Many beginner bloggers and small businesses tend to opt for Hosted Content Management Systems when launching their first sites. HCMS sites are incredibly easy to use and some are even free. Easily one of the most popular platforms in this category is SquareSpace. As great as SquareSpace can be, more advanced webmasters tend to opt for their own hosting sooner or later. If you’re looking to move a existing site from SquareSpace to a WordPress site on a web host like GreenGeeks for example, the following guide will help you to smooth the transition.
Purchase a Hosting Package
Obviously, you’ll need to buy a hosting plan from GreenGeeks prior to moving your site over from SquareSpace. If your site is fairly simple, the entry-level Shared plan is just $3.96 per month and should offer enough hosting muscle. You can always bulk up your hosting firepower later on if you need more storage space or bandwidth. They’ll email you things like login credentials once you’ve purchased a plan so that you can access your back-end admin panel.
Install a CMS on Your Server
Select and Customize a Theme
Assuming you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll notice that the default Theme or layout is pretty generic. You can easily change the look of your site by installing a new Theme. You’ll find thousands of free Themes to choose from on WordPress.org. If you have some web design experience, you can hack the HTML and CSS of any given Theme for a truly unique look. Installing Themes can be achieved by accessing the Appearance tab in the WordPress admin panel. You can also purchase great looking Themes on ThemeForest.
Add and Configure Plugins
When you use a platform like SquareSpace or Blogger, you don’t have to worry about fine-tuning functionality. Everything from spam filtering to SEO is simply taken care of for you. A CMS like WordPress requires the individual user to tackle these concerns themselves. Fortunately, plugins such as WP Super Cache, LayerSlider and Contact Form 7 can replicate any and all functionality that you grew accustomed to on SquareSpace. Many of the most popular and powerful plugins are free.
Set Up an SSL Certificate
If you want to administer a WordPress site or any site for that matter in a secure fashion using a browser, you’ll need an SSL certificate. You can buy one from GreenGeeks or GoDaddy and have it installed in less than a day. While such an SSL certificate isn’t appropriate for an e-commerce site, it’ll protect a basic blog from being hacked. Your SSL certificate provider will email you instructions on installing it.
Export SquareSpace Pages
Now you’re ready to actually transfer your old pages to your new server. Go into your SquareSpace Settings menu and find the Advanced tab. Head to the Import / Export section and click the Export button. Select WordPress and hit the Download button to start the process. SquareSpace will send you an XML file that you can upload to WordPress or a similar CMS later on. Be forewarned that this process doesn’t always go as smoothly as you might hope.
Upload Files to the New Server
Once you’ve got your XML file, you’ll need to log into your WordPress installation and import your old pages. Go to the Tools section of the dashboard and find the Import section. You’ll be prompted to install the WordPress Importer plugin so that you can use the XML file you downloaded to build new pages. Fire up WordPress Importer, select your old SquareSpace XML file and let the software do the rest of the job.
Manually Transfer Missing Content
While SquareSpace’s export capabilities are decent, you’ll need to jump through a few extra hoops to recreate your site using WordPress. For instance, media files aren’t going to make the transition through XML alone. You’ll need to manually download them to your PC and upload them to WordPress on a case-by-case basis. Perform a thorough audit of your pages to ensure that any critical files have been moved over. If you need assistance, contact SquareSpace or GreenGeeks support.
Repair Any Broken Links
Once you’ve recreated all of your old SquareSpace pages, it’s time to re-establish internal links. Since you’re starting over from scratch, be sure to pick a URL scheme that’s logical and includes keywords rather than random strings of numbers. Start out with navigational links emanating from the main home page and work your way down the link tree. Use a link checker like Xenu or the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress to sniff out any outdated links.
Update Your DNS Settings
Last but not least, you’ll need to update your DNS settings to ensure that your domain name actually points to your site content. When you sign up for a hosting account with GreenGeeks, they’ll give you a list of nameserver addresses. Log into your domain name registrar account and add those addresses to your domain name. It can take up to 24 hours for DNS entry changes to propagate. If your domain name doesn’t resolve properly after a day, contact a customer support representative.
Tying Up the Loose Ends
Migrating your site content from SquareSpace to WordPress is just the beginning. You’ll need to make sure that your die-hard fans and new followers can find the new site. Use social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter to announce your move to GreenGeeks well in advance. Use Google Webmaster Tools to have your URL crawled so that your content shows up in the organic search results. If you follow these simple steps, your SquareSpace-to-WordPress migration should be pretty painless.