How To Change a CMS, Without Destroying Your Website

Is there any way to change from one CMS to another, without destroying your website. I’ve been using the same CMS since 2004, and have nearly 30,000 articles and most of them are indexed in the major search engines and many of them have high keyword rankings.

The CMS in question is no longer being developed and I’m looking to switch to something more cutting edge. The biggest problem with this CMS is the lack of SEO friendly URLs and certain features have to continuously get fixed when a new version of PHP is released.

Once you switch and replace the old index.php, that’s the end of 30,000 articles and your rankings crash down the toilet and so does a sizable chunk of traffic and profit.

The only way I can see a workaround, is to transfer all of the old articles to the new CMS and then setup an exact redirect from old page to new page.

Lots of big sites get transferred from one CMS to another, like A List Apart, which switched from a custom CMS to ExpressionEngine last year. That’s some 12 years of content switched over! I was told recently that the way this is done is by exporting the database. The structure of the database may need to be altered slightly to match the new CMS. Personally I don’t know how to do this, but that’s how it works. You could possibly ask the database people for more tips. If you are handy with that sort of thing, perhaps you could compare the DB of the CMS you are using and the one you are moving to and make the necessary changes.

There’s a lot more to it than just exporting a database, that may be enough to physically change over but then you have to 301 all the old pages to the new pages, watch your rankings potentially drop for a few months, etc…

Personally, if the site were making money, I would think twice before making a radical change like the one the OP wants to do (although I understand why he wants to).

It is a lot simpler if the new CMS can be configured to use the same addresses for all the pages as the old CMS does. That way you avoid having to redirect the pages.

The biggest problem you’ll have will be your URL’s. It can be done, but it won’t be easy. A lot of time will be required to build a good URL map to the new SEO friendly format. On the downside it will take time. On the upside however, it can be done, it will only have to be done once, and once it is done you’ll have a much better product.

Yeah, I guess it’s related to the number of articles and how much of the URL rewriting that can be automated. I would look for a CMS that can use aliases so that you can have links that use the old style URL as well as the new ones.

I would use Drupal (because it does allow for URL aliases and I know it pretty well). There are a number of modules in Drupal that will go and get the content to populate the site. The big job would be to automate the alias production.