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Level of detail to retain in migration?

wordpress, SEO, migration

     
5:06 pm on Sep 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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joined:June 24, 2019
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Hi everyone,

I was a previous member of SEOchat and had been helped out by a couple of good folks there. Not2easy had directed me here and said he was sure I'd likewise get a good response :)
I've had a site that's been ranked pretty well for nearly 15 years now - however, the site's been layered up with old PHP code over time and now has old architecture, bad UX and poor responsiveness, so I made the decision to get developers to build a new site in wordpress and we've migrated much of the text content. I'm also re-branding (with a new URL) so there is a plan to transition it over with a 301 redirect.

As I have a lot of history/good ranking at stake, I'm looking for advice on how to minimise negative impact. As mentioned, much of the text content's been migrated, I've also created a 'map' to link the old pages to the closest corresponding new ones. I'd like advice on how much deeper to go on this, I'd have thought the best option might be combing the site and trying to match as much of the alt/title/meta tags (as well as matching optimised image names where possible)? This will obviously take a lot of time, I don't have a lot of it on my hands but also can't afford to drop a lot of ranking, so I'm hoping I could get advice specifically relating to my site.

Thanks in advance for any input!
5:57 pm on Sept 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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You are right to be concerned about the best way to transition from one domain in an older format to a new replacement in WordPress. It can be confusing.

Plan to hang on to the old domain to assist in the migration because a simple 301 to the new domain is not ideal. It sounds like you have done your homework in trying to list the old and new URLs. When you cover the actual mechanics of how that is best done, it will be better addressed in the Apache forum. If you currently have both sites, it should be easier to maintain continuity.

It is important to understand how WordPress handles URLs because it will create more than one way to show any content. Your "Permalink" syntax or format will decide how close the new URLs can match the old. For each page you create in WP, try to use the old title if possible so that your rewrites can be seamless. If the old URLs have a format that can't be duplicated (rare) in WP then there are ways to at least make it easier.

If we can get an idea of the old format - say, https://example.old/page-name.php and the new as https://example.new/page-name/ we can look at ways to keep it simple.
7:20 pm on Sept 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I should note here that the descriptions in WP can be manually entered using a plugin. You will likely need to use a plugin for your on-page SEO in WP. Yoast makes a popular plugin that allows for inserting custom titles and descriptions beyond the URL but for ease of migration your WP Permalink structure should be kept simple. The URL is not necessarily the same as the title.
6:51 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks not2easy for the in-depth response. The URL structure is similar to your examples above, just to clarify, is it best to try and keep the URLs as close to the same as possible (following the domain)? I ask because the developers argued categorising a bunch of pages within a sub-directory would help SEO.
For example, we used to have pages like [olddomain...] [olddomain...] etc
and they were suggesting should now be arranged as [newdomain...] [newdomain...]
I.e. should I lose the /help/ type sub-directories?

I'll set about harvesting the title records next in that case. And yes, one of the SEOchat members had put together a plan and had (AFAIK) intended to help me with this but unfortunately he's no longer reachable - there was also a little htaccess script he'd written (also now unreachable) but the rough plan went something like this:

1. Develop the new site as you are currently doing. Get it ready to deploy

2. Backup your old site, then make a backup of you new site.

3. Now we create the Redirects from the old site to the new site. The ideal situation is all the URL's would all be the same except for the domain name. That would allow for the simplest solution. In your case I suspect you will be changing both the domain and the internal URL structure. This means you will have to create a list of redirects from the old site. In either case you will have to maintain ownership and host the old domain. Install the appropriate redirects and you done. Do not deply the modified htaccess file to the old domain yet.

4. Deploy your new site. You can host both on the same server if you like. Just make sure the new site is up an running properly.

5. Once you are positive that the new site is running properly then you upload the modified htaccess file to the old domain and once you test it to make sure the redirects are working properly you're done. At that point you just need to keep an eye on it till you are positive you haven't missed any URLs. I generally test the redirects by making sure all my backlinks on the old site go to the proper pages on the new site.

If that sounds right?
7:10 pm on Oct 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Yes, that sounds like a proper plan. The .htaccess part of your plan can be fine tuned in our Apache forum if it runs into any issues. Because you're moving it all to a WP site, you want to avoid using a mod_alias version of the 301 redirect because WP adds its own snippet (that belongs after all your other rewrite rules) and the WP snippet of code uses mod_rewrite. The two Apache mods (mod_alias and mod_rewrite) can create errors when used in combination. Just something to keep in mind.

Because WordPress is a popular platform used for millions of sites, it is also a popular target for weak spots. There have been many discussions here concerning "hardening" WP, things you can do to make your site less attractive to exploits. If you find the time, it might be helpful to use the search (upper right dropdown) for terms like WP security, to get ideas.
8:51 am on Oct 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks not2easy, I'll bear that in mind. Could anyone confirm if I should lose the sub-directories in the URLs?