Just a quick word of warning to those thinking about changing their permalink structure within the WordPress CMS after the site has been built…
Don’t do it!
I was playing around with one of my new site’s WordPress permalink structure and thought it would be a good idea to add the /%category%/ in the custom field to try and organise things a little better. I did not realise that it would effect the entire site on a “real URL link” basis and thought it would be purely a cosmetic change.
Boy was I wrong!
A quick look at Google’s Webmater Tools will show you the effect this will have on your SERPS. I was ranking very highly for certain terms which just vanished overnight as the pages just started to return 404’s.
Thankfully, to fix it all I did was revert the permalink back to how it was originally, then inform google via the “crawl error” dashboard that the link had been fixed.
The saying “If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it!” comes to mind.
Thankfully the high ranking pages are starting to appear in the SERPs again at there previous positions. It took a few days for Google to register this.
Whether or not it would have been quicker to allow Google to re-index the new site structure, I don’t know, but I was not going to hang around to find out. Also, I was not prepared to do a whole load of 301 redirects for any back links that the pages may have.
So, what did I learn from this? Basically, build the site and pick a permalink structure that will grow with your site and stick to it. As far as SEO is concerned I dont think there is a huge difference anymore to have a site that is built like:
My experience from using a more simple structure, i.e. without the category in the url has not effected my search rankings and adding it is just cosmetic or organisational structure.
I have discovered that there are plugins that will automatically handle the structure change, but I have not tested them so cannot comment. For know I will be sticking to the original permalink structure.
Made any similar mistakes?!! Let me know if you have made any similar errors with your WordPress site or what your SEO experience is with the different permalink structures with the current Google algorithm.