How to Migrate Your Website to WordPress
There is no question that WordPress is one of the most dominant publishing platforms in use today. As of 2017, more than a quarter of websites around the world were powered by WordPress, and the market share of this content management system is nearly 60%. Even though Joomla is seen by many as a more robust CMS for certain applications such as e-commerce, the fact remains that more developers, designers and administrators prefer WP.
As with anything in the world of internet publishing, the WP platform has benefits and disadvantages to consider, however, the pros vastly outnumber the cons. For those who are considering website migration to WP, here are some of the most salient benefits:
- For more than a decade, WP has been considered to be the easiest web publishing platforms in the market. The ease of use starts with the back-end and installation process and continues with CMS management, which is intuitive enough for beginners to grasp. If you rely on content authors, you will likely find many who are already familiar with WP. Even if they are not, they will learn very quickly.
- The customization options of WP are virtually endless. You do not have to stick with a theme and limit yourself to the layout or functionality; the look of your website will always be 100% bespoken if such is your intent.
- Google likes WP. It is easier to apply on-page search engine optimization strategies on WP themes, and there are numerous plugins specifically developed for this purpose. Furthermore, the WP blog component, which is at the heart of the platform, makes it very easy to add fresh content visible to search engine crawlers.
Among the few drawbacks of WP is the reality that loading it with too many plugins can result in lower performance and potential conflicts. Security is also an issue; the sheer popularity of WordPress is something that hackers are familiar with, and this means that there will always be cybercrime groups looking for vulnerabilities. These disadvantages are not hardwired into WP and can be prevented with proper website administration.
Existing websites can be easily migrated to WP without having to start over. Even if the current platform was built on raw HTML and CSS without the benefit of a CMS, the migration process can be planned and executed so that everything stays the same, even the visual layout and navigation elements. Here are some recommended steps to follow:
CSS Issues — when migrating any site to another CMS there can be issues with the site transfer, things don’t always go as smoothly as planned. CSS often becomes radically warped and results in layouts that aren’t what they used to be. One way to avoid that is optimizing your CSS before you migrate your site to avoid extra code.
It is better to migrate an efficient website than one with error pages or navigation issues. Any sections that need special attention should be improved prior to the migration process, for example, checking for link rot, bad redirects, navigation issues, and accurate contact information.
Simple websites without a lot of content are easier to migrate manually; a high volume of content spread across hundreds of pages would likely benefit from the use of a migration tool that can establish a connection between the original website and the WP target.
The URL structure is an important consideration in planning; for the sake of SEO, adjusting to the WP URL structure is highly recommended, but a redirection is always an option. Functionality issues such as web forms, restricted access, third-party services, and e-commerce tools should be taken into account during the planning stage.
Setting up the New WordPress Site
This is by far the easiest step, but you need to make sure your hosting provider is one that specializes in WP sites and offers one-click installation. Trust us. Your life will be easier. A lot of hosting companies offer free migrations as part of their service and it can save you a lot of time and hassle.
Once your hosting account is ready to go, your first move should be to update to the latest version and install any migration plugins you intend to use. From the Settings menu, activate the Permalinks option to make URL structure changes.
You will want to make a note of the CMS access credentials you create for administrators and content creators. If there are forms to migrate, this is the time to shop around for plugins unless you want to create your own.
You should have already considered website and CMS security during the hosting provider evaluation stage, however, you may want to take time to review security plugins. Don’t forget about setting up a backup strategy and check for language support plugins if your content is geared towards international users.
A few dozen pages can be manually migrated by means of the legacy copy-and-paste method, which can be tracked and managed on a spreadsheet in terms of old URLs. Migration projects larger than 100 pages are better off managed with a plugin. Once the content has landed, visual choices can be made; look at a few themes and decide whether you will need to get into the source code to create a custom layout or if you should retain a designer for this purpose.
You can always start by bringing over the old style.css file and work on it later. The next steps are all related to coding; you should start with headers, footers, and the home page, keeping in mind that WP always looks for uniformity. The templates for your new WP site should include standard, content and full-width.
Testing the Website and Installing Plugins
The spreadsheet you used to track the migration will come in handy at this time because you will want to test all links, functions and style issues. It is important to test redirects; you may need a plugin that can automate this part of the process.
Speaking of plugins, there are two you cannot ignore: the first is Akismet, which is mandatory if comments are enabled because you do not want your WP site to be riddled with spam. The other mandatory plugin should prompt you to ensure that new content follows SEO guidelines; one of the most popular in this regard is Yoast.