18th November 2007

I’m pulling the trigger on something I haven’t had the guts to do before, but it’s long overdue. After nearly 3 years, I’m changing the permalink structure on my blog, although it’s not for the reasons you might think.

Besides search engine visibility, the more realistic answer is simple “user-friendliness”. People really aren’t that much different than search engine spiders when it comes to determining the relevancy of a link.

Another reason is that someone sent me an e-mail recently asking me if I’m such an expert, then why aren’t my own URL’s optimized for best performance?”

Well that person had a good point, and my answer was that I didn’t know any better when I first set it up, and I’ve just been too busy/lazy to change them, and afraid of even the temporary ranking drops that go along with changing URLs.

As more and more users look at the URLs in their browser status bar before they click, having keywords in your URLs is going to improve click-throughs.

For example, a while ago I wrote a blog post called “Things to hate about office 2007” and I needed to send someone a link to it.

When I pasted the URL I saw this – http://www.pdxtc.com/wpblog/archives/462 and that’s just not very compelling or informative. However, once I changed my permalinks, it looked like this – http://www.pdxtc.com/wpblog/microsoft/things-to-hate-about-office-2007/

“Are you crazy?” you might be asking yourself… “Doesn’t changing your URL’s or permalinks create 404 errors?”

Well yes it does, but not if you do 301 redirects.

“Are you even more crazy?” you might be thinking… “Isn’t doing hundreds or thousands of 301 redirects a complete pain in the neck?”

Well, yes it HAS been in the past, but there’s a cool WordPress plugin called Deans Permalinks Migration that made the process so easy it’s hard to believe.

With 301 redirects in place for all of my old URL’s, there’s really no risk of permanently losing search visibility, since all of my indexed URLs will still work, all of my inbound links will still work, and finally, the visible Google PageRank should flow to the new pages I’ve created with the next update.

The downside is of course that all the pages will show as a PR0 until at least the next update, and possibly two, but since we can’t sell links anymore, who really cares?

The other downside is that traffic and rankings will likely drop, but only temporarily. Exactly WHY this happens is in my opinion, on of Google’s shortcomings, but it does. Show me a domain that changes URL’s, but loses no rankings temporarily, and Ill call it a fluke. Things always drop.

That said, with a properly implemented 301 strategy, ALL of your rankings should (and will) return just as strong as ever, provided you don’t have other radical changes that would negatively affect visibility.

Check out the plug-in, and if you want to see how easy it is to use, I’ve added a 3 minute video –


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    11 Responses to Changing WordPress Permalink Structure

    1. I have been meaning to learn about permalinks. Thanks for the tip.

      The video is not working though :(

    2. Scott says:

      Glad you like it, and thanks for commenting.
      I just checked the video in IE7 and in Firefox, and it displays then plays fine. Anyone else having problems?

      P.Fisher – what type of problem are you having?

    3. Simonne says:

      I’ve just used the same plugin to change my permalinks last week, and it is working great. I’m already seeing some benefits: organic search traffic increase, more targeted contextual ads, better AdSense figures.

    4. Now I see it. I did check 2x before though.

    5. Thanks for the heads up . I just wish permalinks were the only problem I had. I’m about to move my Blogger blog plus all archives from 2004 to a new domain and a new Word Press template. Aaarrrrgggh! Wish me luck as I head into the 301 jungle.

    6. Mike says:

      I used the plugin to change my permalinks structure and some of my pages suffered severe SE drops. I’m hoping this is only temporary. Did any of you encounter similar behaviour?

    7. Scott says:

      Nothing scientific, but I kept my eye on a bunch of obscure terms that my blog posts rank pretty well for, like “google grid”, “comcast remote codes” and others, and I saw no drops in ranking, and in fact, got a few bumps.

      That said, now that I know MSFT doesn’t follow 301’s, I probably shouldn’t have done it….

    8. Rima says:

      Hi there!
      Thanks for pointing us to this cool plugin! I have two quick questions about it, though:

      – Does this redirect apply just to “old posts”? (That is, posts created with the old permalink structure that existed before you ran the plugin.)

      – Does redirecting affect your search engine optimization in anyway?

    9. Heath says:

      One of the issues we’ve had with changing permalinks is what to do about all the cross-linking within the content of other pages so that those links don’t go through the 301 redirect to the new permalink. We’ve been thinking about creating a plug-in that would expand on Dean Lee’s by also sifting through all current pages of the site (and even older revisions) updating links to the new permalink so that only serach engines and bookmarks go through the 301 redirects but site traffic clicking around goes straight to the updated permalinks.

      Are we crazy? Would anyone else find this useful to avoid a mess of 301 redirects?

      • Scott says:

        Hi Heath – Google does not pass the full juice through 301’s anymore, (revealed in March 2010) and we’ve always known that the value of a 301 redirect will actually degrade over time passing too, resulting in even less juice. So yes, there would be real value in going back and actually changing the internal links, so the only time a 301 would get issues is of someone came from an external link.

        Also, take a look at the Redirection plugin too – this has sort of replaced Deans Permalinks for us…

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