Changing URL Structure in WordPress: SEO Effects and How to Neutralize it using 301 Redirection

by Adi on September 16, 2012

I was recently contacted by a WordPress user and my client who wanted to change their URL structure but were not sure if that is the right thing to do considering they have made significant amount of backlinks to the old URL structure. They also required help making this done properly so they do not undermine any of their SEO effort. I agreed to help 🙂

When changing the URL structure; you got to ask yourself if this is really necessary? You might not want to just change the URL structure every now and then. So unless you have some good reasons you would not want to make the change.

A common yet good reason can be that when you started with WordPress you were not sure of SEO and you used the default URL (permalink) structure. Now you realize that your URLs are not SEO friendly and want to change them to something better. Let me explain this to you with an example –

For instance a URL structure like www.domain.com/pageid=24 for a page called ‘About us’ is no good. You would want to read it something like www.domain.com/about-us. This not only looks good but also is more SEO friendly since it contains the page title (or say ‘the keyphrase’) in URL structure. Having the keyword in URL structure is a huge plus in SEO.

Now that we know we have to change URL structure; how exactly do we go about it without affecting our link-building?

The answer is simple and is a two-step process –

  • Change permalink structure from your WP settings.
  • use 301 redirection to redirect previously structured URLs to new URLs.

Changing WordPress URL Structure (Permalinks)

So where exactly should I change the URL (permalink structure) in WordPress dashboard?

  1. Login to your WordPress dashboard
  2. Then go hover over ‘Settings’ and click ‘Permalinks’
    permalinks
  3. Select the new permalink structure from the given options or define a custom one. If you are not sure what is best for you; I would suggest to stick with ‘Post Name’wp permalinks definition

Setting Up 301 Redirection on your WordPress blog

What exactly is 301 redirection?

301 redirect is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for webpage redirection. It’s not that hard to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page (it passes over 95% of your link-juice). If you have to change file names or move pages around, it’s the safest option. The code “301” is interpreted as “moved permanently”.

Source – (link)

What happens if I do not use 301 redirection?

If you do not use 301 redirection then if someone tries to access your older URLs they will be given 404 Page Not Found error. This also happens with any backlinks you created previously. This will cause major link loss and would adversely affect your search engine rankings.

How do we setup 301 redirection in WordPress?

This is fairly easy in WordPress and can be easily done by a plugin called Platinum SEO. Here is what you do –

  1. Login to your WordPress dashboard
  2. Click Plugins –> Add new
  3. Search for ‘Platinum SEO’
  4. Install and activate.
  5. Go to ‘Platinum SEO’ below ‘Settings’; present on the left pane in your WP dashboard.
    image
  6. Check the box marked as ‘Automatically do 301 redirects for permalink changes’.
  7. Save the changes and you are done!

This post should help you change your WordPress URL structure (permalinks settings) without negatively affecting your SEO. If you need any help; feel free to drop me a line using comments section here or by using contact us page 🙂

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