Moving a blog is quintessential marketing technologist work

Theory vs. Practice

Migrating a blog from one platform to another reminds me of the saying: “In theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they’re different.”

In the process of moving this blog from Typepad to WordPress — on the occasion of our 5th anniversary — I was struck by how this is exactly the sort of work for which marketing technologists are ideally suited.

The blog itself is a marketing mission. There are all kinds of marketing objectives to be met: make the structure of the content better for humans, improve the user interface, strengthen the brand with the look-and-feel, facilitate more social sharing, increase search engine rankability (and at the very least, avoid losing any existing SEO juice), acquire a better commenting system, etc.

But the mechanics of moving a blog — setting up the new one, transferring the old one — involve a whole quagmire of technical details:

  • select a hosting provider for the new blog
  • set up and configure the new blog software
  • pick a framework for the blog’s design
  • edit HTML, CSS, and image resources for the new design
  • add and configure a collection of functional blog plug-ins
  • tweak PHP code to make functional improvements
  • export old content and do old-to-new category mappings
  • import new content and debug any errors in the process
  • move over the web analytics tracking codes
  • set up redirects from old to new URLs
  • change DNS records
  • reconfigure feeds for RSS and email subscribers

…and so on. It’s not rocket science, but it requires a fair amount of technical tinkering.

I found myself continually making decisions that were a seamless blend of technical possibilities and marketing desires. For instance, remapping the categories to better organize posts, but using a set of regular expressions to manipulate the export file from the old blog before importing it into the new. Or changing the permalink format of URLs to make the site more modern and improve its SEO, but tweaking the PHP code of the social sharing buttons to not lose the counts of previous shares on the old URLs.

On that last point, it turned out that Twitter did not support a way to maintain the old counts without failing to recognize new counts on those posts. But after deciphering their documentation, scouring a bunch of blog posts that other people had written about the problem, and systematically experimenting with a number of workarounds, I made the call to abandon the old counts for Twitter. Not ideal, but not something that was worth holding up launch. (By the way, if anyone has a better technical solution for this, let me know!)

I imagine that if this had been a project between a non-technical marketer and a non-marketing technician, even with the best of intentions between them, there could have easily been a number of misunderstandings, delays, and unpleasant surprises along the way.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know, and it’s all too easy for small but important details to slip into the chasm between those two different domains. I’m sure it would have worked out okay eventually — such projects certainly happen every week out there — but at what additional cost in time and resources and sacrifice of potential features?

But this is the work of modern marketing.

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Comments

  1. Congrats on the new blog and the successful transition!

    One other point this highlights to me: making marketing technology decisions up front. Marketing technology needs to be included in the front end of planning so updates like this happen like they did for you, five years later, instead of being identified by the team 5 days after launch.

  2. Congratulations on the move to WordPress Scott.

  3. Congrats! As a designer/developer, I appreciate your perspective of the process.

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