The largest time consuming aspect of the transition was segregating out the articles to transition to the new platform from the articles to dump.
All in all, my site went from about 471 articles down to about 220. Tidbits lost a lot of weight. I believe the weight of the free articles was pulling Tidbits down. I also believe it was a big factor in the site being so harshly spanked by the Panda.
An Interesting Observation
It’s only been a day since I released the new site, but of the traffic it received yesterday, only 6 out of 486 page views were searching for removed articles. This didn’t surprise me because in checking the traffic and page view habits of my readers over time, I noted the free articles received little to no page views. Therefore dropping the articles was a no brainer.
Just goes to show that quality over quantity wins every time.
Nuts and Bolts
The new site uses the Solostream theme WP-Responsive. It’s one of their newest themes. I set it up in a separate directory under the Tidbits domain. Once I tweaked the theme to my liking, I began the process of moving the articles over.
Once I moved them over I checked each article for broken links and functioning image thumbnails. I created a checklist of things I had to do lest I would forget.
The biggest difficulty was in moving the old Kids Korner games over. If you checkout the site, you’ll see that I didn’t move some of the games over (I also dumped quite a few games too) because they were not compatible with the WordPress platform. No biggie, there’s always a work around for every problem (I’ve worked with Microsoft for so long that workarounds are a part of life).
Flipping the Switch
Once I was reasonably satisfied (webmasters are never 100% satisfied), I signed into my WordPress installation and modified the settings under the General tab. I changed the site’s address from the sub directory to the main URL (I left the WordPress URL alone).
After making those changes, I went back to the server and moved the index.php and .htaccess files into the root directory. This allows everyone to access the site by typing in the domain name instead of domain name/ sub directory name.
Before I actually flipped the switch, I had to set up a few redirects. Well, actually, more than a few. There are 956 lines of redirects.
Redirects tell the Internet to go to the new site instead of the old. Instead of attempting the impossible task of changing backlinks, I placed redirect lines of code inside of the .htaccess file. The trick with the redirects is figuring out each and every way someone might access a page on the old site.
Even the pages that I dropped from the site are redirected to the topic’s section page. For example, I used to have an article on the subject of wigs. Since I dropped the article, anyone looking for it on my site will be redirected to the Beauty/Health section page.
Redirects are Tricky
If you incorrectly add an extra space or improperly redirect a page, your whole site will display a 500 Server error. Therefore, I couldn’t copy and paste 956 lines of code into my .htaccess file. I had to do it a section at a time. It was a bit tedious, but it’s all done.
The redirects can only be tested on the live site. The other tricky part to redirects is the Google bot must read them in order to redirect incoming traffic. So, when I flipped the switch and uploaded my redirects, I had to wait to see if the Google bot would read my .htaccess file. I’d say it took the bot about 5 or 6 minutes before is showed up (whew).
Not Home Free Yet
For the next hour or so after the site went live, I checked my stats to see if readers were getting “404 File Not Found” or “This page is being redirected in a way that will never resolve” errors. I did get a few of those so I made the appropriate changes to the .htaccess file and cleared them up.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Because I’ve been down this road before, I knew what to do. However, the first time I transitioned a site from one platform to another, I took it one step at a time. It’s sort of like taking a cross-country road trip. You only read the part of the directions that pertain to your current location. Reading the entire list of directions only causes confusion and frustration.
Now that I’m done with Tidbits, I’m brainstorming on how to make changes here at NJFM in 2012. As for 2011, I think I’m done. Errors, issues and typos will have to be fixed next year. I’m calling my boss to tell her I’m not working for the rest of the year.