One very important thing to do when starting a new WordPress website is to get the permalink structure correct from the beginning. The default settings that WordPress assign for permalinks is not very helpful for many bloggers and can lead to problems down the road.
To avoid this problem, it is important to make changing the permalink structure one of the very first things you do when setting up a new WordPress website. The best option for most bloggers is to use the simple Post Name structure for post links as this allows the content to be updated without changing the link structure.
Building a link structure that stays the same over time is crucial for building and maintaining ranking and also allowing content to be kept fresh and up to date without affecting this ranking. The default link structure set by WordPress does not allow for this and so needs changing straight away to save time and effort down the road. Let’s look at how to do this.
Having a less than ideal permalink structure is a common mistake for WordPress beginners
The Ideal Link Structure For Most Bloggers
The ideal link structure most bloggers and niche site owners need is the simple Post Name option, where blog posts simply have the name of your website, a slash and then the title of your article separated by dashes eg. mynewnichesite.com/my-very-first-post/
Unfortunately the default WordPress settings often do not set it to this, but to a different structure, which also includes the date of the post eg. mynewnichesite.com/01/01/2019/my-very-first-post/.
The problem with this is that whenever you update the date of publication of the article if you make significant changes – as bloggers should indeed do since Google likes newer dated content – the date and therefore the URL of the article will change, meaning the old links with the old date will be broken.
From painful personal experience this is a very annoying thing to only discover after you have posted a bunch of content. If you update an article, all internal and external links to the article with the original date on them will now not work and deliver a 404 Page not Found error, which is a disaster for SEO and ranking.
So the ideal tactic here is to go to the Permalinks tab on the Settings page of your WordPress site and make sure permalinks are set to the Post Name option. This keeps article URLs simple and consistent over time, allowing for updating without any hassles.
You ideally want blog posts to have the simple “Post Name” format so they stay the same even when the date is changed
What If I’ve Already Published a Bunch of Content With The Old Permalink Structure?
If you have only realized this when you have already posted a load of content with the Date and Name URL structure, then there is a way around this, but it does require some time to fix depending on how much content you have up there.
You can leave the URL structure as it is, but this limits you in that you cannot update the publication date of your old articles without changing the links and breaking any links you have to the article so far. Over time this may hurt you in rankings if newer content is published by other sites.
For some niches where the content is “evergreen” and does not tend to change over time, this may be fine. Something you published five years ago may still be totally relevant today. In other niches like technology, things are constantly changing and you will need to ideally update the date of your content to keep up. It depends on the niche.
If you do want to change the links of your old content though, the first thing is to note down the current URLs of all the content you have up on the site at the moment with the Date and Name structure. It is very important to do this before you change any settings, since you will need these links to set up the redirects once you change the settings.
Next, you need change the Permalinks settings to Post Name as we mentioned above. You then need to head over to Plugins…..Add New and download a free plugin called Simple 301 Redirects. This will allow you to redirect all your old pages with the date to the new URLs that will have been set now you have changed the Permalink settings.
The plugin is super easy to use. You simply paste in the old URL structure you saved into the left hand box, and then paste in the new URL structure on the right. Anyone clicking on the old link from inside or outside your site will be redirected to the new link instead so they will still get to the page.
This can be a way of getting around broken links when you change Permalink structure. It is one of the weaknesses of WordPress that they do not set the simple Post Name structure as default, since having the date also in the URL causes so many problems for so many bloggers and niche site owners when they want to update their content to stay competitive.
An example of the Simple 301 Redirects plugin in action. The old permalinks on the left are redirected to the new page on the right
The Best Way to Format Permalinks For SEO
As well as having the correct link structure, there are also some good tips for how best to structure links for SEO purposes. Having the simple Post Name structure helps, but this may also need some tweaking on occasion. Here are some good pointers for links:
- Article URLs should be directly related to the subject of the post, as this along with the title helps make it clear to Google what your article is about.
- Article URLs should be on the shorter side. If you title is a bit long then consider shortening the URL eg.mysite.com/what-is-the-best-way-to-set-links-up-for-seo-on-my-blog could be shortened to mysite.com/best-way-to-set-links-seo
- If you are in a competitive or fast changing niche and will need to update your content, especially make sure the URL is set to Post Name only to allow you to change the publication date and keep the same URL.