Case Study: Beyond Celiac WordPress Content Migration

Posted on April 21, 2020

For the nonprofit Beyond Celiac, the answer was complicated. The group wanted to move content over to a new CMS, entailing a transfer of more than 6,000 assets. When Beyond Celiac partnered with A + L DEVELOPMENT, not only was it able to utilize a new WordPress CMS, but it also moved the entries, improved search rankings, and simplified navigation.

The Tipping Point

Since 2007, Beyond Celiac had worked with the same Windows .NET proprietary CMS. After a rebrand and website overhaul, the organization noticed its web traffic numbers had taken a substantial tumble. 

It’s easy to know when your website is no longer working for your business or organization. It’s more difficult to figure out how to fix the underlying problems. When faced with implementing a new website or content management system (CMS), one inevitably has to make a choice about the old site. Does an organization leave existing content behind or should it move this content over to a new application? 

Maria Lucci, Beyond Celiac’s assistant director of digital media, noticed something was wrong with the bounce rate and visitor data right away. 

“We rebranded and overhauled the same CMS in 2015, but our traffic was significantly harmed and never fully recovered,” she says.

The group spent the better part of a year working to regain its former traffic numbers only to see them soon regress again. 

“Ultimately, the Google algorithm change in the spring of 2018 really demonstrated that our website was underperforming,” Lucci continues. “We saw a significant decline in page ranks which gave us the final prompting to migrate both our web hosting and platform.”

Additionally, Beyond Celiac allocated time to deal with Windows’ inadequate support for frequent website crashes. The interface was also clumsy, which required the group to consolidate all website duties to a single employee. 

All of this came when Windows was losing more of its market share to other open-sourced CMS applications. In the background, Beyond Celiac feared it would need to act quickly before the whole framework became obsolete. 

The group had to make a change, and it needed help. 

Beyond Celiac partnered with A + L DEVELOPMENT for the project. The development firm would clone the appearance of the existing site with a WordPress frontend theme and move all existing content over to a new site. This would solve issues with mobile responsiveness, site outages, and the complicated organizational system. 

Outlining the Scope

When examining the website, A + L DEVELOPMENT identified three main areas where a migration to WordPress would benefit Beyond Celiac right away. 

The first was that WordPress migration would alleviate the expensive licensing costs of Beyond Celiac’s Windows .NET proprietary agreement. In fact, A + L DEVELOPMENT found that making a shift to an open-source CMS would save the company 90% of its online operating costs. 

The second was identifying problems with publishing and grouping. There were multiple copies of some posts and articles on the old site. Google would penalize this mistake, thinking it was a disreputable means to generate more page views for the same content. The unique URLs were also unclean, making it difficult for search engines to index keywords to relevant search results pages.

The shift over to WordPress would galvanize Beyond Celiac’s SEO, and solve issues related to unique page URLs. By default, URLs in WordPress are created based on the title of the page, but they can be customized if desired. The challenge was how to transfer these articles over so they would be viable for Google and other search engines for discovery. A + L needed to maintain all links and asset content as if it were still on the old website.

The third was to improve how Beyond Celiac created and managed content going forward. Andrew Long, owner and principal of A + L DEVELOPMENT, recognized WordPress would provide significant benefits in content governance.

“They were having too many pain points with their existing system, and it made sense to abandon it,” Long says. “The interface of WordPress would be a lot cleaner for them to use. They couldn’t just generally add a page and look at the revisions. They didn’t have the editing abilities, so that was a big improvement.”

Execution Gets Creative

After duplicating Beyond Celiac’s homepage with a few requested user interface changes, A + L DEVELOPMENT sought to move the content assets. The developers first identified all of the unique content templates on the site. They then ensured each version had a scalable counterpart for mobile devices on the new website. Once each page could fit into the template categories, developers sorted out which pieces of content should be migrated over and which should be discarded. 

The developers worked in two groups. One team indexed all the data from the old site, while the other, through a custom-programmed database, identified the duplicate content. To do this, A + L DEVELOPMENT turned each page into a unique hash — a string of numbers based on the content of each page — through this database. If two hashes matched, it meant that those pages were identical. In the end, A + L DEVELOPMENT either migrated over or removed duplicates for more than 6,000 pages. 

Even with A + L’s experience with migration, it took imaginative thinking to complete the project.

“Some of the content that was loaded into the database was not properly formatted for HTML,” Long says. “We tried to do as much as we could programmatically, but we had to do some manual work.”

Where Things Are Today

Beyond Celiac says A + L DEVELOPMENT delivered on its promises and more. 

“The move to WordPress with A + L has been a big game changer for Beyond Celiac,” Lucci says. “A + L took on a huge challenge with migrating our giant 6,000+ page website to WordPress.”

Since the redesign, changes can be made immediately instead of waiting hours or even days for a webmaster or CMS service representative to apply them. Now, any member of the Beyond Celiac team can make an update to the website.

The site has not crashed since the WordPress migration, and bounce rates have improved. The group is now focusing on design and layout changes that the old CMS could not have handled.

When Considering Migration, The Right Plan Makes a Difference

If you’re contemplating a change to your current CMS, an open-source application makes the difference in a large content migration. A + L DEVELOPMENT recommends using WordPress for a number of reasons. These include a universally recognized backend framework, security and administrative permissions, scalability, and SEO tools. Before jumping in, always count the amount of content assets currently on the website as well as how many pieces of that content you will need to move. If you notice duplicate entries, delete them as they can lower discoverability on search engines and slow down your website’s overall speed. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A + L DEVELOPMENT can assist with any content migration issues — from routine transfers to creative solutions like the one performed for Beyond Celiac. To schedule a migration assessment, please call 201 455 7587.