I didn’t think enough at the start, that’s the bottom line here.
I set up my blog and just had a little wander through the settings, not really examining them like I normally would do when I get a new toy. This is how I missed the settings for permalinks or at least I saw it, but paid it too little attention. When I eventually did decide I didn’t like this layout of URLs (/archives/%post_id%), it was too late.
I basically came to the decision to change them when looking at Google Analytics and the following was part of my report.
I was reviewing the most popular pages and I realised I had no idea what post 41 was. Absolutely no idea! So it was then it hit me – that archive permalink naming schema-thingy, it’s a bit, ya know, poop. But behold! I could change that! I’d alter the URLs so instead of this useless URL with a number in it, I’d change it and make it fantastic and include the URL-friendly post title as part of the Permalink.
There was much rejoicing!
So, I changed them – and the obvious happened. All my old links broke and became 404′s – losing all inbound Google traffic.
I decided I could live with that. I’m a grown man! What’s a 404 here and there, pffft! Google would update itself, right? It wouldn’t take long, surely…. But alas, it was a lie to myself as it was pecking at my head every time I thought about it. So eventually (today – after something like 3-4 weeks), I decided to do something about it. I thought that I would have to dig around with .htaccess files and MOD_REWRITE rules, something I am not masochistic enough to indulge in just yet. But, alas, a search around the Internet solved my problem!
I stumbled upon Dean Lee’s Permalink Migration Plug-in for WordPress. Genius! You can simply search for it in the plugins area of your blogs admin and install it simply from that route. It’s done what I needed exactly and it behaves how I wanted exactly!
After installing, I simply told it what my old links were clicked save and…. and…. oh. No change. My permalinks were already setup, so why wasn’t this working. I decided what I’d do is re-save my permalinks settings page and delete cache to see if that made a difference – I maybe should have checked after each one – but either way – one of them fixed it for me and now all my old links work again!
Yes, that music you hear is the angelic chorus declaring the fantasticness of my links!
The best thing about this plug-in (other than not needing to delve into MOD_REWRITE), is that it redirects to the new URL instead of pretending the old one was fine. Well done, Dean Lee – take a bow!
So the bottom line is. Choose your permalinks wisely – they should be helpful enough that you can work out the content of the page from reading it, while at the same time being very nice to Google (and the other search engines…). I’m lucky because my blog isn’t popular – no one really noticed. But there were people hitting these 404′s who maybe could have done with some of the info in the posts.