Moving from Typepad to WordPress

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Since 2004, this blog has be hosted on SixApart’s Typepad platform. At that time Typepad was the easiest way to create and manage a personal or business blog. Over the last six years, it has fallen behind other platforms, most notably WordPress with its large community of developers. WordPress offers a richer variety of themes, and plugins to customize a blog than Typepad. Recently SixApart was acquired by an advertising network – time to jump ship. In fact, long overdue.

Moving blog platform is not easy, although with WordPress 3 it has become simpler. Researching how to do it rapidly descends into technical detail about PHP and HTML coding. Being the sort of person who wades in and figures they can solve the problems as they crop up, that was broadly my approach. The process was far from perfect, so I thought I’d capture a few lessons.

So what’s important when you move a blog? You want to transfer the content and comments over, you want to maintain the Google juice you have and you want a better design / feature set at the end of it. Plus you don’t want it to take too long.

In terms of content, the posts and comments came across but I lost many of the embedded images in my posts. I could reinsert them individually, but they are illustrative for this blog and I don’t think the time it would take to do that would yield the value. This is the biggest problem with my transition. I’d read it could be an issue and it was. The reason being, that the Importer does bring across the image paths, but once you move the domain name to point to your new blog location, all those links are broken. The images are referenced as being hosted on Typepad but you’ve moved the domain name across, so the address is meaningless. Result? No images in the old posts.

I wanted to keep the same domain name, and all the Permalinks which Google has indexed. WP allows you to configure the Permalink structure, so you can mirror those of Typepad (under Settings/Permalinks). This was easier than I thought it would be.

In terms of design, I have used WPZoom’s Yamidoo Magazine theme, which I’ve customized by editing the CSS file. This is the theme we used for the LEWIS 360 redesign and by far the best of the magazine-style themes in our research. Since I am not an HTML/PHP whizz I actually installed the theme on another domain and used that as a sandbox. I used that blog to get the template looking as I wanted then copied the CSS file and pasted it into the same template on my live blog when I was ready to transition. This minimizes downtime and stops you editing your blog when it’s live.

I recommend the Firefox extension Firebug which will tell you the code related to a particular area of the page (using the Inspect Element feature). So for instance, you can find the code for the Blog post headline. Then you can even change the code within Firebug to see how it might look, without actually touching the master CSS file. When you are selecting colors, fonts, pixel widths etc, this is very helpful. Once you have the relevant code, you then just change the master Stylesheet.css file (Appearance/Editor/Stylesheet.css). This might sound a bit daunting, but if you are working on a test blog, and also use Firebug to try out the code changes you would like, there is limited chance of making a huge mistake. I mainly changed things which made common sense to a layman, like ‘font-color’ or ‘font-family’.

In order to get the codes for the relevant colors there are free online tools like this one, Color Picker. This will help you get colors which match.

If you have used Typelists to put custom HTML on your blog, you should copy that code and download any related images. Those will need to be added as Text widgets in WordPress, and the images re-uploaded so they get fresh URLs of their own. For key images in blog posts, this is also the process, download them and then reinsert them in the new host. I experimented with WebGrabber to suck down the entire blog (images and all) to my desktop but that didn’t seem to work for me.

When you have your dummy blog looking good, you can create a fresh WordPress install, upload your theme to it, redirect your domain name (which may take some time to propagate), upload the blog data from Typepad’s export feature, then start the customization which the theme itself offers. Now is the time to copy the stylesheet.css from your test blog and paste it into the new template.

You will probably then have to go through individual posts to clean them up. This will involve deleting embedded images which no longer resolve, sorting out some formatting issues (like carriage returns), adding in new SEO terms and checking the categories/tags if you are cleaning those up at the same time. This is a pretty dull and repetitive. I’d do it for recent posts (like the last 3-6 months) and those which have high traffic from search engines historically. There may be diminishing returns here depending on the volume of posts and how much new content you will create. Those old posts aren’t going to look great unless you fix them, so you need to decide how important that is for your community.

In terms of time, clean-up of old posts aside, the transition of this blog took about a day. Once you start, you need to crack through it. I’m pleased however to be off Typepad at last. Hello World!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Morgan,

    That’s a good summary of the Typepad to WordPress situation. The issues with lost and broken images and reformatting posts are why we built our T2WP service. We could have saved you all your images (and even made them show up as post thumbnails), as well as fixing your formatting issues automatically for all 2000+ posts for just $350. As you found out a successful Typepad to WordPress move is hard as hell. Kudos for getting it done on your own, despite the loss of images.

    Congratulations on freedom! It’s a great feeling to be safely out of SixApart’s clutches.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks. I actually came across the T2WP service while researching the process. I opted for DIY since I wanted to learn how (not) to do it, but I think for those less technical / foolhardy, it sounds like a good way to go.

      I am pleased to be onto the WP platform though. Waaay overdue.

      • It’s funny. I actually did not want to do my own T2WP conversion. I looked around for almost two years trying to find someone to do it properly. Finally, we decided to do it in house. It was such a pain in the neck (it’s a bit easier now, mainly due to my and some others esp. Des Walsh berating Anil Dash about the broken exporter for years), that I promised myself to set up a service to help others. And it’s ended up being a very busy activity for us.

        I still love that happy feeling people get when they are finally free. It’s a thrill to be able to set people free.

        • Anonymous

          I can well believe it. I’ve been researching it on and off for a few years and rapidly descended into technical discussions way beyond me. 6A just didn’t make it easy, and the WP import had issues to (not least the limit on the upload file). So like many I was marooned on the platform. So it doesn’t surprise me that there is a market for people wanting to transition without the technical hassle. Good idea!

  • Anonymous

    You have a blog that looks good with a lot of sophisticated features. This inspires me to experiment more with different blog platforms and techniques.

    I remember when Movable Type and then TypePad were the hippest and coolest blog platforms out there. It seems amazing that WordPress won that popularity contest. However, it appears that they indeed have won. Page One moved to WordPress a few years ago. I’m still using Blogger for my personal blog. However, I don’t spend as much time on that as I should.

    • Morgan McLintic

      Thanks! I was disappointed that Typepad and MT lost their lead. Blogger never really clicked for me, although I know a few people who have built custom-blogs on it and were very loyal. You can’t beat WP at the moment though. I’m very happy with it – there might be a Blogger import widget?

  • Julie/Nuthatch

    After months of declining service, the buy-out was also the last straw for me. After looking at a lot of posts on how other people did this, I mapped out a plan of attack for moving my three sites. I found that moving the posts was the easy part, but as you found the images were a pain, especially being with Typepad for many years as they apparently changed how they coded images in posts. But I think I put together a fairly straightforward, non-technical way to make the move, if anyone is interested (http://www.bootstrap-analysis.com/escape-from-typepad) . It’s my way of encouraging others to bail from Typepad, a bit of sweet payback for my suffering through their deterioration.

    • Anonymous

      Congratulations Julie on being free from Typepad. Your instructions are excellent. I particularly like the detail about image import which was the part I got wrong. I opted to just correct recent posts then move forwards, which lost hundreds of images from years of posts. I also found that the formatting (line breaks) got mixed in some posts, which takes a long time to fix manually.

      Shame to pay a price for freedom, but well worth it!