As a personal favor I’m currently working on a project for my wife’s uncle who owns a surprisingly popular crime news website. The site is filled with tons of interesting content but unfortunately the site has some major issues some of which include:

  • Not built using a CMS (content management system) – Most websites are developed in WordPress for numerous reasons. One obvious one is that it makes managing a website REALLY easy.
  • Poor Design – All pages use HTML tables which are rarely used anymore and have a fixed to 750px wide. When you create a page that built with a fixed with that leads to my next major issue..
  • NOT mobile friendly – Fact is, mobile search has surpassed desktop search as of this year so it’s extremely important to have a responsive design that can work on different mobile devices/tablets.
  • Part of the site is hosted on WordPress.com – This seems like a waste since content is one of the most important factors (if not the most) when it comes to impacting your search ranking. I thought it should be part of the overall news site.

The new website on the other hand will include some of the following benefits:

  • Consolidating both WordPress.com and HTML website into a standalone WordPress website
  • Improved site structure and search capability
  • Modern and user friendly design
  • Responsive design so site will function on all devices
  • Social media integration with ability to share on various platforms
  • Posting content will be easier instead of relying on uploading files via FTP
  • Google Analytics setup to track user behavior and traffic
  • Improved SEO setup
  • Ability to add video content
  • Custom taxonomy setup for home page content
  • AND A LOT MORE!

I was curious and contacted a company that specializes in converting HTML websites to WordPress and they quoted me $20K!!!! This is not just absurd but they were charging to only migrating the content.

Luckily being the savvy developer I am, I began to search online for tools and plugins that would assist with the HTML to WordPress conversion and thankfully one existed. As I stated previously there is a certain level of human editing that was unavoidable but overall I was quite happy with the results.

These are some of the tools  I’ve used to accomplish the task:

Moving content from WordPress.com to a WordPress standalone site

WordPress Importer – This is a default plugin which allows you to import posts/pages, comments and assigned categories from a site hosted on WordPress.com to a standalone WordPress website. It can be found in the WordPress dashboard under the Tools menu option. You will need to Install and activate this plugin with just a few clicks.

Exporting from WordPress.com is essentially the same method you’d export from a standalone WordPress website. Just click on the bottom menu option WP Admin->Tools->Export. When you click the Export button it will download all pages, posts and comments to an XML file that will be used used to import into another WordPress website. This process shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes depending on how much content you’re downloading.

Converting HTML files to WordPress

You will first need to install an HTML to WordPress plugin called HTML Import 2. Upload the HTML files from the original website into folders outside of the WordPress hierarchy. In my case I uploaded them in the public_html which is where my WordPress files reside. In the plugin settings you’ll be able to select the folder which contains the original website, set categories/tags, import linked images, assign authors among other options and batch process all your HTML pages into WordPress pages/posts. The one feature I wish this plugin included was the ability to set the page URL based on the page <title> which would make the URL’s more search engine friendly however I can’t complain since this plugin saved me countless hours.

Cleaning up HTML files

This part of the process was extremely tedious however as I said previously the human editing was unavoidable as the original files contained a lot of unwanted styling and strange formatting . In order to sanitize the content from unwanted HTML or CSS, you can easily accomplish the task with this online tool even though HTML Import 2 has some of this capability as well.

HTML cleaner has a check boxes located at the bottom left which allow a user to select what elements you’d like removed such as tables, css, links, comments etc. Once you’ve converted your content through this tool you can paste it back into your post. One thing I dislike about this tool is that it always adds a link you need to remove after the conversion is complete.

Screaming Frog

After all the HTML files have been converted to WordPress it’s likely that their are plenty of broken links throughout the website since all the web addressees have now changed. For example www.mysite.com/somearticle.html might be www.mysite.com/some-article/ on the new website which means that any pages pointing to www.mysite.com/somearticle.html will now result in a Page Not Found or in technical terms a 404 page. It’s important to update all old links to make sure they resolve to their new web addresses.

Screaming Frog should be part of every web developers toolbox. It crawls websites to locate an on-page SEO errors which in this case will include finding 404 errors. Once you’ve located all pages which have incorrect web addresses you can correct them with the correct web address.

Conclusion

As a WordPress developer you can work smart rather than hard if you do some research to find the right tools or plugins for the job. If you’re looking to convert your HTML website to WordPress or looking to improve and build a strong online presence – contact us today!

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