Thursday, May 26, 2022

How to Migrate your Website to WordPress

Among content management systems, WordPress is king. The statistics make this clear:

  • 30 percent of sites are built with WordPress.
  • 60 percent of sites that are built with a content management system utilize WordPress.
  • Out of the top 10,000 sites by traffic, 27 percent use WordPress.

WordPress’ flexibility, ease of use, and array of design features and plugins are among its many strengths. It only makes sense that web developers want to take advantage of this. For websites that were created on another platform, there is a relatively easy road to migrate to WordPress. Here’s a look at how a site can make the move.

Analysis and preparation

Let’s start with safety: Make sure to back up the current site in case of any difficulties encountered in migration, especially in human error when trying to moving things over manually by copying and pasting.

If the site is on a content management system, migration can be a simple process thanks to the free plugins and importer scripts that WordPress provides. On the WordPress admin dashboard for the new site, look under “Tools > Import” for the current CMS, or check the plugin directory for other options. WordPress makes this route easy, and it requires little expertise to make the migration.

For sites operating outside of a CMS, the migration will need to be done manually. This is primarily an option for those with more advanced knowledge of a site’s inner workings and could be a time-consuming effort with a significant amount of copying and pasting from the current site. There are also services that will do this for a fee.

Next up: Choose a hosting service. There are plenty of options; some of the established names to look for are Bluehost, HostGator, and Green Geeks. The easiest and cheapest option is a shared host, in which multiple websites share a host’s server and resources. VPS hosting is a step up in terms of memory, bandwidth, and cost. Multiple sites still use one server, but specific resources are allocated to your site. The next level is managed WordPress hosting, which increases speed and security, automatically backs up the site, and installs WordPress updates.

Also, the domain can be transferred while retaining the URL. If you want to keep the domain registered with the original provider, it can be mapped by attaching it to the WordPress site and then changing the domain’s name servers to direct them to WordPress.

Importing and organizing

Installing WordPress is simple. Choose from WordPress.com (aimed mostly at basic blogs and sites for personal use) or WordPress.org (a must for businesses, with greatly enhanced functions and control, which also allows advertising for monetization). The latter option means you host the site and control it, while the former is hosted for you with limited options (no plugin uploads, for example).

After installation, select one of five plan options: free, personal, premium, business, or eCommerce. As you move up that chain from the basic free level, the benefits increase with additional features, storage capacity, theme, and design options and other resources.

The migration process is a straightforward one for a variety of CMS sites. WordPress has importer scripts for many of these (“Tools > Import”). Select the CMS and WordPress walks you through the importing steps. For some sites, however, it’s a more detailed process.

Take a GoDaddy site, for example. To move from GoDaddy to WordPress, you’ll have to dig in manually. Start by choosing a new host (Green Geeks or Bluehost, for example) or stick with GoDaddy. Back up the current site and, if staying with GoDaddy hosting, attach the domain to the new WordPress site. Then change the names of the host servers to reflect the WordPress change. Create new posts (articles and updates) and pages (fixed content) by pasting content from the GoDaddy site to the WordPress site. Photos will need to be uploaded to WordPress as well. For larger websites, this could take a while.

Once the import is complete, make a menu in the admin dashboard (“Appearance > Menus”). You can organize categories and subcategories from the dashboard as well.

If the site is due for a fresh look, WordPress provides an abundance of themes and designs, with free options and those that come at a cost from third parties. For sites that should maintain the same look through the migration process, WordPress’ plugins can make that transition relatively seamless.

Among the checks to make before a site goes live: Look out for broken links, redirect the old site to the new and backup both sites to ensure safety.

Andy Debolt
Andy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing Andy enjoys water sports and spending time on the golf course.
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