Changing wordpress fixed links (Permalinks) needs to be carefully considered. If your website has been live for a while and has been getting good traffic, then you need to weigh whether it is worth doing so, as this change could potentially harm your website’s SEO. In particular, if the wrong approach is taken, you could end up with a large number of 404 pages, costing you more than it’s worth regarding your website ranking.
The best way to avoid these problems is to have a clear plan before changing your fixed links. For example, what type of fixed links will be replaced? How do you set up redirects? How do you avoid 404 errors? What about internal and external links? What process to follow? And so on.
In this article, we will start with what a fixed link is and then talk about the reasons for changing fixed links on websites in general. Then it’s all about how to safely change the structure of fixed links and avoid external and internal errors by using redirects, ultimately allowing everyone to benefit from a more optimized fixed link structure. The blogger is also a programming newbie, so this method is not the most convenient or advanced, but it does work best for novice bloggers and doesn’t require any basic coding.
First, for a brand new website, you should set up the permalink structure immediately after logging into WordPress for the first time to avoid worrying about this later.
What is a Permalink?
Every page, post, tag, and category in our blog has a unique address, including the domain name and the fixed link.
The fixed link, also called a permanent link, is part of the website address that immediately follows the domain name.
For example, take a look at the URL of this blog post: https://www.mywebsite.com/how-to-change-wordpress-permalinks/.
The domain name is mywebsite.com, and the permalink is how-to-change-wordpress-permalinks
Putting them together creates a completed page URL, the link visitors can access your page. One more or less letter will make the page inaccessible, so it is important to proceed cautiously.
The WordPress backend has multiple structure types, which we will explain later.
Why change the Permalink structure?
There are many reasons to change the permalink structure; here are a few that make it worthwhile to go ahead and do so.
- Preparing to revamp your website; for example, if you are moving to a news-orientated website, you may want to add dates to your Permalinks.
- Purchasing an established website, you should update the link structure for rebranding.
- If you plan to run your blog for the long term and want to improve your site’s SEO further but didn’t set up a fixed link structure when you built the site and are still using the default format, you need to change to the right type as soon as possible. Especially if you are using numeric links, this structure does not provide visitors or search engines with useful information about the content of your pages, which is of no value to SEO.
Changing the structure of your fixed links does not mean a qualitative leap in SEO; the key is the article’s content.
Why take such a big risk replacing it in the area, and what benefit do we get from it?
- Allow your reader to understand your article or page without reading the content.
- Make it clear to the person that they want to know this when you share the link.
- Easy for search engines to use to discover the topic of the article or page, i.e., the keywords through the link.
- Make your website look professional, keep all the content organized and make the reader feel that the author has taken care.
How can I safely replace my Permalink structure?
As we pointed out earlier, changing the structure of your permalinks is easy, but the subsequent handling is more problematic. This is because, at this point, both your internal and external links are no longer accessible. In addition, any content indexed by search engines is also disrupted.
One simple solution to this problem is to set up a 301 redirect, which tells any visitor who came to your site using the old URL to normally jump directly to the new link to access the page. It also lets search engines know this is a permanent change and re-indexes.
- Make a backup copy of your site before making any changes to your link structure.
- It is best to make adjustments at weekends or in the evening to avoid many visitors being unable to access it properly.
- It is best to adjust your site to maintenance mode; if you are using Elementor, you can switch to maintenance mode directly in the tool, which helps visitors know that your site is being maintained.
- Follow the process and read each step carefully; otherwise, it may not work.
- Changing the structure of your fixed links will not bring absolute SEO benefits, but for people with OCD like this blogger, it may be a little more comforting afterward.
If you have decided to change your fixed link structure, you must take several steps.
- Export the old links
- Download the template for bulk 301s
- Import the old links into the 301 template
- Change the WordPress fixed link settings
- Export the new links
- Import new links into the 301 template
- Upload the full 301 templates to complete the redirect.
- Replace internal links and external links
- Resubmit sitemap
- 404 monitoring
The overall steps are numerous, mainly to explain them in detail and make them easier for the reader to understand. Although it looks tedious, the operation is simple and fast if it takes 10 minutes.
Step 1: Export all old links
Take special care to keep the fixed links the same; we first need to export all the old links. If you have already changed to a new fixed link, please revert to the old one.
Here you will need the Export All URLs plugin, and we recommend using Export All URLs, which is free. It is very easy to export all links.
How to use Export All URLs.
- Find the Export All URLs plugin in the Tools section of WordPress
- Choose the type of link to export, and normally we only need links for posts
- Export the content of the links, and you can choose from Post IDs, Titles, URLs
- You only need to export published articles
Finally, select the CSV file and note that many lines of text will appear at the top of the screen; of which you have to click on download to download the form, and then there is a delete button, where you have to click on download first, and then click on delete.
