When playing around with the settings of WordPress permalinks, there are a lot things that can go wrong. Of course you should think about your permalink structure before starting a project, but often this isn’t possible or – as in my case – you learn as time goes by and want to apply the stuff you learned. Since the link structure of a website is an important part of seo optimization, your website might benefit from changing the WordPress permalinks.

What are WordPress permalinks?

Just a short introduction, if you don’t know what WordPress permalinks are: WordPress permalinks define how the URLs of your website look like. You can change these settings in your WordPress administration -> settings -> permalinks although you have to be able to give WordPress write access to your .htaccess file or change the file by yourself (see more information on using permlinks).

The default setting of a new WordPress project is yourdomain.com/?p=123. This basically is just the id of a post. Although this will always work, this setting should not be used because URLs should be human readable and since it’s not, search engines won’t rank it that high.

Another approach, one that I used myself, is the month and name setting. Your link will look like yourdomain.com/2015/05/name-of-your-post. This is alright, especially if you’re running a news-based website and your content is only important for some time.

If you’re not, it might be interesting to think about your link structure and changing your WordPress permalinks.

What is important about WordPress permalinks?

A link structure basically should tell which pages are important on your website. So if you’re using the month and name setting – like I did – a all of your posts are positioned in daily, monthly and/or yearly archives.

yourdomain.com/2015/
yourdomain.com/2015/05/
yourdomain.com/2015/05/03/

So without you doing something those archives are getting “stronger”. They become more important within your page, which raises the question if those date / archive pages really are that important. Like said before, it’s totally fine for news websites since this information is mostly important within a certain time limit. For example, if you write about the release of a new game, this information is basically outdated a week after it happened.

Making category pages more important

I think for websites that aren’t in the news business it’s more interesting to focus on category pages. Category pages are telling your visitors what kind of topics are important to you. Therefore it’s a good way to display them in your link structure. You can do this by using /%category%/%postname%/:

wordpress permalinks

This results in your links looking like yourdomain.com/category-name/post-name.

But, you have to keep in mind that there could only be one category used in the link. So if you got a very complex category tree or you’re using multiple categories per post, you should check out some plugins for setting the main category. I simplified my categories and removed some categories that barely had posts in them.

Simply changing WordPress permalinks breaks your website

Never ever just change your permalink structure. Without preparation it will break your site. And all visitors from google will get a 404 error. I changed my permalinks to the category and name setting recently and installed some plugins:

FV Top Level Categories: This handy plugin removes the category base. This is also important in order to change the structure of your category pages from /category/category-name/ to /category-name/.

Permalink Finder: If you’re already using %postname% in your permalink structure (like I did), this is the plugin for you. It automatically searches your database for words in the requested url and redirects to the correct page – which works good if the post name slug is still used in the new permalink.

Redirection: Also a quite interesting plugin that not only tracks 404 errors, but enables you to manually add and edit redirects. I use this to handle requests of deleted categories and pages.

Well, I hope you liked my post. Have you already experience in changing permalinks? What kind of problems did you run into? What plugins do you use?