Obsev is a digital magazine that features original videos and editorial crafted for the new age generation interested in food, lifestyle, sports, and entertainment. Obsev Originals, which was produced in-house at Obsev Studios Hollywood, shares stories that inspire millions of like-minded people.
Their website ‘Obsev.com’, had a whopping 30 million page views per month. The editorial team at Obsev were finding it difficult to manage the content. The sheer volume of backend tasks was making their team restless.
Challenges listed by the client
- Urgency: Since they had an advertisement model, they could not allow the migration process to exceed timelines. It directly impacted their revenue.
- SEO retention: Obsev had more than 30 million page views per month. Notably, most of their traffic was organic. Preserving SEO and organic ranks was important hence.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Most of their visitors accessed their website on mobile devices; however, their website wasn’t mobile-friendly. Their website needed to be optimized for mobile.
Step 1: Devising the Plan
We made a plan by identifying what exactly they were looking to accomplish with the migration process.
- Were they looking to keep the current theme?
- Or were they looking to revamp the design of the site, and move content? Did they want the URL structure to change?
- What were the items that needed migration? i.e. domain name, design, site architecture, content, hosting?
Devising the plan helped us to organize the migration process.
It conveyed the client that they should avoid the temptation to move everything over wholesale. Just as when moving to a new house, whereby one may have many boxes of belongings hidden away in his basement that he never seeks out, he is likely have a significant percentage of content that is old.
Step 2: Getting organized for Migration
- We created an Excel spreadsheet that documented details all of the content to be moved,
- Specified the location in which it could be found on the old site,
- Added notes on how it should be tagged on the new site as well as the new location, and
- Included any new metadata to be applied
- We mapped the legacy data structure with the new data structure in a mapping sheet that mapped each data type and its fields with the new structure.
Focusing on high priority content simplifies migration and shorten project timelines. The leftover content, if any, can be reviewed later, which may even require a rewrite beforehand.
Step 3: Preparing for SEO preservation
This was perhaps the most crucial thing that we did to retain site rankings. Migrating a site can often results in SEO damage. To ensure SEO preservation, we used services like Xenu Link Sleuth to crawl website and export URLs to help understand the current site’s architecture.
- The node ids which is a Unique identifier for each page, and which also illustrates menu structure, were kept the same.
- Rewrite rules for paths that were moved from one place to another were logically written by applying 301 redirects.
- Xenu helps to find the broken links (which are practically unavoidable) and 401 errors that need a fix. Without this, bots are not able to index the website properly, resulting in rankings drop.
- We created a report of the most valuable inbound links. We made sure that none of those URLs on the new site were left to error for too long and were handled with caution.
SEO rich pages: Identifying SEO-rich pages by pulling report from Google webmaster for 6 months or a year helps. By paying special attention to them, SEO juice can be preserved.
Custom Post Types: A script is required to keep the URLs consistent in case of custom post types such as Forums, Blogs, and Pages. To do this, one has to create post types with the same slugs as the current website.
The posts titles and aliases remain the same post-migration keeping the URL format same as before. However, for unique non-post types categories, tags and such, slugs need to be created manually for different sections and categories in WordPress.
Step 4: Migrating to WordPress
The actual migration from WordPress was performed by running scripts, executing queries, and exporting SQL files. Before moving to WordPress, we made sure that all the original taxonomies were correctly labeled.
We created a new WordPress installation in a different database from the earlier installation. We migrated posts, tags, comments, roles, and permissions.
The user tables containing the info can be migrated in a number of safe ways:
- A WordPress plugin that simply reads the current DB
- A plugin that exports the content in CSV and import it in WordPress.
Automated software does not cover A-to-Z migration of an existing site to WordPress. Software and scripts are necessary but not sufficient. An experienced WordPress migration expert will utilize a perfect mix of both automation and good old hand coding techniques to deliver the best results.
Migrating Subscription: If the subscriptions are set up using expiration dates on the website, after migrating they need to be tested to be sure that the users are not being charged incorrectly. The test should be performed to enable the payment gateway in staging and sanitize all external users. A test should be conducted on internal users to verify subscriptions.
Handling Passwords: The easiest way out is to just set up a request for a password reset the next time an existing user visits the website. But if the password has to be retained- duplicate the salts (the key based on which encryption is done), then migrate the whole table using PHP scripts/SQL queries and a mapping, which is the hard part.
Step 5: Reviewing and Cleaning up
Once the migration was done in staging, the tools were run again to find any “Page Not found”. We fixed them with a rewrite rule. Our technical team measured and took necessary steps to preserve SEO.
The goal was to identify a pattern to any issues we might discover, and use the said pattern to fine-tune the migration process.
Finding issues is a usual process, and not by any means an emergency situation early on. It was essential to repeat steps 2-4 at least a few times to not only finetune the process, but to retrieve the latest content right before launching the new site.
The newly migrated system needs to be handled in a way that any error found in the migrated URLs should be:
- Tested and verified for a pattern of error. If found, the error should be fixed before running the migration again.
- For URLs that have permanently moved to a new URL, 301 redirects should be applied.
- For pages that are gone or NOT FOUND, should be handled with 410 redirects.
Due to its popularity and usability, there was little in the way of a learning curve for the team to start using WordPress, enabling them to make the most of their new platform immediately.
It also freed up their development team to tackle tougher engineering problems and enabled more people across their organization to use and publish content from the site.
We had updated and optimized the existing web design without having to go through an entire redesign process. This resulted in an engaging experience for mobile traffic.
We had migrated the articles into posts and post categories. The existing website was revamped, replicating the look and feel of the old website, thereby successfully migrating 60,000 plus articles while retaining the SEO.
By moving to WordPress, Obsev was able to leverage the WordPress ecosystem benefitting from plugins and add-ons. The editorial team now had the access to one of the best content management systems around.