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Migrate Website to WordPress

WordPress is becoming an increasingly popular site-building utility. Once a haven for bloggers, it has evolved into a powerful and versatile tool for building fantastic websites for a variety of purposes. It is also one of the best platforms for building responsive-designed websites, which is vital for viewing on mobile devices.

The main objections that most people have to migrating to WordPress are that they’ve gotten used to their HTML sites and don’t want to have to learn an entirely new platform to keep their sites updated. The simple fact of the matter is that WordPress makes virtually every common function you routinely perform on your site easier and more intuitive than working with raw HTML. You can also seamlessly migrate any HTML site to WordPress and retain all your content, design, and SEO.

Planning Your Move

While it is true that the process of migrating your site is easy, you still need a plan. Here are a few things to consider when devising your migration strategy.

1. Will your domain name remain the same or will you be creating a new one? If you’re not sure, install WordPress in a subdirectory that looks like this:

Later on, you can point your domain at this directory.

2. Will the current structure of your URLs change? This is a common thing, so make sure redirecting your old URLs after migration is part of the plan

3. How much content will be moved to the new site? Small amounts of content can be moved manually, but if there is a high volume of content to be moved, you will need to utilize specific tools to get everything where it belongs quickly.

4. Does your current website utilize external services? If so, you need to determine if there are WordPress plugins available to handle them, and you will need to know how to integrate any third-party services into your WordPress site.

5. Will you have to transfer your existing administrative tools? Figure out if there are equivalent tools in WordPress to meet these needs. It will be easier to transition to them.

6. Will your Web host change when you migrate? This happens all the time when switching to WordPress, so be sure your hosting company can handle the needs of your WordPress site. In a nutshell, your plan of attack should look something like this:

• Create your test domain and/or subdirectory.

• Import the content from your current HTML site.

• Design your WordPress site (you can select a theme or just build from the ground up).

• Install all the WordPress plugins you will need.

• Back up your existing sites (both your current one AND your WordPress one).

• Work out the bugs with dead links.

• Launch the site.

Migrating the Site

Now, let’s look a little closer at the major steps.

1. Setting up WordPress

This really is the simplest part. You can install locally or through your Web host. The latter is very simple, and it’s the best option. Most hosting companies have a one-click install process built in. You can choose to install in a separate directory or in a new domain.

2. Importing Your Content

How you will go about this depends on a number of things. In particular, do you have access to importing tools, or are you going to move everything manually? Also, how much content are you migrating? The human error factor increases with large amounts of content, so the former is always the better option. Finally, does your HTML site use a content management system (or CMS)?

Note: If you already have a CMS, chances are you already have a good importing tool. Find it, and a few clicks later, your job is done.

If you are importing manually, make sure you are using the Paste as Plain Text option in WordPress or make sure you are in the Text tab on each post. If you forget to do this, you will transfer all the old formatting, and the content will not display correctly. That being said, you need to be prepared to do some reformatting. The content will transfer seamlessly, but there are always pockets that will need to be tweaked to look 100 percent right.

Keep in mind that if you are transferring content manually, you will also need to create corresponding pages in WordPress beforehand. You will also need to manually upload all images into the media section of WordPress.

Be sure to keep track of all your URLs, both the current ones and the new. You will have to redirect your old URLs if you want to retain your SEO rankings and avoid having your visitors being met with 404 errors. Once all the content is migrated, create a navigation menu in WordPress.

Designing Your WordPress Site

Now it’s time to make your site look good. If you are looking to revamp your design, here is where you do it. You have several options available to you:

• Develop a theme from scratch.

• Select a pre-developed theme.

• Rework one of the free themes available with WordPress.

• Convert your existing HTML template to a WordPress theme.

• Purchase a good, responsive WordPress theme and customize it (recommended).

Installing Plugins

You can easily replicate any HTML function using WordPress plugins. There are tons of them out there, both free and paid.

Redirecting Links

You will need to deal with any broken links that pop up in the migration process. Once again, there’s a plugin for that (tons of them, actually). You can verify that all your links work by … you guessed it: using the Broken Link Checker plugin. WordPress has thought of everything!

Final Sweep

Go through and check everything twice and make sure it works. When everything is good to go, set up your permalinks and analytics. Follow all these steps, and your migration to WordPress will be complete.

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