Moving to WordPress

Many existing CMS systems can be re-platformed to WordPress relatively quickly, but there are things to consider before you start.

If you have an old website, there’s a good chance that managing it is problematic. Many old CMS systems aren’t up to the job anymore and can involve using HTML and markup to get the desired results.

This is where re-platforming to WordPress comes in – moving your site to WordPress will make it easier to manage and improve your site, ranking you higher and ultimately delivering you more traffic.

Planning your move

Before re-platforming to WordPress, the first thing to do is check to see if there are any plugins to help with the migration. Platforms such as Joomla or Magento can be migrated using a WordPress plugin or third-party service to move the content over relatively quickly.

There may not be this option for older platforms, but it doesn’t mean you have manually cut and paste everything over. There are ways to migrate specific content areas from old sites and map them to page or post titles and content areas within WordPress.

Once you’ve found a way to migrate, the next thing to do is to look carefully through your existing content and decide whether it needs to be re-platformed.

To help you make this decision, you’ll need to use a variety of tools to examine data:

  • Google Analytics
  • Webmaster Tools
  • SEM Rush / MOZ or similar

Google Analytics

Looking at acquisition data, landing page, and content data in Google Analytics will help you understand what content on your site is working hard and what should be retained.

Landing page data, in particular, will show you what content is bringing visitors to the site (although you won’t know what search terms they used).

Webmaster Tools (Googles Search Console)

This tool will help you look into Google’s index of your site, what search queries are bringing you visits and the Click through Rates (CTR) and where you appear in the results.

SEM Rush analysis

SEM Rush will allow you to see what search phrases your site already ranks for and where. This data is invaluable as it will help you ensure you don’t lose ranking content and give you insights into Keywords you may not have known about.

However, it’s still not the full picture.

These tools are all superb, but you will still need to interpret the data and make decisions based on it – no one tool alone will give you all the answers.

At Toast, we use all these tools (and more), get data into spreadsheets and run conditional queries to highlight great, ok, and not-so-good content.

When you’ve completed your analysis of your current site, you should end up with the following:

  • A list of page/post content to be retained
  • A list of page/post content to be condensed to new page/post content
  • A list of page/post content URLs that will be 301 redirected to other content
  • A list of keywords and search phrases that you know you currently rank for (these will need plugging into a tracking tool before you re-platform to WordPress so they can be tracked)

Once you have all this data (and that goes for all content on your site; images, PDFs, etc., as well as pages), you’re in a good position to start re-platforming to WordPress.

Another thing to remember is to benchmark your current site so you can see and prove the improvements to your site when you’ve moved the platform. We recommend using Google’s Page Speed Insights, Pingdom’s speed test and a site audit tool.

This data will give you the benchmark moving forward and highlight issues on your current site to avoid new ones.

Moving your site

Moving your site to WordPress can be relatively straightforward, but there are right and wrong ways.

We recommend using a separate server to host the new install during the re-platforming to WordPress process. This way, the current live site can remain life while the new site is built.

We don’t recommend adding WordPress to your live server and doing the work there; this will put additional demand on the server and may take down your live site if there are any issues.

If the re-platform also includes a new design for the site, this needs to be completed and signed off before the move starts.

The process should follow these steps (they’ll vary for every site, but these are a guide):

  • Set up a development server, and install WordPress and all the potentially required plugins. Make sure everything is up to date
  • Add your theme (at Toast, we only use our bespoke theme)
  • Get all the templates built, styled and working with sample text
  • Check everything
  • Check everything again
  • Set up all your categories and tags and ensure these are optimised properly
  • Use your preferred migration plugin or content moving tool (one sentence, long process)
  • Make sure ALL content is optimised for SEO
  • Add in all your 301 redirects
  • Check it all again
  • Run tests and a pre-live check-through (at Toast, we have over 40 things to check and set)
  • Backup your current live site
  • Move WordPress over to your server*
  • Run a post-live checklist (we have a long one!)
  • Make sure all tracking scripts are installed
  • Monitor everything.

*Another essential thing to check is your current server. Is it fast and reliable? Is your Time to First Byte less than 200 milliseconds? If not, you might consider moving to a better, faster server (we can recommend WordPress hosting).

Growing from your new solid foundation

Once you’ve moved your site and checked and double-checked everything is working correctly, it’s time to plan your growth on your new WordPress site.

Part of re-platforming to WordPress is gaining much more control over your site’s content, and you’ll be able to manage much more of the content yourself, so it’s important to plan ahead.

Having all your old ranking content on the new site is excellent, but you now need to consider future blog content and premium content (such as PDFs and white papers for content marketing).

You should have installed the excellent Yoast SEO plugin on your site that will enable you to optimise your content correctly.

This plugin will also allow you to write well-optimised content moving forward.

We recommend:

  • Developing personas for the users of your site
  • Working out the top-level and long-tail searches that these people may use to find you
  • Developing ‘corner-stone’ posts or pages for all these search terms
  • Planning satellite posts and pages to internally link
  • Identifying ranking opportunities
  • Generating link-bait content
  • Getting all this on a calendar so you know what needs doing when

The above is just an outline. There’s a lot that needs doing if you’re serious about winning new business from your re-platformed WordPress site.

Getting help.

Producing great content takes time and resources. It’s essential to ensure all your current content is optimised, but more content is needed moving forward.

Regularly blogging (short and long-form articles), getting good backlinks and having a well-thought-out plan will rank your site higher for a broader range of keywords.

At Toast, we rank well for our target keywords, bringing us business. It’s all we do.

We can help you re-platform to WordPress. Done correctly, your site and digital marketing will benefit massively. If you’d like us to give you a call to tell you more about our process and the benefits, drop us an email via our Contact page.