How to Change Permalinks in WordPress without Breaking Links

Let’s learn from my mistake, shall we? A couple weeks ago, I changed the WordPress permalinks on another site of mine. The site is growing up and I wanted to make the WordPress permalinks more user friendly. I read somewhere that if I changed the WordPress permalink settings it wouldn’t break my links. I went with that notion. And simply because I knew there was always a tech issue to resolve when changing things. I would deal with the potential issue as it came.

Well, it did redirect the permalinks on the site. But I was oblivious at the time to think outside the site. But didn’t find out a couple weeks down the road and 843+ broken links later!

Why didn’t you notice it right after you changed the permalink?

The links on the main page of my site redirected. The pagination (numbering or ‘older post/newer post’ at bottom of blog posts page) worked just fine. Links on my Navigation bar were okay.

It wasn’t until I used Google search that I found the broken links. Tons of 404 errors. I freaked out! Especially when you know your ad network revenue is based off impressions.

Then I quickly calmed my nerves, after telling myself all I can do here forward, is to fix the problem.

I now want to share with you How to Change Permalinks in WordPress without breaking links so I can save you tons of trouble and heart ache.

Change Permalinks in WordPress

Originally, I had mine set on ‘Day and Name’ option.
I changed it to reflect ‘category’ and ‘post name’. This made for a short URL – much more user friendly.

Click link to learn about using permalinks and more permalink tags

TIP: Go to WP dashboard > Settings > Permalinks > Common Settings

301 Redirect

After discovering the problem. I had to do a 301 redirect and didn’t want to touch my .htaccess file.

So I tried the Advanced Permalink WP Plugin. I knew the developer wasn’t working on the plugin anymore, but since I wanted a simple 301 redirect for my permalinks I didn’t think it would be a problem. Unfortunately, it broke my site. I didn’t realize that until a few days later. Oi! One thing after another. My pagination broke. You could not go past page 1!

Luckily, I traced the issue to the plugin and disabled it. Pagination worked again. But I wouldn’t be able to resolve the pagination problem due to the developer no longer working on it.

Resolution: The Simple 301 Redirect Plugin by Scott Nelle

I already had it installed on my site and finally remembered it. And luckily, it quickly resolved my wordpress permalink problem.

Installation

1) Go to the Plugins tab, Add New. Search for ‘simple 301 redirects’.
2) Install
3) Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
4) Go to Settings > 301 Redirects

Request: add old permalink structure.
Destination: new permalink structure.

Note: Don’t copy the example link under Permalink settings (ie. http://www.yourURL.com/2012/06/03/sample-post/). You need to format the URL example to reflect the WordPress Permalink Structure Tags (example: /%year%/%monthnum%/ %day%/%postname%/)

5) Save
6) Do a Google search. Your outside links should now be fixed.

Final Note: if you have a sitemap (which you should) – manually reindex it. You can also do this in Google webmaster tools under Optimization > Sitemaps > select sitemap > resubmit.

Eventually, when your site gets crawled again by Google, it will fix the links. There is no determined set of time on how long it will take. Just be patient.

As for sitemap info… that’s a whole other post. ;)

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About Christine McCarthy

Social Media Enthusiast, Tech Geek & Whole Foods Lovin' | Here to discuss Internet Marketing, Blogging, Social Media & Search Engine Optimization | Twitter: @christinebiz | Facebook: ChristineBiz

Comments

  1. I would advice the plugin Redirection. This plugin has more features and automatically creates redirects when it detects a change in permalinks. Used it for some projects now.

    However it is better for page ranking to stick with your first choice. Only change when it is necesarry.

  2. This is exact what my problem is. But how can solve this without plugin? I don’t understand why this happen. I just imports some my articles in my old WP to my fresh installed WP. Before I do that, all links at google search is fine.
    Because it’s redirect itself.
    i e: http: //abcde.com/sample-post/
    to: http: //abcde.com/category/sample-post/
    But now, only my new post have no problem even I changed the permalinks. Any suggestions? Thx in advance!

  3. amazing you really made my work easy ,,,, i knew about this redirect plugin but didnt know how to use it thanx for sharing such a cool tutorial

  4. nice article it seems very easy but i want to ask a question that can we redirect a whole category ,,,,,i m looking for it from last few weeks

  5. I’m having a bit of trouble. I don’t know if I missed something, but I installed the plugin, activated it, and entered a change from

    /index.php/%postname%/

    to

    /%postname%/

    And nothing happened. :/ Any tips?

  6. Unfortunately I set my page up using the default permalinks

    ie: %post_id%

    But I no longer want to use that and would love to just use the post name permalink ie: %postname%

    I tried following this tutorial and all of my pages still get the 404 errors. Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong?

    In the 301 redirect boxes I put:

    Request box: /%post_id%. Destination: /%postname% /

    Can you tell if I’m missing something? Thanks!
    Jade recently posted..Quick Update!My Profile

  7. I installed the advanced redirect plugin but when I read your post in the support forum I got freaked out, so I disable it and installed simple 301 redirects instead.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it all right:

    I put /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/ on the request and /%postname%/ on the destination and still get 404 errors i.e http://finally-woken.com/2008/09/the-sex-bloggers-and-being-anonymous/

    However the plugin works wonderfully if I redirect a specific post/category i.e /tag/indonesia/page/4/ to /indonesia/

    I’m so puzzled! What do you think I’m doing wrong here? Thanks in advance:)
    Finally Woken recently posted..What Happens After 3 Years in Perth, AustraliaMy Profile

  8. I did a search for the Simple 301 Redirect Plugin but notice it hasn’t been updated in over 2 years so I decided against installing it. Any other suggestions to use with the latest wordpress.

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