Then open the file, and you will see all the links to the posts under the current fixed link structure.
Step 2: Download the Batch 301 form using the Rank Math plugin
There are many ways to 301 redirect articles, for example, using the regular method (RegExp) and modifying the .htaccess file. Still, these methods may be easier for friends with a programming base, and operating errors can easily cause more serious consequences. We recommend using wordpress plugins to help complete the 301 redirects. The use of the method is much easier.
We recommend using the Rank Math plugin to complete the redirect for users who use other SEO plugins, such as Yoast, which also has a similar function; you can refer to the instructions here to operate.
Here we only use Rank Math for demonstration because the blogger himself uses the professional version of the Rank Math plugin, which he feels is better than Yoast.
In the options bar of Rank Math, select Redirections->Import &Export->Export CSV.
At this point, a file will be obtained, and we will find an excel sheet to open. This step aims to get a template for Rank Math’s 301 redirect batch processing.
Step 3: Import the old links into the 301 template
If no previous Redirections have been made via Rank Math, the downloaded form will be empty, with only the title. If the Redirections function has already been used, the file will open with the existing redirect links. We will remove all the existing links, leaving only the header row. (Be careful not to make any changes to the title; otherwise, Rank Math may not recognize it)
Let’s start with a brief explanation of what the header row represents:
ID: A random ID is assigned to each redirected link, kept clear here.
Source: The place where the original link address is filled in.
Matching: How the old and new links are matched. Here, we use Exact. This means that the link is redirected to the same link as the original link.
Destination: the place where the new link address is filled in.
Type: The redirect we use is 301, which is permanent.
Category: a category used to facilitate the management of redirects, generally can not fill in the empty state can be.
Status: active is active, which means that the redirection is confirmed.
Then we copy the old link we got before directly into the source column here and save the form. Note that the address added here is the old link address.
Step 4: Replace WordPress fixed link settings
To set up the structure of your Permalinks in WordPress, you need to go to Settings->Permalinks on your dashboard.
As shown below, there are several options to choose from.
The first 5 items are already set, with default types, dates, article names, etc. Without going into detail, here are just a few common types.
Now you will need to decide on the type of fixed link structure. It would help if you didn’t make any blind changes until you are sure; the most taboo thing is changing them repeatedly.
We recommend that you change the fixed link structure as soon as you have created your WordPress blog to avoid the problem of tedious changes later on.
You can get ideas for your new structure from the WordPress guide to using permalinks. In general, the post name option is ideal for most users. This structure makes your post’s focus clear to readers and search engines.
If it is a news site or the articles are published frequently, you can add a Post ID or a month and year at the end, which helps to distinguish the article further and inform visitors of its currency.
Many bloggers do not believe that the date should be added as it will give visitors a clear indication of the article’s publication date. If this article was published 5 years ago, visitors might close it, which could be better for driving traffic to the site. But in any case, this is not the key issue, and visitors will exit the page at any time if there is no substantial content.
The following three structures are used more frequently.
Article name only /%postname%/
Article name/random number /%postname%/%post_id%/
Post name/year/month/day /%postname%/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/
If you don’t want to use the slash in the middle of the date, replace it with a horizontal bar, which may look better. /%postname%/%year%-%monthnum%-%day%/
The only one of the above three types is /%postname%/, which is more concise and more suitable for blogs with few posts, which I use for mine. The other two are set in the custom box at the bottom.
Some larger sites add a category, but this can exaggerate the whole length of the link, so choose carefully.
Once the selection has been made, it is ready to be saved. You can test one on a random page, at which point the link structure has changed.
But our work is ongoing because all our internal and external links are no longer valid. You can site your website in google; at this time, all links are 404. so we have to immediately 301 redirect the work.
Step 5: Exporting new links
In this step, we still need to use the Export All URLs plugin to export all the new links.
Special note: Do not publish or delete any posts during the entire replacement process to ensure that the old and new links match perfectly. This will result in an inconsistent number of old and new links being exported and very tricky to match.
After we have exported the new links the same way we exported the old links earlier, we will get all the new link addresses. Let’s see if the number of old and new links is the same.
Step 6: Import the new links into the 301 template
We have already imported the old links into the 301 templates in step 3. Now you need to take all the new link addresses and continue to place them under the Destination column of our previous 301 templates. Fill in all the other items below, keeping them consistent.
ID: fill in nothing
Category: fill in nothing
As shown above, because my other website has a fixed link type of number, I will copy each page’s number to the source column on the line and then the corresponding new link address to the destination column. Here is just a showcase for you.
