Every blogger knows the importance of creating evergreen content that can be circulated ad-infinitum and is not of use-and-throw nature. But when one is new to the blogosphere and there are ten thousand different things vying for your attention, it is easy to simply keep some things to their default settings – The permalink setting for a blog post being one such thing, which, believe it or not, many bloggers keep as the default URL in the beginning. I was guilty of that too.
But, the question that arises next is why should you even bother changing permalinks?
This is because your permalinks need to be short, yet meaningful for making them SEO friendly.
Did you know: For a perfect WordPress SEO URL, your slug should be no longer than 3 to 5 words. [Source: Yoast]
In the beginning, my post URLs read something like this: “http://fertilebrains.com/?p=123“. Before long, however, I wised up a little and made them more descriptive like this: “http://fertilebrains.com/2014/10/sample-post/“.
The second option is good and many bloggers can stop at that (especially the news sites and daily updated blogs which need to organize posts by their date information).
But this may not be the best option for you if you are writing less-frequent, yet recyclable content. This is because the “dated” URL option automatically introduces aging to your posts. Over time, despite their evergreen appeal, you may not get many visitors to read your older posts because your content starts feeling obsolete.
To avoid giving your posts this outdated vibe, the better option is to remove the date folders from your permalinks altogether and keep your post-URLs straight-forward and descriptive like this: “http://fertilebrains.com/sample-post/” or this: “http://fertilebrains.com/category/sample-post/”
So far so good. All it involves is unchecking one radio box in favor of another, right?
If you are like me and walk your own twisted path to self-discovery, then by the time you realize what is the best permalink option for your URLs, you are already knee-deep in interlinked posts, all referencing your old “dated” URLs.
Not only that, all your social shares till then and the many backlinks from your RSS, blog network and search engine channels, bookmarking sites etc. are all pointing to your old permalinks. The moment you change your permalink, the visitors coming through the old links are greeted with a big fat 404 Page Not Found Error.
Now, you can either use brute-force to fix your URLs in all the ten thousand different places you submitted your post URL to (if you can remember it and have access to change, that is!) or use a simple .htaccess 301 redirection to seamlessly take your readers to the new URL.
So, the next question that arises is, how do you do that?
How to use proper 301 redirections?
If you are using Yoast for SEO, then it provides a tool for editing your .htaccess file. If not, then you can go to your WordPress installation’s root directory and edit the.htaccess file there.
NOTE: Before you make any changes to the .htaccess file, don’t forget to keep a backup.
Then, just add the below line to your file. Don’t forget to update your domain name in it:
If you were previously using the date format “yyyy/mm“, add this:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/(.*)$ http://fertilebrains.com/$3
If you were previously using the date format “yyyy/mm/dd“, add this:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/([0-9]+)/(.*)$ http://fertilebrains.com/$4
Please note that this line has to be preferably at the topmost section of the .htaccess file (before the Rewrite Module). Hint: Look for “<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>” in the file and place the code snippet above it.
If you are not comfortable making changes to your .htaccess file, there is a good free plugin called “Redirection” which can help you map your old links to your new links.
But wait, there’s a cost involved
Before you go ahead and change your permalinks for good, know this: Your share counts will not be retained once you change your permalinks. So, you must think long and hard before you change your permalinks, especially if you have been blogging and sharing your content for more than 6 months (and have some well-shared posts in your kitty). At any rate, whatever you choose to do, you must be able to justify the cost versus benefit ratio.
And a final suggestion
If you decide to change your permalinks and put proper redirections in place, then also it is a good idea to update your internal links to point to the appropriate new URLs. This is important from your site’s response times perspective. (Ask yourself this – What is a better address, the one that takes you to your destination in one go or the one for which you have to stop and ask for directions?). Broken Link Checker is a good option for fixing your internal 301 redirections.
Please don’t forget to go through these additional articles from authority sites if you are planning to change your permalinks.
Permalinks are often an overlooked, yet very important part of your site’s design. The sooner you choose the option that’s best suited for your site, the better it will be for you in the long run. And yes, once you have thought through and made changes to your permalinks for good, LEAVE THEM ALONE, forever.
Now, it’s your turn. What permalink settings are you using and why? Don’t forget to share your views in the comments section below.