How to Migrate Weebly to WordPress

How to convert / transfer / migrate Weebly to WordPress

How to transfer / convert migrate Weebly to WordPress becomes an urgent question for those who find themselves constrained by the more rigid Weebly environment. Converting  Weebly / Wix or Squarespace to a flexible content management system such as WordPress can solve many issues. Weebly is not a bad choice per se, as it seems robust and very easy to use. What it seems to lack is the huge designer and developer base that drives evolution of 3rd party applications, along with premium (paid) plugin versions, and diversity of design themes.

WordPress on the other hand has over a decade of service behind it. There are millions of users, thousands of design themes and a plethora of plugin applications designed to cover almost any feature or function you might want to add. On top of that, there are vast numbers of experienced designers at your disposal. Hosting is available from all corners of the world, and you are therefore in complete control of your own destiny. Our small business web design packages can cope with migration from Weebly, Wix and Squarespace etc.

How to Migrate Weebly to WordPress

Set up a Self-Hosted WordPress Site

Moving from Weebly also requires you to change hosting… All of that can become a little daunting for a non-technical user, but full-service managed website hosting and professional NZ website designer‘s help is available if you need it.

Create a new hosting account with a hosting company with servers IN your target market. If that’s New Zealand, then an Auckland or Wellington server will give you the fastest possible page load times. NOT on a server in Canada, US or UK… Seems obvious, right?

How to extract your content out of Weebly

From Point A.) Weebly:

1.) WP Beginner- a “Free” Converter:

https://weeblytowp.com/ – Depending on what sort of Weebly site you have, export results vary considerably:

  1. A Weebly blog with posts and few pages – usually works ok
  2. A Weebly website with mostly pages – sometimes works
  3. A Weebly Shop – never works at all

2.) Migration Plugins & Services: such as

  • WP Site Importer
  • CMS2CMS

A search on Google for “Weebly to WordPress conversion” throws up a few possibilities… These are usually split into 2 options:

  • You pay a modest fee for access to the plugin and then do the migration yourself – under USS$100
  • You pay the plugins Tech Support people to do the migration for you – upwards of US$250 depending on the number of pages, posts, users, comments etc.

A knowledgeable website design agency should be using one of the 2 export options above. The migration and redesign process goes a lot faster with expert technical services from a CMS conversion specialist.

To Point B.) WordPress.org: Self-Hosted:

How to Import content into a fresh WordPress installation

Depending on HOW you exported your data, you will either have an XML file (WeeblytoWP) or the plugin used in the migration service will pull the content in for you.

Clean up the Content

Sanitizing the page and post content (text) by checking for and removing any Weebly formatting code (HTML, CSS and tables)

Add a new Design Theme

Choose a really fast them like Generatepress, Astra or the likes.
Create a bespoke design and layout or use one of the starter layouts from the supplied Library.

Configure Menus, Header, Footer & Sidebars

Set up your page navigation structure, logo and tagline. Configure the Footer with contact details, minor menu and Services links as/if required. Implement a sidebar if you prefer to use one…

Add Featured Images

Usually, the images within the main columns will be extracted and transferred quite well. Featured images, not so much…

Add a Backup System

Updraftplus is the best option available. USE IT! Set up a schedule of database and files backups. Take a backup at each major phase and label it! If you blow things up, the ability to rapidly recover is indeed a blessing…

Run Image Optimisation

I use Shortpixel because its not expensive, and its very efficient with options and safety features. Make sure you enable the Shortpixel “backup files” option. That will allow you to restore if compression is too high and images are fuzzy. You would also be able to change the compression from Lossy to Glossy after the initial run.

Implement Security

Implementing a Brute Force Login security plugin AND Web Application Firewall security. Block the XML RPC mechanism and restrict the REST API to logged-in users.

Add 301 Redirects as/if required

Provide a set of 301 Redirects for every page and post file name that changes. In some instances, the Weebly file names will transfer accurately into WordPress slugs. If not, you need to “tell” search engines where every old page went to…

In migrating from Weebly to WordPress, preservation, and preferably enhancement of search engine rankings is another consideration. It is straightforward enough to transfer the entire site and preserve the exact same URLs. However, you may want to take the opportunity to enhance URLs, and/or create an hierarchical file structure. That requires a structured approach where old file names have 301 Permanent Redirects put in place, pointing to their new location. See our tutorial on 301 redirects.

Create a staged Action Plan

  1. Set up a Hosting Account.
  2. Configure the WordPress software in preparation for the import.
  3. Import the pages and posts
  4. Import the Menus if possible
  5. Import the images and “localize” them
  6. Supply, install and configure a robust design theme and replicates a similar “look and feel” to the current site – as much as is possible, given the significant platform differences.
  7. Manually check each page and post to ensure all text and image content has been captured
  8. Build a 301 Redirection chart and implement into the .htaccess file
  9. Implement Security and Backups
  10. Implement page load speed tools: caching and image optimisation

All in all, converting a large Weebly website into WordPress is a big task.

Why migrate from Weebly to WordPress?

It seems that some Weebly users outgrow their niche, become frustrated by constraints and need to expand beyond what Weebly offers. The difficulty in Weebly to WordPress migration – or to any other platform – almost seems to be a deliberate strategy to retain users. There is absolutely no Export option at all. Adding an Export To option could not possibly be an insoluble programming challenge, and given the number of questions on the topic floating about the web, there is an apparent user need for an escape sequence.

