Our Blog

12 Dec 2008

Vertical Measures Website Move, Update & Blog Integration (part 4 of 4)

Vertical Measures New WebsiteWell we can hardly believe it.  WE PULLED IT OFF!  If this is your first time to our blog you may be asking did what?  For the last month we have documented the process of moving our web site to a new hosting company, redesigning and updating it and integrating our blog Link Building Best Practices in to our new web site blog location you are looking at now.  It was all done at the same time and you are now looking at the new site that went live effective December 7th 2008.

In our last post we shared some of the planning and specific action items we identified to make it happen.  One of our biggest concerns was making sure we don’t lose any of our excellent search engine position and it seems we achieved that goal as well as transferred our page rank.  

I think the best way to wrap up this series is to tell you about what DID go "wrong".   Although we felt like we planned it out carefully and we followed our plan there were things that happened that we just could not have anticipated and maybe sharing this information with you might help your next project as well.

What went wrong

Last Friday night we finished all the "Pre" items and the final step before taking the new site live was to use the excellent built in "export" feature WordPress has.  It exports all your posts, post categories and Authors.  The plan was to export that data and then import it to the new blog (you are on now) so everything is current.  I had already done this once before a few weeks ago just to populate the development version of the blog with some data etc. and I was very impressed with how easy and smooth it went so I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  Before I get in to that though here is where I made my first mistake…I hopped over to GoDaddy and updated the name servers for the site and blog to begin propagation.  Then here is where things got ugly.  I exported all the data just fine, then jumped in the admin panel for the new site and started the import.  It seemed like it was taking a long time but finally it finished.  The first thing I noticed was the post count was twice what it should be (oh oh) so I opened the site and took a look.  The entire site was all out of whack!  Things were not where they should be at all and the main navigation had extra items. HUH?

The next thing that went wrong was where it got REALLY ugly.  The entire site went down!  When I tried to view the site all I saw was "A CONNECTION CAN NOT BE MADE TO THE DATABASE" in big black letters.  YIKES!  This didn’t make sense because the site was just up and no changes were made that would impact the database connection.  I logged in to the database via PHP MyAdmin and everything seemed fine. By this time it was 2:30 am and after poking around a while I decided the best thing to do was change the name servers back to the old sites, get some rest and pick it up again in the "morning" when I was fresh.

All hail WordPress the self healing blogging platform!

At 5:30 am (yeah 3 hours later) I woke up and started thinking about the problem, came up with a few ideas and headed in to the office to attack it again.  Guess what, the site was up! (at the dev address of course) but still out of whack.  After inspecting the main navigation I noticed there were actually just a couple extra items I realized were the PAGES (not posts) from the old blog site.  (Well no kidding because pages are stored in the posts table so those were imported as well) Ok, fine I’ll just log in and delete them because we don’t need them any more.  I logged in and right away noticed the post count was back to normal!  NICE! I have no idea how…so I proceeded to delete the few extra pages.  I went back to the site and just like that the world was a happy place again!  The site looked perfect and the blog was completely populated.  All hail WordPress the self healing blogging platform!  Since everything looked ok I switched the name servers again to make the new site live and since I had no idea how long propagation was going to take I went back to bed for a while.

Oops, another big problem

I woke up checked my email and had a few from Arnie with the most glaring being all the images on the blog were dead!  Obviously I didn’t know  that before I retired for the evening.  All the paths to the images were wrong!  Normally this might seem like an easy problem to solve right?  Just add a copy of all the images to a directory found at the correct path and moving forward all images will be in a new correct location.  Nope, that isn’t going to happen.  The problem is that since we had a 301 redirect in place for linkbuildingbestpractices.com to verticalmeasures.com/blog there was no real physical path that could be used.  We decided the best thing to do (rather than manually change the path on all the images on the entire blog) was was to use mod_rewrite on the .htaccess file to point all the image paths to the correct location. This little beauty did the trick: RewriteRule [^/]+(/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/.+) $1 [R=301,L] It 301 redirects all the image paths to the standard directory in WordPress where all images reside.  Problem solved!

While we are on the topic of mod_rewrite there was another problem we needed to resolve and mod_rewrite came through once again.  On our old site we had a series of website marketing and link building articles and press releases that used an unusual query string path.  (They were dynamically generated from a content system developed)  We needed to make sure they redirected to the matching page on the new site to pass link juice and authority.  Here is an example of the mod_rewrite we used:

Articles:

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} articles?Outsource-Link-Building-The-Right-Company-Is-Vital.html
RewriteRule articles http://www.verticalmeasures.com/outsource-link-building-the-right-company-is-vital/ [R=301,L

Press Releases:

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} Link-Building-Company-Earns-TOP-SEO-Award.html
RewriteRule press http://www.verticalmeasures.com/link-building-company-earns-top-seo-award/? [R=301,L]

Unfortunately we had to write one for each article and press release but it had to be done.  Also for extra fun we had to change the case of the new path on each to lower case as well (since PHP is case sensitive)  and a "http://UrlLikeThis" is not the same as a "http://urllikethis".  They would be considered different pages and duplicate content!  Ouch…

Our video didn’t work either

There was one other small problem that required some fast thinking and innovation.  If you were familiar with our old site you may recall we had a video built using Camtasia studio explaining the importance of natural search ranking.  The video worked great (on the old site) but for some reason on the new site it would stop about 15 seconds in.  Well it was time for an upgrade so we just uploaded the .flv file to the Vertical Measures YouTube account and it worked perfectly there.  Thanks to YouTube we were able to embed it on a new page and the result is a more visually appealing and professional wrapper for the video.  If you haven’t seen it before you should take a few minutes and watch our very informative higher search rankings video.

So that wraps it up!  There were a few other little kinks along the way but we wont bore you with all the details.  We hope you found this post and the others informative and a little entertaining.  Please be sure to take a moment and tell us what you think about the new site. We would value and appreciate your feedback. 

 ArnieK.gooruze.com