The marketing team at Integrate has been creating great blog content for a couple of years now, but over the last year we've been more actively developing this content to help modern marketers overcome their marketing challenges. During this time, we’ve outgrown two different platforms.
Recently we decided that we needed more flexibility with our blog to provide a better experience for our visitors and to allow us to integrate our blog content with the rest of our marketing efforts. Once we selected our new tool, we developed a migration plan. (NOTE: This is the third time we’ve migrated our blog. The first two times were completely manual due to incompatible systems. We sacrificed some content and links along the way, so this time I was determined to do it right.)
Having done my research beforehand, this recent migration was relatively seamless. By relatively, I mean that the initial importation of content took only a couple of clicks. However, I’ve had to go back into each post three times to optimize key elements that I didn’t know to check for upon migration. As a result, it’s taken significantly more time than I originally anticipated.
I thought it might be valuable for any marketers who are considering migrating a blog—whether it’s because you need a little more flexibility than your current solution offers or because you are switching to a marketing platform that provides a blogging tool—to be aware of our experiences so you can make certain to avoid these pitfalls during your blog migration. (DISCLAIMER: I cannot attest as to exactly how your migration experience will unfold. All platforms communicate with one another differently. I can only share my experience in hopes that it will help you.)
1. Don’t Break Your Links
It’s likely that your blog lives either on a subdomain or in a subfolder of your website. If the head of your IT department has mild to severe control issues (don’t worry—this characteristic is par for the course; it’s what makes them great at their position) chances are it’s the former. I would expect that before pushing your new blog live, you’ll be redirecting your subdomain to point to the new platform.
This point seems like a no-brainer and the premise is that the original URLs should remain completely intact without the need to set up an additional redirects. However, this is arguably the single most important element that you need to double check before clicking that import button if you want to 1) keep your traffic 2) preserve your user experience 3) maintain any backlinks pointing to your posts and 4) retain your social sharing stats.
During our recent migration, somehow an extra /blog was added into the middle of our URLs. Of course, this wasn’t discovered until after our new blog was live, which meant that I had to go back into nearly a hundred blog posts and edit the URL manually. Had I known to be more cognizant of this beforehand, I would have gone into the URL Mapping Settings in our blog platform and double checked the URL structure.
While we could have corrected this after the fact on a master level with a simple redirect and addressed the first three issues mentioned above, we would have lost all of our social sharing stats and you might not realize how much people love our content. (ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: We actually did use this redirect strategy for a short time so that the funky links still worked while I was manually editing the hundred or so URLs.) So do yourself a favor—don’t break your links!
2. Don’t Lose Your Meta Descriptions
In today’s SEO world, your blog is one of your greatest opportunities to provide useful content that can help people discover new ways to solve their problems (just like we focus on helping demand generation marketers solve their problems). It’s your forum to share your knowledge and insights. And the better you optimize your content and user experience, the more likely people will be to find you.
A lot has been written on SEO best practices for blog content, so I won’t go into that. But I do want to point out one factor that may get lost in your migration: your meta descriptions. These 150 character descriptions can be your best opportunity to capture new organic visitors from SERPs and encourage them to click through to your blog.
Some blogging platforms make this field obvious, while others don’t. If you’ve taken the time to craft thoughtful meta descriptions for each of your blog posts, hopefully when you move to your new platform, they move right along with you. If however your old platform doesn’t offer this feature, or the field simply isn’t mapped between the old platform and the new, you could find yourself with the first 150 characters of your first paragraph listed as your only meta description. (This might be fine for some blog authors, but if you write like I do somedays, it may take you a while to get to the point!)
If your meta descriptions don’t move over (or if you never developed them in the first place) I strongly encourage you to take the time to re-write them—even if it means going back through a hundred blog posts. (Speaking from experience here!)
3. What About Those Videos?
Chances are you have at least a few posts that contain multi-media files embedded in them – videos, Slideshare presentations, a Twitter feed. Different platforms may require different embed codes from the hosting site. Youtube and Slideshare for instance, both have shortened embed codes for the Wordpress platform, but all other platforms require the full code to be used, which means when you move your content, instead of seeing your video, or presentation, or whatever, visitors simply see a URL or string of code. (That’s an undesirable user experience in anyone’s book.)
Make a list of all your posts that contain any embedded multi-media files. Go back and double check them. You may have to re-embed them, but this only takes a minute or two for each instance. (HINT: Don’t just check these in your blogging tool. Be sure to view the live version of the post to see how the player is rendering for visitors.)
4. Who The Heck Is Dfcrane6432?
If you have multiple authors contributing to your blog, chances are they each have their own bio, avatar, social links and even following. Some blogging platforms assign random usernames to each author and only give the ability to control the public display name. So when you migrate your content, you may find your authors are now dfcrane6432 or scottv7695. I don’t know about you, but to me this feels less than human and is not supportive in our quest to make a personal connection with our readers.
You likely won’t be able to cut this one off at the pass and change the author names before your content migration. And it’s possible that their bios and other details may not import at all. Hopefully though, your new platform will let you go into your Manage Authors page and simply change those author names to David Crane and Scott Vaughan, while quickly uploading the other personalization elements. If not, add this to your list of things to take care of when you go through your posts (so you don’t have to go back a second or third time).
5. Don’t Forget Your Subscribers!
I’m going to contradict myself here and say that this is the single most important element, for without our subscribers we are nothing. Without you reading this post, it’s like a tree in the woods—and trees don’t read. (SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION: By the way, are you subscribed to the Integrate blog? If not, take a second to enter your email address here. It’s quick and easy and you won’t regret it.)
Subscribers are platform specific, so they will not automatically move over with your content. This is a separate process. If you’re lucky, your old platform will give you the ability to download a csv file of your subscribers and your new platform will most certainly allow you to upload that same file. Regardless of how manual this process is, don’t even think about leaving your subscribers behind—even if you only have a few. Our audience is the lifeblood of our content marketing efforts.
Our old platform did not allow us to download our subscriber list. I had to manually enter each subscriber’s email address into a spreadsheet in order to upload them to the new platform. (THERAPY: I loathe excel. Thank goodness I have access to some great marketing tools that let me say goodbye to spreadsheets. If I had to use it in my daily workflow, I might just quit being a marketer.)
6. Avoid The Perfection Curse
If you’ve chosen to migrate to a new blog platform, you may very well have a vision in your head of what your perfect blog looks like—a fancy new layout, some slick plugins, a huge audience. However, once you get in there, it might not be quite as easy to bring this vision to fruition as you anticipated. Even if you’re aiming for the grand unveiling of the perfect new blog but you can’t get the layout to look exactly how you want or you don’t have all your plugins installed, don’t let that stop you from going live.
At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand and decide when it’s good enough to accomplish your goals. Remember these two things: 1) it will always be a work in progress that will continue to evolve as your company and marketing strategy evolve and 2) your audience won’t know that it’s not perfect. So make your checklist of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Once you’ve got the must-haves checked off, get it live. You can continue to make improvements tomorrow.