You’ve looking to buy a website built using Umbraco, but your existing site is built on a different platform. How do you safely and effectively migrate to Umbraco? In this post we’ll look at some of the issues you will face.
For many legacy websites migrating to Umbraco, the biggest issue is with their existing content. Any successful website which has a reasonable Google ranking will likely have lots of quality content which you’ll want to move this across to Umbraco. As will all things Umbraco there is rarely a single answer to this problem, it will very much depend on the size and complexity of the two sites (old and new) as well the size of your budget.
In previous migrations we’ve used a paid for Umbraco package - CMS Import by Soeteman Software. This makes it easy to migrate content from a number of different sources, including databases, CSV files and XML files. Essentially you point CMS Import to the data source, and to the target DocType and content location in Umbraco, then map the fields in the data source to the properties on the DocType. We’ve found CMS Import is very good when the source content is fairly flat in structure and you’re loading large quantities, for example taking a large feed of news articles.
Alternatively you could commission your developers to build an import tool of your own. Developer time is usually the most expensive resource on most Umbraco projects so this is an option to consider when you have large quantities of complex content which CMS Import may struggle to effectively import.
Your last option for import is brute force manual importing. This is probably the most pragmatic approach when you’ve only got small quantities of content, and you might spend longer configuring CMS Import than just manually copy pasting the content. The real advantage of a manual migration, of course is that it gives you the opportunity to review the content, and get used to editing in Umbraco.
In our experience a combination of all three methods can yield the best results. In a recent upgrade of SportsLeaders.org we used a combination of CMS Import, and brute force to move the 1500 pages of content.
Once you have the content in your new Umbraco site, it’s important to consider setting up URL redirects. When moving from one CMS to another, you may often find a change of URL is necessary or advisory. But remember that Google tracks the value of individual pages by their URL - if you change the URL then all that valuable Google score will be lost. You can stop this using 301 Redirects - messages sent when an old link is used that tells the browser or Google that the page has permanently moved. When Google detects one of these 301 Permanent Redirects it updates its index transferring the Google rank of the previous page to the new page.
Typically this has been a server administrator or developer task, but as usual Umbraco has packages that enable Editors to manage this.
We’ve used two packages in the past, the free 301 URL Tracker package, and SEO Checker.
301 URL Tracker by Stefan Kip does exactly what it says on the tin – it enables editors to setup 301 redirects from old URLs to the new URL in Umbraco. It has a useful feature that as Umbraco detects a Page Not Found Error, this is recorded in 301 URL Tracker to prompt the Editor to setup a redirect rule. It’s free to download and works in version 4, 6 and 7 of Umbraco.
More recently we have used the 301 redirect features of a paid for Umbraco package, SEO Tracker, again from Soeteman Software. Among other features it implements similar 301 URL tracking features as the free package – but also includes other SEO enhancements – it’s a real bargain at €99 per site. We bought an unlimited license, so all our customer sites get SEO Tracker included for free.