Migrating a WordPress site doesn’t have to be a disaster. With careful planning and testing, your regular visitors might not even realize anything happened. Odds are, you will have to troubleshoot at least a few issues along the way. This includes whether you migrate your site manually or with a plugin.
- Backup current site
- Update WordPress on current site and new host
- Check for compatibility of themes and plugins with new host
- Update themes and plugins on current host
- Export database and download your WP-content folder
- Import your database and WP-content folder to your new host
- Test site before going live
Every migration will be different and may involve additional checklist items. This guide from WordPress goes through the absolute basics of moving from one host to another.
Maintaining Organic Traffic
Moving your site could mean losing organic traffic. This is especially true if you change your domain name or site architecture. You don’t have to lose the momentum you’ve built up with search engines.
Start by setting up 301 redirects. You can do this by editing your .htaccess file to redirect links from your old site to your new one. Set all redirects after the initial WordPress rules. If you have numerous redirects, you can install a plugin to handle redirects or create a custom wp_redirect function.
Next, go through your sitemap. If anything has changed, you need to update it accordingly or search engines may find dead links. You can regenerate your sitemap or rework your site to match it.
Finally, try to avoid drastically changing the site architecture. You’ve built organic backlinks and search engines have indexed your site. The more you change the internal structure, the more errors visitors will have when finding old backlinks, clicking internal links and locating the right pages when coming in from search engines.
Easing Impact On Users
You want the migration to be as transparent as possible to users. Leave your current WordPress site live until the migration is complete. If your domain name hasn’t changed, it shouldn’t be a problem to switch seamlessly. If the name did change, enable domain forwarding. Add a message to your new site notifying users of the address change.
You’ll also need to reduce any errors due to DNS server updates. Editing the DNS zone on your old host helps prevent problems. Some site owners set their site old site to maintenance mode during this process.
Finally, if you’re changing your site drastically during the migration, let users know in advance. This will prepare them and even let’s them know if they experience glitches, it’s just a temporary thing.
Dealing With Missing Components
Sometimes images, links and even parts of your database don’t migrate properly. Test your site for any broken images, dead links and page errors. You may need to manually download and upload images from your old host. Editing your links should solve any internal linking errors. Finally, the best way to fix database errors is to delete it and upload it again. You can also use the repair and optimize function.
Cleaning After Migration
It’s common for some plugins to need to be reconfigured after migration. You may also notice temporary or filler links and content from new installations or updates. Remove these before going live. Finally, check all custom design and style elements to ensure they’re correct. You may need to manually edit the HTML to fix these problems.
Taking your time with the migration is key to preventing the majority of problems. As long as you have a backup and don’t delete anything from your old host, you can always start over if you need to.