Today’s guest post is by from Swade from Trollhattan Saab. In it he tells his story of migrating his blog from one blog platform to another.
I’m almost willing to guarantee that anyone who’s been blogging for more than a year has contemplated migrating from one content management system (CMS) to another at some point. The grass always seems greener on the other side.
I started Trollhattan Saab in February 2005 using TypePad but it became clear, fairly quickly, that I had to secure my own domain name, buy some server space and manage my site on a CMS stored there. Many of the bloggers that I read at that time were using Movable Type, so I chose that platform as well. The MT templates were similar to those on Typepad so my setup time was minimal and I was off to a great start.
Within 2 years I was forecasting a 5-figure blog income and as I’d only ever intended this to be a hobby, that was fantastic for me.
Around June of 2007, I started exploring the idea of migrating the site to WordPress. I was pleased with the way the site had grown, but I had a lot of trouble loading plugins in MT, which restricted the experience I could provide for readers. I’d heard great things about WordPress’s plugin system and its architecture in general. When I came across the Cutline theme for WordPress I was finally sold. I planned my migration for July 2007.
A quick and very relevant note about my site. Trollhattan Saab deals with news and ownership of Saab automobiles. Saab’s various models use a numerical nomenclature and all start with a “9″, having a hyphenated suffix. Recent models were called 9-2x, 9-3, 9-5 and 9-7x. Coders who know the two CMS systems may already see where I ran into problems with my migration.
Without getting too bogged down in terminology that I don’t understand, WordPress and MT have different ways of treating hyphens when it comes to post titles and creating the URL for each individual entry. One of them keeps the hyphen and the other inserts an underscore. I had a LOT of post titles with Saab model names included, which meant a LOT of hyphens. Despite our best efforts to manage this in the migration process, I was left with around 1,000 entries that had changed URLs – and Google didn’t like it.
1,000 changed URLs from a total population of around 3,000 entries means that one third of my content was returning a 404 page when Google referred someone. The end resut was that Google stopped sending people my way. I was sandboxed. My part-time four-figure income in June 2007 dried up to a low three-figure trickle by September. I was depressed and almost quit blogging completely.
I had to find a way to rectify the problem. Fortunately, I’d set up an account with Google Webmaster Tools and this account listed all of my dead URLs. It took a long, long time to correct, but eventually I managed to trace all of my corrupted entries and alter the post slugs in WordPress so that they’d match what Google had on file. Slowly but surely, my search returns started to come back to life.
It’s been around 10 months since that migration disaster and around 6 months since I finally got my URLs straightened out. My traffic has finally risen above its pre-migration level, though my Adsense income is still only around two-thirds of what it was. Having recently upgraded to the latest edition of WordPress, I can say that at last, I’m totally happy with the site and the way it’s running.
The lessons learned:
1) Think hard about whether you really need to migrate. Are there things you can do with your current architecture to make life easier?
2) If you figure you do really want to migrate, then get all the best advice and expertise on board that you can afford. You probably don’t use hyphens like I do, but there’s a number of other migration problems that can arise as well. I thought my migration guy was good and he did it for free as he hosted my site with his server company, but looking back I’d have gladly paid someone more knowledgeable about WordPress migration in order to avoid the hassle and the loss of income that I encountered.
3) Research and make use of good utilities like Google’s Webmaster Tools.
4) Diversify your income sources. A few months after the disaster I began to sell advertising space directly and now have a small band of faithful advertisers that make up the shortfall I’ve experienced in Adsense income.
Would I do the migration all over again? Yes. The new architecture and the functionality it gives me have been worthwhile. If I were to do it again I’d make sure I know more about what was going on and get the best help I can.