frequently disappearing permalinks

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barbara schendel

Jul 25, 2023, 11:24:52 AM7/25/23
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
Hey all, 

I manage a rather large site, hosted on WPEngine. We have been having a problem where our permalinks stop working -- users see "not found" errors when following links -- to fix we go to settings > permalinks and hit save to rebuild them. Easy fix, but frustrates users before we notice it. This has been an issue for a while but has been getting worse and worse lately, to the point that it's been happening at least once a week, sometimes more. 

WPEngine support has not been helpful (understandable I guess, since this is intermittent/unpredictable and therefore very hard to test)

I'm wondering if others have had this issue before, and what plugins/conditions contributed to the problem?

My top three suspects are:
- The Events Calendar Pro (lots of recurring events)
- Relevanssi
- CleanTalk Anti-spam
(but client reluctant to deactivate any as an experiment because they kind of need all of these)

What experience have you had with this issue and what fixed it? What would you suggest looking into to try and solve this?


Aaron Silver

Jul 25, 2023, 11:47:33 AM7/25/23
I can confirm from my experience that almost every time The Events Calendar Pro is updated,  its permalinks break. (But it doesn't break anyone else's).  In that case, my fix is to rebuild the permalinks every time after I update that plugin. Perhaps that would solve the problem for your other permalinks as well?

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Barbara Schendel-Kent

Jul 25, 2023, 1:41:40 PM7/25/23
Hi Aaron! Thanks for sharing that. In our case, it happens a bit too often for a plugin update to be a likely cause. (although I do wonder about cron events, so I might try and tweak the schedule on that)

Toby C

Jul 26, 2023, 10:02:34 AM7/26/23
Barbara, Are you able to stage the site and wait and see if the permalinks break there as well?  Assuming they do break on staging, then at least you'll have a test environment to see what's going on.



"You take a chance getting up every morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan.” - Officer Frank Drebin

Barbara Schendel-Kent

Jul 26, 2023, 11:19:32 AM7/26/23
Hmm, that is an interesting idea, although the live site gets quite a lot of traffic whereas staging would get next to none (so that on live we have higher load in case that's a trigger, as well as many users to report issues to us)  -- I wonder if there might be a way to automate the traffic and detection of issues on staging?

Karim Dibba

Jul 26, 2023, 1:19:16 PM7/26/23
Hi Barbara,

Have you considered disabling automatic updates for the plugins to see if you can correlate the permalinks changes to plugin updates?

Barbara Schendel-Kent

Jul 26, 2023, 3:36:14 PM7/26/23
Hi Karim, that is a good idea. I will do this today to see if it helps.

Brett Wysocki

Jul 27, 2023, 5:29:53 PM7/27/23
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
Hi Barbara,

Hopefully you've figured it out, but if you haven't, I have a few other debugging questions:
  • What version of PHP are you running?
  • Do you still use an .htaccess file (Web Rules in WP Engine)?
  • Are the permalinks that are failing seemingly mostly in The Events Calendar?  Or does it happen with other posts/CPTs across your site?
Maybe these will help lead to a different solution, but the one thing I thought to do was to add some code that would run a permalink flush once a week/day/hour in an attempt to fix the problem before it shows up.

Here is a link I found to some code that (I haven't tested) should flush your permalinks once an hour:

As for your culprits, TEC is usually pretty good, however I can speak with experience of how much of a pain CleanTalk has become to me.  At one point in time, we had it running on about a dozen sites and now that number is down to one.  We've had to remove it for various reasons, but it wouldn't surprise me if this is another issue.  But it is very effective at spam control, for sure.

Hope this helps!

Barbara Schendel-Kent

Jul 28, 2023, 9:15:25 AM7/28/23
Hi Brett, thank you so much for these ideas! The issue happens on everything (not just events) but I suspected TEC just because the pro version does a lot behind the scenes. We run PHP8 but will soon be updating to 8.2.

Great idea to try flushing the permalinks regularly before it happens. And yes, I wondered about cleantalk as well. I will look at these two options next if my other steps do not have an effect (disabling auto-update and adjusting cron schedules) 

Thanks again!

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