How to Migrate a Simple Static HTML Site to WordPress

wordpress-migration If you currently have a small static HTML website then it is possible to move this site to WordPress without affecting your current website.

With a migration we want to

  • Preserve the existing site until the new site is ready and tested.
  • Create the new site and copy over the content from the old site and test.
  • Switch from old to new.
  • Switch back in case of problems.

Note: Migrations are complex operations and involve a good working knowledge of:

  • HTML
  • FTP
  • WordPress
  • Links and Link Types.

If you aren’t very technical and don’t have the necessary basic knowledge I wouldn’t recommend that you attempt one on a live site.

Prepare for Migration

You will need to make a backup of the existing site before you start. The easiest way is to Use FTP to copy the files from your web host to your PC.

If you’ve created the website using Dreamweaver/FrontPage or similar editor and uploaded them to the hosting space then you should already have a local copy of the files.

WordPress Install Considerations

The first thing you need to decide is where to place your WordPress files. You can:

  1. Use the existing hosting space and install WordPress in the same directory as the existing site.
  2. Use the existing hosting space and install WordPress in a sub directory of the existing site.
  3. Use the existing hosting space and install into a new directory then redirect the domain name when done.

I am going to use method 1 as it is easier to do, and easier for beginners to understand.

The method relies on home page selection, and being able to change the default home page.

Here is a video that illustrates how the default home page works:

Before you start you need to do some tests to make sure that you can use this method.

What you need to do is to find out the current preference order for the default home page.

Currently your home page will probably be index.html or index.htm. It isn’t important which it is.

You need to create an index.php file and place it in the root directory of your website with the current home page.

Now access the site using the domain name only e.g. and see which page gets presented.

If the current home page is presented then you are clear to install WordPress as it will not affect your current website.

If the index.php file gets presented then you need to create/edit the .htaccess file to change the home page preference order.

Add the following line to the .htaccess file

DirectoryIndex index.html index.htm index.php

Note: Assumes using index.html or index.htm as the home page. If not you will need to change it to match your setup.

The index.php placed at the end is important as it means that it will only get used if the other two files don’t exist.

You can now install WordPress using a manual install. If you do a scripted install it may delete your existing site.

Copying Pages to New site

You can now login to your WordPress site by entering the following into your browser:


Now you need to copy the old HTML pages.

This you can do by opening the old page in a web browser and copying the text in your browser.

Then open a new WordPress page and paste it while in Visual Mode.

You will then need to open the old html page in source mode to view the meta tags and copy these to notepad, and then to WordPress.

Note: The All in One SEO plugin needs to be installed to do this

You will also need to copy the content of the page title, description and keywords (optional)

Redirecting urls

Lastly you will need to redirect the old page names to the new ones.

So someone visiting oldpage.html will go to newpage

Notice WordPress page names don’t use page name extensions.

Note: the redirection plugin needs to be installed to do this and you will do 301 redirects.

Add Analytics

If you are using Google analytics then make sure you add them to the WordPress site. The easiest way is through the All in one SEO plugin.

Test The New Site

Test the new site by visiting a few pages and also test the redirects. So should redirect to

Switch to New Site

To switch to the new site all you need to do is rename the current home page to something like 1index.html .

Now when you access your site using:


then you should be seeing your WordPress site.

If this works OK then you need to rename or move all of the old html files.

The easiest way to do this is to create a sub-folder and move them there.

You shouldn’t delete them at this stage as you may need them later

Migrating The Old Template

The above migration covered moving the content, but not the old site design.

Moving the site design is more complex and involves creating themes, and is best done by an experienced WordPress designer.

However most site owners will be more than happy to use an existing pre-built WordPress theme and make minor design changes e.g. like changing the logo.

Website Checks

You should

  1. Visit each page on the new site and check that the images are there and that the links work.
  2. Make sure all redirects work.
  3. Keep an eye on your site stats over the next month and look for any major changes that could indicate problems.


I’ve create two videos that will take you though the above:

Useful links:






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