Human nature being what it is, no escape hatch provision makes us nervous – no one likes discovering that there is no easy way out – it may even trigger paranoia! Smart systems developers remove the potential for anxiety by ensuring that Import and Export functions are integral components. Simply providing an Export function eliminates the concern that not having one generates! It immediately takes away a compelling reason to migrate to a “safer” system.

The same logic applies to converting from WIX and Squarespace to WordPress

Import to WordPress via RSS

This solution is no longer viable!

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The best thing about being old is that you can remember how hard things once were, and the tricks built into old software to solve challenges. These days, solutions that once worked well have been forgotten, deprecated or seen as pointless features. A case in point is the excellent website “Import” function in both MS Frontpage and it’s successor – Expression Web… Whilst both may have faded into the mists of time, having a copy of either can be fortuitous!

Import Weebly via WP HTTP Importer

This is the best option available, able to extract hundreds of pages of posts with ease! The import process interprets the page / directory structure, and it should be possible to get ALL content transferred over into an hierarchical format.

This is a multi-stage process;

  1. Import the website via MS Frontpage, Expresion Web or similar software application
  2. Clean out unwanted code segments – headers, footers, sidebars
  3. Use HTML Importer for WordPress

Initial Import

The “import” function in MS Frontpage allows HTTP import of an entire web site. The software follows every link and downloads pages, posts and images into the same structure it was imported from. No matter that Weebly is a database-driven site with dynamically generated pages – these are simply imported as HTML pages!

File Name Extensions

If your Weebly site was set up to produce file externsions such as .html or .htm, you are in luck. MS FP or Expression Web will handle those with aplomb.

On the other hand, if you have URLs without extensions, and a nested page hierarchy, this creates a real mess. You end up with subdirectories where the parent page becomes index.html inside a directory.

To save yourself time and anguish, I suggest you first attempt to re-set the URL format to .html for the duration of the import process. Change it back after you are done.

The page structure of header, sidebar/s and footer is imported intact, and this is the area where some work is required before the third stage – importing into WordPress – is done.

Removal of Surplus Weebly Content

MS Frontpage has an excellent “search & replace” function that works across a single page or all pages in the imported site. This is ideal for trimming out the unwanted elements, the goal being to reduce imported pages to the core page content elements.

MS FP also adds a raft of proprietary _vti_cnf directories – once you’ve completed the import into the “My Websites” folder, find and copy the imported site’s directory to your Documents directory where you can work on it. That way, you’ve got a backup if anything goes wrong…

NB 1: Win7 Windows Explorer allows you to Search for folders within a folder. Use this to find and remove the MS FP garbage directories.

NB 2: Make a backup copy of all your imported pages so that you can recover from any “search & replace” disasters that occur!

Open a page in code view, and copy each unnecessary code block. Use “all pages” search, and replace with “blank’ to get rid of it. Do this on;

  • Header menu chunks
  • Footer
  • Sidebar
  • Google analytics
  • Tagline in <title> section, as WordPress auto-adds this

Basically, remove all the stuff that is not required to be imported into WordPress.

Do leave the page title and description, as these can be preserved in the final import phase.

Set The Heirarchy

Depending on how your Weebly site was structured, you might want to take this opportunity to implement a parent/child hierarchy in your WordPress site. The 200 page Weebly site I imported did not have any structure – all pages were generated as if in the root directory.

Importing as a hierarchy requires some additional preparation work so that the WordPress HTML Importer can build this for you.

  1. For each Parent page, create a directory with the same name as the parent page. Copy the child pages and the parent page into the directory
  2. Rename the parent page as index.html

When the WordPress import process is run, the directories are replaced in WordPress with sequentially numbered index.html pages. I had to manually rename these correctly, but that may simply have been a missed setting on my part.

Both MS Frontpage and Expression Web are going to create a working website on your PC – the problems is that all the image and link paths are going to point to internal locations.

BEFORE you upload the files for import, you need to use MS FP’s “search and replace” to change all the link paths from internal (file:/C:) to the original domain name!

<href='”file:/C:/Users/Jim/Documents/My%20Web%20Sites/TestSite/about.html”‘ />

That is mission-critial for images too – having those set to the correct Domain will allow HTML Importer 2 the opportunity to download all the site’s images and add them to the media library.

<img src='”file:/C:/Users/Jim/Documents/My%20Web%20Sites/TestSite/uploads/6/4/2/1/6421668/1358800088.png” />

WP HTML Importer Plugin

I ended up running the import process three times before I got an optimal result. There were a couple of little tricks that I discovered as I went along.

  • Set the Import to start at the <div id=”content”> tag – that eliminates almost all the garbage!
  • Edit the Title and Page Name settings so the WordPress page ends up with an accurate <title> and the correct page name
  • Check the Allows HTML codes and Attributes divs for names that you might want to allow, but are missing from the allowed list*

Example: if there are image maps, allow: area,map,shape,coords,poly

I suggest taking a sample set that includes a couple of parent pages plus a directory with some pages.

  1. Run the Import and examine the results.
  2. Delete the new WordPress pages if they are ugly
  3. Amend HTML Importer’s settings and repeat

After the WordPress HTML Importer Process

It is possible that some residual code embedded within the <body> section of the imported may still appear. Odd little bits like this can be cleaned up with a WordPress “Search & Replace” plugin.

Make a backup before you start this stage!

CSS classes, divs with ID numbers and sundry other elements that the old site had but WordPress or your theme do not may need to be removed this way.

By this time,  your salvaged site should be taking shape within your chosen theme and you can get stuck into formatting your pages to achieve your desired look.

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