WordPress Change Permalinks
So 10 days ago, I made a rookie mistake. You guessed it – I changed my WordPress permalinks.
For those of you who do not know what a permalink is, it is simply the part of your website URL that is not the home page. I had this website fully set up about 6 months ago.
And in August 2021, I decided to start blogging on a weekly basis in order to boost my site’s Google rankings over time. Last month, I simply decided I was not happy with how my blog URL links looked.
My WordPress blog links had a date/post_name format. Suddenly, I decided that I wanted my permalinks to have just a post_name format.
To explain what I mean, let us say I posted a blog post on November 1, 2021 titled ‘Cake Review. My original permalink format of date/post_name. But with the new post name only permalink format.
See the difference? See how neat the second one looks??
Changing my wordpress permalinks seemed like such a great idea at the time. I went into my Yoast WordPress plugin, changed my permalinks, looked satisfactorily at the new display, and congratulated myself to sleep. What I completely failed to consider, however, was a ‘tiny‘ Google ranking issue.
You see, changing your permalinks when you have blog content that is already ranking on Google really hurts your rankings. And I mean, seriously. Especially if they are not done correctly. I’ve had to remember this Technical SEO lesson the hard way, by making the mistake so you do not have to.
See the table below:
What you are looking at, are my recent web traffic stats on Worpress using the Jetpack WordPress plugin. Can you guess what date I changed my permalinks?
I’ll help you out, the night of October 22. From October 23, you can see that my site traffic was very inconsistent – except on Oct 27 when I published a new blog post.
Before October 22, you can see that there was some consistency in my site’s visits. And this is because all my blog posts up till then had started ranking on Google. This meant that my blog posts were showing up in searches and people were visiting my website to see what help I could offer them. My permalink format change meant that every blog post I had published up till then was going to change too, so anyone who clicked the old links was served a 404 main course.
… and everyone knows a 404 Error page is very bad news for SEO.
The Importance of 301 Re-Directs.
Google is a tough mistress. She demands loyalty, worth, and consistency for her to trust you. Change your permalinks without using 301 redirects, and she hits you with a de-ranking so harsh you’d be licking your wounds for months to come.
301 redirects are used when you change your links permanently. I did not realise until a few days later that I had not used any redirects! In only these few days that my links led visitors to a 404 error page, my Google ranking got hit so hard that none of my previous blog posts are no longer ranking in Google as we speak.
Three months of hard and consistent work just gone down the drain. Overnight!
However, there’s a Silver Lining here.
The silver lining is that I only lost authority that took me nearly 3 months to build. I cannot imagine what I would do if I had spent a year or 2 creating content, only to lose my rankings due to a rookie mistake. That would have been a much harder pill to swallow.
So to solve this, I simply downloaded a free wordpress plugin called Redirection by John Godley. The instructions to redirect your permalinks were very simple and straightforward. And with that done, I created a new Yoast sitemap and submitted it
to Google Webmasters. Now, all I have to do is wait a couple more weeks to see if my blog posts will start ranking again. There is not much else I can do, can I?
Hopefully, you learned something new here. If you want to change your permalinks at a later stage, DON’T! If you insists, always remember to use 301 redirects immediately!
Have a lovely day 🙂