How We Moved AuthorityLabs to WordPress

When I started full-time at AuthorityLabs in January, one of our main goals was to get a new design on the main site and on the blog. We discussed a few options and ultimately decided to merge authoritylabs.com/blog/ into the main site at AuthorityLabs.com and get the entire site into WordPress.

Step 1: Planning

We created a Writeboard in Basecamp and started putting notes down. The notes were broken down as follows:

  • Design Needs – this covered things like the style of social icons we wanted (beakers), blog page design, signup page design, and the frame work we decided to use (Thesis).
  • Signup Handling – We needed to make sure that the signup form, which leverages functionality from the overall AuthorityLabs application to run would continue to work similar to how it had worked before. The affiliate program and tracking referrals through that were also part of this planning.
  • Merging the Sites Together – Since the blog was already on WordPress and there were far more pages there than on the main site, we decided to use the blog’s WordPress installation and make changes from there. That meant changing the blog homepage to the /blog/ directory, making sure we redirected pages from the old site, and getting the content from old, static pages on the main site into WordPress
  • Plugins – Yeah, plugins needed their own planning. Most people are using way more WordPress plugins than they need. The old authoritylabs.com/blog/ site had several plugins that needed to be dumped or changed.

Step 2: Execute the Plan

Now that we had the plan in place for merging the two sites together and into WordPress, it was time to start putting the pieces into place. I set up a dev environment and copied the blog over to there for testing and tweaking. At this point, there were several architectural changes that needed to be put in place. The blog homepage was set to /blog/, the front page was set to the page that is now the homepage of the site.

Once the content was mostly in place, it was time to start throwing the design together. With Thesis, this pretty much comes down to editing two files, which is pretty handy. I added in my Thesis Hook Finder plugin that lets me see where the hooks are located in any Thesis skin. Each page went through several different structure changes along the way before we were happy with them. Patience is key here because rushing something out normally ends up sucking.

Once the design was in place, we made sure that page titles and meta descriptions were how we wanted them, links were all working, and any other outstanding little details were worked out.

Step 3: Test, Fix, Test, Fix

There were a ton of things we needed to test as we were putting this all together. Adobe BrowserLab helped with a lot of the layout testing and tweaking. The pricing page and signup form were tested a bunch of times in various browsers. We set affiliate cookies and signed up to make sure those worked the whole way through. I set up my hosts file to point at the new site and a version of the authoritylabs.com/blog/ site that had redirects in place and did a site: search in Google to make sure the old URLs were redirecting properly and giving the right response codes. Here’s the code I added to the .htaccess file for authoritylabs.com/blog/ to handle the redirects:

Handle redirecting old image URLs that are linked internally and possibly other places by redirecting the old uploads folder to the new one –
RewriteRule ^wp-content/uploads/(.*)$ http://authoritylabs.com/wp-content/uploads/$1 [L,R=301]
Redirect the rest of the authoritylabs.com/blog/ site –
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^authoritylabs.com/blog/ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://authoritylabs.com/blog/$1 [L,R=301]

Step 4: Site Launch

Once we were comfortable that the new site could go live without any major issues, we started running through a final checklist to make sure that we had everything important covered before rollout. Some of these things were already handled as part of the development process, but it never hurts to double check. That checklist was as follows:

  • Site renders correctly in all browsers
  • Double check spelling and grammar on important pages
  • Run a link checker such as Xenu or Integrity through the site to look for anything that’s breaking.
  • Make sure page titles and meta descriptions are in place on important pages
  • Double check important redirects to make sure they are in place and working
  • Make sure there is a redirect in place in your .htaccess file to deal with canonical issues. Don’t just rely on WordPress to handle this. You may end up with static files or images that need the redirect too. Here’s an example of redirecting urls with www in them to urls without www in them –
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} .
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.YOURDOMAIN\.com [NC]
    RewriteRule (.*) http://YOURDOMAIN.com/$1 [R=301,L]
  • Add analytics account(s) – I do this at the end because otherwise you run the risk of skewing statistics if you accidentally test the site from an IP that’s not blocked from tracking
  • Add tracking codes for things like crazyegg (If applicable)
  • Add PPC conversion tracking codes (If applicable)
  • Test all forms at least one more time
  • Add and configure W3 Total Cache
  • Upload favicon
  • robots.txt file in place
  • Social buttons/links in place
  • Check the w3 Validator to make sure nothing major is blowing up.
  • Make sure error pages aren’t just blank or standard server error page
  • Create a backup of the site and add automated backups of the database

That’s it. Easy, huh? :P Feel free to ask about any specifics or make suggestions in the comments.

About Brian LaFrance

Brian is the Marketing Director here at AuthorityLabs. He has been involved in various aspects of internet marketing since 2009 and enjoys helping people solve problems.

Filed under: Featured, Strategy, Tips

6 Comments

David Scoville

Great to hear. I know that’s a big job. We did this for SEO.com last year.

By the way, I have two things to say:
First, I was disappointed that Authority Labs wasn’t on the list over here: http://winwar.co.uk/2011/03/what-is-the-most-accurate-search-engine-rank-checker/

Second, now that you’re using WordPress, you can track your AuthorityLab rankings right within WordPress with the plugin I developed: http://www.google.com/search?pws=0&q=seo+rank+reporter
(Of course, I’m just joking. You don’t need no plugin :)

Brian LaFrance

Hey David,

Thanks for mentioning us in the comments over there. I’m sure that like many lists online, they were looking for a specific number to highlight and just cut it off at that rather than doing a thorough comparison.

I noticed that plugin a few days ago. Seems like a pretty good start. We’ve been kicking around integrating AuthorityLabs into a plugin to allow viewing some reporting, adding/deleting keywords, and a few other features that would be pretty sweet.

James Gentes

Hi David, thanks for including the details. I did a bit of research on the whole subdomain vs. subdirectory issue for blogs, and I ended up here:

1. If you can use a subdirectory, do it, since the content indexed from your blog will contribute to the pagerank of your primary domain/site.

2. However, if you use a subdomain, you could argue it is good in a different way – since you now have two well ranked sites for similar topics, and people will naturally interlink between them as they browse your content.

So I’m assuming you are giving up #2 and potentially giving up multiple listings on a SERP (blog.authoritylabs.com + authoritylabs.com) in favor of trying to increase the rank of a single listing (authoritylabs.com).

My question is: how are you measuring the success of this change, and what are the results?

Thanks,

-James

Brian LaFrance

James,

Looking at analytics numbers after the consolidation, traffic is up quite a bit and people are navigating a lot more between the blog and the rest of the site. That’s likely a product of everything as a whole, but I’m sure the consolidation didn’t hurt.

James Gentes

That makes sense. But what about your ranking? You guys are all about tracking your search ranking, so what happened there?

Brian LaFrance

Rankings seem a little better overall. We haven’t really spent much time on SEO at this point though. It has been more important to get the app tuned and get new features rolled out.

Comments are closed.