How to redirect to other URL and change WordPress URLs to improve seo and test it!
For most aspects of digital publishing, keeping things simple is a strong philosophy. Easy navigation, consistent design, and clear content structure are likely to improve experiences for readers and help with SEO. The same is true for your WordPress URLs – generally shorter URLs perform better in search engines.
However, many publishers weren’t thinking about how their URLs were structured when they started their WordPress website, and now they may have hundreds (thousands?) of posts they want to redirect and change URLs so they can improve SEO. What’s more, it’s not always guaranteed that the changes will actually improve SEO or traffic that much, if at all.
So is it worth the effort of going through each and every URL to change it from something like, /2019/05/08/post-name/ to just /post-name/, if we don’t know if is it worth it in the long run?
maybe. Deploying major site-wide changes without testing is a bad idea in general. It’s about proving that things work. You can do the same with a small number of your URLs easily, then monitor them for 2-3 weeks to see if the traffic is better or worse. In many cases, the traffic can be 10-15% better. In that case, you’ll know it’s worth making the site-wide change.
Next, I’m going to review how you can redirect and change some of your URLs to see if your site and traffic improve. So, I’ll show you that you have to make the change site-wide in less than a minute.
Our recent Ezoic Explains video visually walks you through the next steps, but I’ll break it all down below.
Why are my WordPress URLs long and how can I shorten them?
If you are a WordPress user, there are many different ones that you can automatically generate for a new post. If you never selected a specific one, it may have auto-generated all your posts with additional information such as date, month, numeric numbers, or just random information.
You can control the URL > generation of your post in “Settings “Permalinks”. In most cases, it’s best to keep it simple and just use ‘post name’.
Where this gets messy is if you’re now a well-established publisher and all of your posts were generated in a way that isn’t serving your site as well.
IMPORTANT – If it is not currently configured this way, do not just change this. It will automatically change all your urls but they might not be redirected correctly which could massively damage your WordPress site because you’re going to tank your SEO (Google will send all your traffic to 404 pages and then stop indexing them until it finds the new ones, even the n, you may not fully recover).
Before we get into how we can redirect all pages and implement this change without any risk, we first need to make sure that it will be worth it and that it will have a positive impact on the website.
WordPress has a ton of plugins to help manage and optimize your site, especially with speed, but there is also a plugin to help change individual URLs. There is a plugin called Custom Permalinks that makes it easy to help control individual post URLs.
Download, install and activate the plugin so we can start testing our possible change.
To decide which URL you should test on, go to Google Search Console or Google Analytics to select about 5-6 landing pages that receive a significant amount of organic search traffic. Using posts that have high organic traffic will produce the fastest and most authentic results, whether they are good or bad. After 2-3 weeks, we should be able to see the increase in traffic if this change will pay off for the entire website.
How to Change Individual WordPress Permalinks to Test SEO Impact
In this example, we’ll look at injuryhealthblog.com, one of Tyler’s sites that we experimented with quite a bit. As you can see, the Permalink plugin appears just below the post title. Your URL can include dates, numbers, times, or an awkward phrase, but you can actually delete and change it here within the post.
In the spirit of keeping your website simple and intuitive, it’s best to simply use your website URL plus a simple one, like injuryhealthblog.com/tennis-elbow-recover.
After changing the slug, you must implement a redirect for the old URL. There are a lot of tools and plugins inside CMS systems like WordPress or Joomla, but it is preferable to run the redirection inside your host because plugins can break or expire. If you don’t want to do this at the host level, you can use the popular WordPress redirect plugin.
The original will go under ‘Source’. In this case, we’ll pretend it was /2019/05/whatever-it-was-before/ . The only thing I want to change about this is to output the date, as I have done in the ‘Target’ frame.
IMPORTANT – These redirects must be 301 redirects, and will be implemented site-wide, allowing me to redirect any referral traffic or links to that page to my new URL. 301s indicate to referrers, such as Google, that the content of that URL has been permanently moved to the new one. This mitigates most of the main risks with URL redirection.
