Digital Strategy

Website Migrations: Free help from web hosts or do it yourself?

April 26, 2021 Nonprofits Decoded Team
website migration

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For any nonprofit (or any other blog/business), your website continues to be the lifeblood of your organization. Your communication, operations, donations, logistics, branding, and marketing all depend on your website’s efficiency. 

However, websites can often grow obsolete because of the hosting and format it exists in. The online space is constantly growing. And any organization wanting to keep with the times have to adopt dynamic and ever-changing strategies. Migrating your website to a better and more relevant host is one such endeavor. 

Website migration can be a tricky affair if you don’t entirely know what you’re doing. Fortunately for you, we’ll take you through all the insights and processes you need to get it done. 

Website Migration: Where to begin?

For any organization with an online presence, website migration eventually becomes a requirement. All nonprofits, businesses, and blogs eventually outgrow their existing website. More accurately, they outgrow their web hosting plan. 

Over the years, you’ll accumulate more files, media, content, traffic, etc. As a result, the initial hosting plan becomes inadequate for your current volume of data and traffic. If you ignore this situation, your website will work less efficiently. This means a poorer browsing and user experience for your visitors and clients. 

To stay relevant and competitive, you’ll have to put up a website that corresponds to your current trends and needs. That’s when you perform a website migration. 

Free migration from web hosts

Many people get confused with why you need to perform migrations. This dilemma exists because many hosting platforms offer free (but limited) migration services for their users. 

So, you’ll find that nonprofit web hosting providers like Dreamhost, Kinsta, FlyWheel, Hostgator, etc., all offer some degree of migration for your website as part of a new hosting package.

Their services may come with specific limitations on the process (such as number of sites or files), so be sure to check.

Alternatively, knowing how to migrate your website without additional paid services will help you in the long run. With WordPress, you get the advantage of performing the migration on your own if you know which plugins and tools to use. And that’s precisely what we’ll show you today. 

Common reasons to migrate your website today

Here are some of the top reasons why nonprofits and organizations resort to website migration. 

Changing web hosts or getting a new domain

When you have an obsolete website, your website’s functioning gets disrupted. So, you stand to lose clients or experience a slowdown in your operations. Other times, you simply want to rebrand your organization or get a more client-friendly URL. In any of these situations, you’ll need to migrate all your existing content. This is to ensure that past data and information do not get lost. 

Redesigning the look and feel of your site

A migration is often warranted when you want to redesign your website. It may even be because you wish to alter the architecture. Depending on your niche and industry’s trends and patterns, you may have to add or remove elements. Whether it’s adding a new component, changing an existing feature, or removing an obsolete part, a migration gives you the perfect medium to execute this change. 

Better Security 

Organizations that have a proper security certificate (SSL) rank better in SEO and induce more confidence in users. Making the shift to HTTPS means that all your pages’ URLs will experience changes. Website Migration allows you to make the transition seamlessly. 

Merging Websites

You may be making the transition from a multi-domain approach to a single-domain strategy. Alternatively, you may have acquired a new website that you need to incorporate into your existing one. Either way, website migration tools will save you time and energy compared to rebuilding everything from scratch. 

Merging Content

Besides websites, migrating existing content is also an efficient way of merging data and files. Many times, websites develop different pages that have similar content. It leads to unwanted competition within your own content. So, merging them into a consolidated page or section improves your site’s usability. 

How to easily migrate your WordPress website

Migrating your website may look complicated at first glance. But it’s an intuitive and easy-to-follow process if you know the right steps. Here’s all you need to know to get yours done! 

Download a migration plugin

The process is much simpler when you have the right plugin for the task. A great benefit of WordPress is that you almost always have a plugin that makes the work easier for you. 

The most popular options here include the WordPress Duplicator Plugin or the All-in-one WP Migration. In our example, we’ll use the Duplicator Plugin. But the process will follow the same principles in the other Plugins too. 

Step 1: Go to the ‘Plugins’ option on your WordPress menu. Click on the ‘Add New’ button and search for ‘WordPress Duplicator.’ 

Step 2: Once you find the plugin, simply click on install and then activate it. 

Create an archive of your existing website

Next, you’ll have to create an archived file of your website, which you’ll use later for the migration. 

Step 1: Select the Duplicator plugin and go to the settings menu (it should be empty for now). 

Step 2: Click on the ‘Create New’ button. A new screen will appear where you need to enter some details. 

Step 3: Enter a name for your archive package. Then, select where you want to store it (Pick web server if you’re not using the pro plugin). 

Step 4: Make sure you select everything to add to this package. This includes your files, database, etc. For security, assign a solid password for the package. 

Step 5: Click the ‘Next button, and the plugin will get to work. 

Step 6: Click the ‘Build’ button next. Once that’s done, choose the ‘One-Click Download’ option to download your archive to your computer. 

Import the new archive to your desired site

The Duplicator plugin will create two separate files. And you’ll need both to import you’re your files and data to your new website. 

The first is a zip file that has all the databases and files from the original website. The other is an installer (.php file) that extracts all this information into your new website. Here’s how to upload and import them to the destination website. 

Step 1: To import your archive, you’ll need to run the installer file. But before that, you need to first perform a task. You’ll have to upload both the files to the correct directory of your new website. Use an SFTP client (Filezilla, WinSCP, etc.) to upload both the zip and installer files to the /public/ directory. 

Step 2: Now, run the installer by hitting its URL via your browser. You’ll have to use the current URL (temporary) to perform this action since your domain isn’t transferred yet. 

Step 3: You will be prompted to submit your password. Enter the password you set earlier. Then, click the ‘I agree’ button and submit. You can wait as the installer finishes extracting the files from your archive. 

Step 4: On the next screen, you’ll have to enter an appropriate hostname, username, and password. Once done, the installer will continue extracting your old database from the archive. 

Step 5: Click on the ‘Next button and log in to the website. You’ll find an exact copy of your old website (without the same domain name). 

Transfer your website’s domain name

If you’re making the shift to a new hosting provider, you may have to update your DNS for the existing domain name. This will ensure that your old domain name points to the new website. 

Depending on your setup, you will also have to change your nameservers using your domain registrar. However, if you wish to use an email with your domain name, don’t change it just yet. 

Once this initial change is done, you’ll have to update this change in your hosting admin too. If you’re moving to a new hosting provider, you’ll have to add this new domain to your account. Usually, your new web host will provide all the information you need to execute this action. 

Finally, you’ll have to update the domain within WordPress’s admin page too. To do this, click on ‘Settings,’ then on ‘General,’ and find the appropriate URL fields. The process can take up to two days or less. 

Here, you’ll have to update two main URL fields. One is the WordPress Address, and the other is the Site Address. Enter your desired domain name in both fields. Alternatively, if you want the address to appear differently to users, you can update only the Site Address field. 

Click the ‘Save Changes’ button, and that’s it! Yes, the process seems long when you read it here. But if you follow the instructions carefully, it’ll be done in no time at all! 

Ending Note

Migrating a website can seem like a huge, uphill task. There is a wide range of content and components that you need to preserve. However, with a few simple plugins and the right steps, you can make the process a smooth and hassle-free affair.