Do you have an old website that isn’t optimized for mobile devices? Is it really a pain for you to change anything on the page? If so, you’re a fantastic candidate for converting your website to WordPress.
You Got This
Lots of small businesses have clunky old sites that, for one reason or another, are hard to maintain and out-of-date. It could be the person who took care of it is no longer at your company. Or it’s just too hard to make simple updates like changing the phone number or deleting a photo.
Whatever the reason, converting to WordPress is not difficult. If you know how to cut and paste, you got this.
Today you’re going to learn how to convert an out-of-date, hard-to-edit website into a fully responsive, modern-looking WordPress website in Four Simple Steps. (I would have said easy, but and I’m assuming you’re new to WordPress, so this will be all new for ya).
Step 1: Hosting
First off, you’re going to need a place to build your website. If your web host allows you to have more than one website – a.k.a free subdomains – on your plan, great.
Then again, you may not know what I just wrote.
No worries. I actually think it’s easier to not build your new WordPress site as a subdomain.
What’s a Subdomain?
A subdomain is an additional part of your domain. For example, if your web address is: store.yourwebsite.com, then ‘store’ is the subdomain and ‘yourwebsite’ is the primary domain.
Option A: Free Temporary Hosting
You can find a bunch of web hosts that offer free hosting just by searching Google. Just type in “top free wordpress web hosting cpanel” (I’ll explain what it all means later on, but what you’re looking for is a temporary place to build your website).
Option B: Your Next Home
If you have $100 in your pocket and are looking for a great new web host, check out SiteGround (here’s my SiteGround affiliate link). It’s recommended by WordPress.org and even at the lowest level of hosting, it’s extremely fast.
Whether you choose SiteGround or not, as part of signing up with a new web host, you’ll be assigned a login and password. Once signup is complete, your web host will send you a couple of emails with technical information – DON’T LOSE THESE EMAILS OR LOGIN/PASSWORDS – which you’ll need to set up your new WordPress site.
If you can handle this, congratulations, you just took the first step! If this sounds to scary, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to set up a meeting to hold your hand or answer any questions.
Step 2: Install WP
If you’ve signed up for hosting, login and find something called the CPanel.
Then, in CPanel, find and click on the AutoInstaller for WordPress.
CPanel is awesome because it has a “one click install” of WordPress. This makes life so much easier to convert to WordPress! Go ahead and install WordPress and be sure to copy down all the technical information in the setup process – like the password and admin email. And there’s no reason to be nervous, just Google “WordPress CPanel One Click Install Tutorial” and follow the step-by-step instructions.
One thing to be careful about is to select the proper location for your installation. I recommend http:www when your building your new WordPress site. Do not pick https:www or https. Switching to https is something you do once your new WordPress site is up and running and you’re using it instead of your old site.
Step 3: Pick a theme
The theme of your new WordPress site is its “style” or how it looks: the fonts, colors and layout. There are literally tens of thousands of WordPress themes available and with a little bit of tweaking, you can change the colors and fonts to make it match your company’s unique brand.
Option A: Free Themes
If you’re into a cheap solution, check out some free themes by doing a Google Search for “best responsive wordpress themes”. You can give these a try, but I’ve found most of them a bit tricky to figure out – and I’m a seasoned WordPress user.
I have found one free theme that I like called Customizr. It’s pretty bare bones, but it’s fully responsive and a great place to start if you want a truly free, full-featured theme.
Pro Tip: The only catch I’ve ever run into with free themes is that some of the parts or functionality aren’t available unless you pay full price (about $60). That’s why I don’t usually use “free” themes.
Option B: Buy a Theme
My favorite place to buy themes is ThemeForest. A fully responsive WordPress theme will set you back $60, which isn’t bad, when you consider that to get a similar theme custom built would run you about $25K.
Over the years, I’ve purchased a bunch dozens of themes, but there are really just two ways you can go:
- a theme that’s niche specific
- a theme that’s flexible
The niche specific themes are great, but in my experience they’re typically not updated by the theme developers. That means sooner or later, your site is going to start to degrade simply because the internet is constantly changing. It’s not a huge problem because you can simply buy a different theme in a few years for $60. The advantage is you’ll have a theme that “looks” like it’s custom made for your industry.
The second alternative is a flexible theme. I typically choose these for clients and my favorite is Enfold (though there are other great ones like Avada, Divi, X, etc.). The idea is they’re really easy to modify and make changes to and have lots of cool built-in components (a.k.a. modules or widgets). Most importantly, these themes have so many users that they’re always kept up-to-date and answers are easy to find simply by typing in your question into Google.
Once you buy your theme, you can head back to WP Admin > Appearance > Themes > Add New and activate your new WordPress theme.
Pro Tip: If you intend to do a lot of customizations to your theme, you will want to create a child theme. That way when your theme has a new update, you won’t erase all your custom settings like accent colors, fonts or your company logo. This is a bit technical, so if you want to make some changes, drop me an email and I’ll point you in the right direction or set it up for you.
Step 3: Cut and Paste or Magically Migrate
At this point, if you go to your new site, it’s likely going to look really boring and confusing. That’s because there aren’t any pages. What you have to do now is get your content from your old site to the new WordPress version. And lookee here: another step with two options. 😉
Option A: Magically Migrate Your Content
This option is really slick. It uses what’s called a plugin. A plugin is something you add to your WordPress site to do something beyond what the basic WordPress installation can do. In this case, a plugin called HTML Import 2 by Stephanie Leary will do the trick. What it does is it takes the text and pictures from each page on your site and moves it over to the new site.
Chances are it’ll look a bit wonky, but it might work slick as a whistle. It all depends on how your old site was built. It’s worth a try because it could save you a ton of time.
Option B: Ye Olde Cut and Paste
Personally, I prefer this method. You simply create a new page with the same title as the old page, then you copy and paste the text from the old site to the new site.
The reason I like this is because it allows me the opportunity to make edits along the way. I can break up paragraphs or add new, bigger, better pictures. For me, that’s a really important part of the process of going from old to new.
Step 4: Going Live
Last but not least is going live. In other words, making your web address go from your old site to your new WordPress site.
If you created the site at a new web host, it’s simply a matter of making the domain name point to the new IP address. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. You can either Google it or ask me – happy to help. 🙂
If you’re on the same web hosting as your current site, call and talk to your web host about migrating your site from your subdomain to your main domain. It should only take a 15 minute phone call and a few hours for your new site to show up on the internet.
If you’re on a temporary free hosting platform, you can install another free plugin called WP Migrate DB. There are quite a few steps to follow, but the directions are pretty clear. Again, if you get freaked out about some of this technical stuff, feel free to reach out and I can point you to some other helpful how to articles on the web.
So that’s it! Four Simple Steps to convert your website to WordPress.
Get ready for your new, up-to-date website that looks great on all devices and is very easy to edit. Cheers! 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robbie Moore is the founder of Rushminute, a digital marketing agency in Lincoln, Nebraska. With 20+ years of experience in digital marketing, Robbie has worked with dozens of companies and organizations, large and small, around the globe. He also writes extensively about design, development, and business in general.