Your permalink structure is critical to your search engine ranking and driving traffic to your site. A common problem we see with DIY website setups is a lack of attention or knowledge regarding proper URL formats. Permalinks are the separate URL addresses for each page of your site, except for the home page.
When permalinks contain extraneous date numbers or characters, you’ve created a barrier to higher search rankings. You also want to avoid having old dates in the URL, as it could lead users to think a highly relevant article is stale.
The good news is that fixing your permalinks can often be done in less than two hours.
Here’s what you need to do at a high-level:
- Install the latest version of the Redirection Plugin on your site.
- Create a staging version of your site to test it out.
- Update the permalinks structure on the staging site.
- Add an entry to the redirect plugin on the staging site.
- Validate that the redirection is working on the staging site.
- Repeat the last three steps on your live site.
- Monitor your live site for any errors.
Step 1: Install the Redirection Plugin:
Go to Plugins in your WordPress dashboard and click on “Add new.” Then type “Redirection” in the search box. You should find something that looks like what you see below:
From there, follow the steps to install and configure it. You want to do this first as you want your staging site to be configured the same as your live site.
Step 2: Create a staging version of your site:
If your hosting plan includes a staging site, follow their instructions to set one up. You may need assistance from support for setting it up. The blog we updated is on a sub-domain, so there was more than just the “1-click” setup that our hosting company advertises.
If you don’t have a staging site, you can always back up and restore your site to an inexpensive hosting plan to do the testing. If you’re not sure which approach to take, please feel free to contact us and we can help set you up with this.
Step 3: Update the permalinks structure on the staging site:
You can find “Permalinks” under “Settings” on your staging site. Simply select the format you want to use and then “Save changes.”
Step 4: Add the entry to Redirection on the staging site:
Redirection can be found under “Tools.” You’ll want to create a new Redirection. Now, this is the hard part – you’ll need to enter the correct regular expression for the permalinks. This is where you need to do some research and trial & error. I found the below worked for me for changing from day & name to Post name:
So you can copy & paste, here’s what we used:
Source URL: /(\d*)/(\d*)/(\d*)/([A-Za-z0-9-]*)
Target URL: /$4
You need to ensure that you don’t have any spaces in either of the above URLs.
Step 5: Validate that it’s working:
Go to your staging site and test the URLs. Find posts that link to other posts on your site and click around. Note the URLs in the address bar. If it all looks good, then you’re ready to move forward.
Step 6: Make the update on your live site:
Now it’s time for the scary part. Fortunately, you used a staging site, which should ease your nerves. But be extra cautious — we recommend taking a backup of your live site before you do anything else. Once that’s complete, follow the last three steps you performed on your staging site—update permalinks, add redirection, and validate.
Pro Tip: Open up three tabs for this last part: one each for the permalinks, redirection, and a page you can validate. This way, you have everything queued up so you’ll minimize any downtime.
Step 7: Monitor your site for 404 errors:
Redirection has logs to show you which pages are being redirected and which have errors. Monitor this and fix any broken URLs that you come across.
Intermediate WordPress skills are a prerequisite for completing these steps. And if you possess these skills, you might be too busy for the two hours of focused work you’ll require to do this right. If that’s the case, please contact us; we’d be happy to help!
Best of luck.