Sitesell Migration to WordPress

December 7, 2012 / WordPress / By Kathy Alice

migrating to a new home
The Traveling Suitcase: Dedicated to the Jewish children of the Kindertransport who found safety in Britain
Recently I migrated a site from the Sitesell ecosystem (that’s how I think of it) to WordPress. While Sitesell does a good job leading people through the process of building websites that attract organic search engine traffic, I made a decision about a year ago that I don’t want to work on anything else but WordPress these days (I’ll do SEO consulting for any type of site, but if I have to roll up my sleeves and actually work on the site – it’s got to be WordPress). WordPress is great for people like me, who aren’t really diehard developers but have enough technical chops to be dangerous. And the WordPress community is just outstanding. Plus I just don’t want to deal with another CMS (content management system) that has it’s own vernacular and way of doing things. We’ve all heard the saying “Do a few things well and not a lot of things poorly.” It’s time to live up to that goal.

To make this useful to more people, I’ll try to keep this more general so that it is relevant to migrations from other technologies. I also have a few cool plugins to recommend.

Pages or Posts?

Whether you are migrating from a flat HTML site or a system like Sitesell, you need to decide up front whether your pages will be posts or pages. This is one decision that you don’t want to change your mind on later.

  • Posts come with a number of built in benefits – particularly the ability to organize them with categories or tags. Keep in mind that the posts will be displayed on your archive pages in chronological order (even if you take the dates off) so one challenge might be deciding how to date them if you have no idea when the pages were originally written. In our case the posts did need to be dated correctly as the information was relevant to particular tax years.
  • WordPress pages are mostly used for static “evergreen” pages and can be assigned directly to a WordPress menu item.

While these distinctions seemed straightforward, I did struggle with the decision making, what about those pages that were “evergreen” and a great introduction to a topic but belonged to a category along with more timebased posts? (note to self: check into sticky posts). In the end I made most of the pages posts except the standard Privacy Policy, Services etc pages.

Keeping URLs the same

For any site migration you want to, if at all possible, keep the URLs the same for SEO reasons. You don’t want to Google to revisit a URL to crawl it only to get a nasty 404 (page not found). You also might be losing valuable link juice (not to mention visitors) from incoming links that no longer work. In our case all the URLs on the original Sitesell site ended in .html. For posts that’s easy to address by changing the permalink setting to %postname%.html, but what about pages? Editing the permalink within the page edit screen to add .html to the end doesn’t work (I tried). Fortunately there is a plugin called .html on PAGES that works like a charm. This might be useful for Blogger to WordPress migrations as well.

For any URL that you can’t recreate in your new WordPress site, you need to make sure that it is 301 redirected to a valid page. For example, Sitesell has a feature called C2 that allows visitors to comment on pages. C2 actually creates a new page with a new URL. It’s actually a very cool feature for the right site, but in our case we had just one C2 page to migrate which we turned into a testimonial but that had a different URL. So we need a redirect. There are several redirect plugins out there – but one very good one is Redirection that also offers 404 management capabilities.

Content Migration

How you migrate your pages will depend on your individual situation.

  • WordPress has an importer feature that works well if you are migrating from blogging software.
  • If your content is already in a database (that you have access to) such as Joomla, a database to database using SQL export might work, but you likely will need to massage the export files and SQL knowledge will be essential.
  • If your site has a RSS feed you might be able to import from that. I haven’t tried this approach.
  • And if all else fails and you don’t have too many pages, there is always the copy and paste approach. I’m not proud to admit this, but this is what I did: hire a kid to do the copy and paste. It was $30 well spent.

Media Files

Our site did not have very many images – but did have quite a few pdfs. Most of the pdfs were embedded links in the pages and I wanted to avoid changing those. Not everyone knows this but you can change the default directory “uploads” that uploads end up in. You can also turn off the creation of the month / year folders by unchecking the “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders” checkbox. You can find these settings in the “Media” menu under settings. So I just changed the directory to the name of the directory the pdfs were hosted in in the original site, unchecked the box and then dragged all the images and pdfs into the Media library. Easy peasy, although I did have to fix the few posts with embedded images to point to the new directory (pdfs and images were hosted in different directories in the original sites.

I’m pretty excited to have this site in WordPress. We now have breadcrumbs and it will be much easier to create new pages using different templates. And the content creators should have a much easier time with the WordPress admin than they did with Sitesell’s SiteBuilder UI.

Photo credit: tomylees Flickr Creative Commons License

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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  1. Hello, I am moving my site away from sitesell as well to a wordpress site…. I have been trying to get information on how to create a 301 redirect in sitesell…. to point to the new pages in wordpress (will be different domain as well).

    Sitesell has not been very forthcoming about how to make a 301 redirect, I do not even know what kind of servers they use… I know it is different between windows and apachi….. can you let me know how you created the 301 from sitesell to the new site?

    Thank you

    1. Hello George,
      The sitesell system is proprietary and you have very limited access to the DNS settings, and I do not know if they would set up a 301 redirect for you – and why would you want to have them keep the domain and continue to charge you? Once you have your new site and domain created and launched, I would move the old domain to either a registrar or as an add on domain to your new account and set up the redirect there.. It would be cheaper as all you would need to pay for is the domain registration.
      Good luck!

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