Also, share some tips. If you use the WPS table, you can quickly fill the data to move the cursor to the bottom right corner of the cell; when the cursor becomes cross-shaped, double-click so that the entire column of data will be copied directly to success. For example, the columns Exact and active can be done quickly in this way. And 301 is the number so that the operation will appear incremental filling of the number. Here we put the cursor in the first 301 cells of this column; hold shift + ctrl while pressing the arrow keys or down will be able to select the entire column. Then enter 301 in the edit field above, do not press enter at this time, but hold down ctrl + enter so that you can fill all 301. (If the link is relatively small, directly with the mouse to select can. If there are thousands of links, the mouse to select is a very headache process)
After completing the above operation, check again to see if the number of old and new links is consistent. The main thing is whether the old links and the new links match. That is, whether the old link corresponds to the correct new link.
It is very important to check this carefully; if the old and new links are wrong, the redirect will jump to other pages, which will be a problem!
Finally, make sure there are no problems and save the file.
Step 7: Upload the complete 301 templates to complete the redirection
Open Rank Math and select Redirections->Import & Export. Select the 301 files we just saved and click Import CSV; this will give you a progress prompt
If there are many links, it may take a little longer, and the screen may stay the same. If there are no changes for a long time, wait to refresh the screen. You can re-open the option Redirections on another page to see if all the links are showing up. If the number is OK, you can refresh the original screen and get the message that it is complete.
If you follow the process carefully, the fixed links have been updated, and the 301 redirects have been done perfectly.
We then used the google browser site with the following domain name; at this time, all the links should have been able to have normal access and are the new fixed link structure.
Step 8: Replace internal links and external friendly links
This step is mainly based on their website’s actual situation. Suppose all the internal links in the website are manually added by themselves. In that case, there is no good way to solve the current blogger can only be manually replaced by themselves. You can prioritize replacing some important internal links, for example, the home page and the internal links in the category page. The links inside the articles depending on your time and effort.
Using the WordPress internal links plugin is also recommended, which makes it easy to maintain internal links daily. When you change your fixed links, the internal links plugin will automatically update the internal links. We recommend using the Internal links manager.
For external links, webmasters who have purchased many internal links should inform each other as soon as possible of the new address. If you have other websites or self-publishing numbers with external links, you should change them as soon as possible.
Step 9: Resubmit the Sitemap and re-index
Although search engines regularly crawl websites and update them when they find a change in the permalink, correcting themselves over time. But if you want to let search engines know that your permanent link structure has changed as soon as possible, you can resubmit your sitemap to allow search engines to re-index your site. The method of submitting a sitemap needs to be more detailed here.
Step 10: Monitor 404 pages
After all the work has been done, there may still be some missing pages; at this point, you can use the 404 monitoring function to redirect the 404 pages to completion.
I use the Rank Math plugin, a great SEO plugin with a 404 monitoring feature to catch any inaccessible links you may have missed at any time. Monitor regularly and adjust any problem links as you find them.
When starting a new website, it is best to decide on the structure of the wordpress fixed links and change them to avoid any later trouble.
When building another website, I didn’t care about this and used the Post ID type with all the numbers in the links. It looked awkward, and he decided to change to the Post Name type for the long term. So I tried various ways and read many articles, including using regular expressions, modifying the .htaccess, and so on. But in the end, I put together this tutorial suitable for beginners, and I hope it will help bloggers with the same needs.
A few other points to note after changing the fixed link.
- Remember to manually enter the slug for each article each time you publish it
- Preferably in English, if you are doing Google SEO
- Adding keywords to your links can be helpful for SEO purposes
- Also, keep links as short as possible
- Hyphens should be used between words, not underscores
The last thing is that it is very easy to set up a website nowadays, but it takes patience and perseverance to maintain and keep it up to date. Before you build a website, it is a good idea to have a clear plan for the positioning and overall structure of the site and spend some time on the idea. Otherwise, you will have to spend more time dealing with legacy issues and may lose your confidence and motivation to continue.
Frequently asked questions
Here are a few queries that may lead to the answers you want to know.
How do I set up permalinks in WordPress?
To set up the structure of your Permalinks in WordPress, you need to go to Settings->Permalinks on your dashboard. There will be various types, with postname being the most popular.
We recommend setting up the permalink structure immediately after launching a new WordPress site to avoid the negative effects of tweaking it again later.
What is the default WordPress fixed link?
The default format is, for example, https://www.mywebsite.com/?p=123. Where “123” is the ID of a specific post or page in the database.
The main reason for this is that such a structure is bad for your SEO, as no one knows what 123 stands for.
Fixed link structure and its importance of it for SEO
Search engines will consider the URL structure of a web page when indexing and ranking. A sensible fixed link will make it easy for visitors to understand what the article contains and may generate a higher click-through rate. This is why the postname type is more advantageous than a link structure that is just a number.