you can build your own website and get people to visit it. [More about...]

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