Now the URL is gone injuryhealthblog.com/2019/05/whatever-it-was-before/. If someone tries to use that URL, it will redirect to my new one, injuryhealthblog.com/whatever-it-was-before/.
Will changing URLs in WordPress help SEO?
I want to monitor the changes on a roughly week-to-week basis to watch for any trends in performance. With Google Analytics, I can see if my changes have had a positive or negative effect on my traffic.
In the “Behavior” tab, go to “Site Content” and then “Landing Pages”. However, I just want to see if my organic search has increased, so instead of ‘All Users’, I want to go in and change it to ‘Organic Search’. This will show me if search engines are sending these URLs more or less traffic after my change.
Now, I can go > to > behavior site content landing pages. I want to navigate to the date preferences and select the date I made the change as the start of the time period and then select two weeks. We also want to compare the data to two weeks earlier, so by selecting ‘Custom’ and then checking-boxing ‘Compare’, I can compare the data from the previous two weeks to the two weeks after I made the change.
After implementing all these segments, I want to copy and paste the changed URL slug into the search box on the right. Next, we segment just to display /mcl-sprain-recovery-time-treatment-protocol/ by copying and pasting it into the search bar.
This will display the data for any one that has those elements in it, so it will include the new slug I changed it to and the old slug, which included the date.
From the data we got on this specific URL, I can see that my sessions have improved, albeit only by 5.45%. This tells me that changing all the URLs on my site could be beneficial for traffic, but that’s why I’d like to test four or five posts to see if it’s a broader trend.
To easily track changes, I can make a simple spreadsheet like the one below, where I record each week how many sessions a particular URL had and the percentage of change. A spreadsheet can help you better understand the impact of changing those URLs, especially if you perform a cumulative percentage change calculation, as shown below. While this particular post was only a 5.45% increase in sessions, some of these other injuryhealthblog.com URLs have seen significant session growth in just one week.
You can easily calculate the percentage change using the formula (C1-B2)/B2, or whatever your cells are.
Change your WordPress URLs site-wide in less than a minute
If you’re happy with the progress of the test, you’ll want to remove excess information, such as the date or misc. numbers: of all the URLs on your site.
At this point, you can disable the Permalinks plugin because we are going to make the changes to all pages and posts in the Settings menu as we discussed at the beginning.
Luckily, we can hack the ‘Custom Structure’ configuration option to help us design a redirect that allows us to easily make the switch to /post-name/ without having to individually redirect each URL on your WordPress website manually.
HOW TO USE THE CUSTOM URL STRUCTURE TO WRITE A SINGLE SITE-WIDE REDIRECT: After selecting ‘Custom Structure’, you can use the buttons directly below it to make your previous formula. In this case, our used to include the year, the month and the name of the post. We want to take this slug configuration of /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/ and make a rule out of it.
Setting up a site-wide redirect for your WordPress website
Copy the slug and go back to your host, plugin or tool. Give the redirect a name that you will remember. Paste the formula slug from our custom permalink hack into the “Source” section and make the “Destination” just the post name slug, as shown below.
Depending on your previous WordPress setup, you may need to do yours slightly differently. If you have problems with the formula, please leave it below in the comments and I will write the formula for you.
If you have a complicated URL structure, you can look at other redirect rules in the common regex sources. It will give you a huge list of syntax for different rules that you can set for your posts.
Use plugins, data, and redirect rules to test and change clunky URLs
There are a handful of small steps that go into trying and changing your post urls, but overall, the process should be simple once you know what you’re doing. The most important items on the list are redirecting URL changes and testing whether those changes would even benefit your site before implementing it for all your posts. Here is a quick and short summary of each step:
- Simple and concise URLs tend to help with SEO
- You can easily change permalink settings for WordPress in ‘Settings’
- Try this first on a handful of high traffic posts
- Make sure to 301 redirect the old permalink to the new one
- Track changes with Google Analytics and a spreadsheet
- If SEO and traffic improve, make the permalink change site-wide by setting a rule
- Make sure to change your permalink settings to only include the post name for all future posts
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll try to answer. I can also help with any rules you may need for your redirects.