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How to change permalink without affecting SEO and fix 404 errors for redirection

Why Would I Change Permalink Structure?

There are several reasons why you would consider changing your permalink structure, especially if you have been using the default setting. Changing your permalinks, whether on a new site or an established one, is relatively simple. However, making changes to the structure on an established site can have negative consequences, if you don’t plan ahead. You may need to fix 404 errors. Therefore, you should carefully consider whether or not it is necessary to alter your permalink structure.

However, there are several valid reasons for making the switch. Here are just a few:

  • If you started with an older version of WordPress you may still be using the previous default structure, which includes the Post ID. This structure provides no useful information about your content, and is worthless for SEO.
  • You may be taking your site in a different direction, and need to update the structure to reflect that change. For instance, if you are moving to a more news-oriented site, you might want to include the date in your permalinks.
  • Many people buy established websites as an investment, so it’s possible that you have purchased or inherited your site from someone else.  If you have taken ownership of a live site, you may want to update the link structure for re-branding purposes.

If your current structure works for your content and brand, changing it could be an unnecessary headache. However, if you do decide that you need to update your link structure, you’ll be glad to know there are ways to implement this switch safely, and also being able to fix 404 errors.

This tutorial will show you how to redirect the old permalinks to the new ones, so that you don’t get 404 errors. You’ll maintain your search engine rankings, as well as keep users happy


Step #1. Document your current permalink settings and URLs

  • Either write down or take a screenshot of your current permalink settings. You’ll need this in the next step.

Here’s my test site as an example:

Changing WordPress Permalinks
  • Also, write down some of your current URLs so you can test them later.
  • Try to get at least 10-20 URLs. When you test the URLs, you’ll feel confident that everything went well.

Step #2. Create the redirect code

  • Go to this URL and fill out the short form with your site information:
change permalink and fix 404 errors
  • You’ll then get a redirect code. Copy that line:
change permalink and fix 404 errors

Step #3. Switch the Permalinks setting

In your wp-admin:

  • Switch the permalinks setting to “post name”.
  • Save.
change permalink and fix 404 errors
  • After this step, you’ll get 404s for your old links. For example, search engine results will give you a 404 error, as well as any links that aren’t dynamically generated.

Step #4. Apply the code to fix 404 errors

Now let’s fix 404 errors.

  • Use your host’s file manager or SFTP to edit the .htaccess file in your WordPress root folder.
  • Paste the code from step #2 in it. You can add it just after the “# END WordPress” line on a new line.
  • Save the file.
change permalink and fix 404 errors

Step #5. Test and test some more

  • Finally, test your URLs from step #1 to make sure they redirect properly.
  • Also, you can search your site in search engines and see if those URLs redirect properly.