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How to Change a WordPress Theme and Keep your SEO Meta Tag Data

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Meta tags are used to embed data into your website page. Examples of this are titles, descriptions, alternate text and keywords. There’s always a healthy debate going on among SEO (search engine optimization) specialists on how important meta tags are to your search rankings (in search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo). Bottom line, the general consensus is that meta tag data helps both the search engines and users to determine what your site is about. So, what happens to this data if you change your WordPress theme?

WordPress Themes & Plugins

Most premium WordPress themes have SEO built into them. If you’re using a theme that does not have this capability built into it, you can install a plugin to do this for you. The two most popular SEO plugins that come to my mind are the All in One SEO Pack and the WordPress SEO Plugin by Joost de Valk. (Feel free to add your favorites in the comment section or weigh in on these.)

Regardless of how you’re capturing meta-tag data, what happens to that data if you decide to change your theme? How do you transfer that data so that you don’t lose it?

Recently, I migrated a static website with a WordPress blog into a new site built with Thesis. All the SEO data had been entered using the All in One SEO Pack. When I researched for the best solution, I kept coming up with posts recommending using the MetaThesis WordPress plugin. The problem is that this plugin has not been updated in over 2 years! (So, if anyone is even considering using this, my advice is don’t.)

The SEO Data Transporter Plugin

The solution that I used and recommend (at least at the time that I’m writing this) is the SEO Data Transporter Plugin. It is amazingly simple to use.  Simply install and activate the plugin and then run it. (You’ll find it under “Tools”.) Of course, backup your site before you begin.

Step 1: Select the platform that you’re converting the SEO data FROM.

Select the WordPress platform that your SEO meta data is in.

Step 2: Select the platform that you’re converting the SEO data TO.

Select the WordPress platform to transfer your SEO meta data into.

Step 3: Analyze your data.

Step 4: Convert your data.

After the conversion process is completed, you’ll see how many records have been converted and ignored. For me, the process went very smoothly and I was very pleased with the results. (If anyone wants to see the client site that I used this for, please check out www.EveLazarus.com. The design is by Lydia Avsec from CoPilot Design. Eve, Lydia and I are very happy with her new author site.)

I hope you find this helpful. It’s amazing to me how there always seems to be a solution when I’m searching one. I want to give credit to Studio Press, the developers for SEO Data Transporter. (Remember, it’s important to support developers who offer us these solutions for free with our donations.) What do you think? Have you ever used this tool or one like it? Feel free to share your ideas, thoughts and experiences with us. Not all conversions go smoothly and we can all learn from each other.

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By Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

50 replies on “How to Change a WordPress Theme and Keep your SEO Meta Tag Data”

This is the reason why you should be using a plugin to register your SEO settings and not use the theme options panel. If you used a plugin like Yoast WordPress SEO then it doesn’t matter how many times you change your theme and you keep all your SEO settings.
Paul recently posted..Create Post Tags With CSSMy Profile

I’m sorry to hear that you lost your ranking when you changed themes Rajkumar. Unfortunately, this isn’t a topic that I see discussed much. My IT background kicked in while I was migrating this client site and it occurred to me that the data fields would be in different places in different themes. It honestly took me a little digging to come up with the solution (which was easy to implement once I found it). Hopefully, you’ve been able to rise in the ranks back to where you were before.

Another tip to keep in mind for anyone who is making major changes to their website is to generate a new XML sitemap, submit it to Google Webmaster Tools and then ask Google to index all of the pages in your site again.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Top 6 SEO and Social Media How-To Posts of 2012My Profile

Hi Sherryl,

This is a fantastic post – really useful. I do have a question, I have a theme that has been edited and also has a WP member plugin added to it. Do you think I will be able to change themes and not lose any of my members pages?

Regards,
John
John Banks recently posted..CommentLuv Blog SitesMy Profile

Hi John,
Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed my post and found it useful. I don’t have any personal experience with a members plugin. I did a quick search to see if I could come up with an article that I could refer you to. The best I came up with is this thread http://bit.ly/XSniJW where someone has mentioned that “The WP-Members plugin does not display correctly on responsive themes”. If you know what theme you have in mind, you could search on their forums or start a new thread.

There’s a saying… “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This blog is what I never knew! I’m grateful for this information and insight. While I have no intention of changing themes right now, you’ve inspired me to look at what’s in place and evaluate how well it is working for me. I notice that some of my local competitors have keywords that make them show up in searches where I don’t. I will be fixing that!

Hi Keyuri,
You have such a great niche that you should be able to find keywords that you can optimize your site for. I honestly think something as simple as incorporating keyword rich headings (using H2 tags) would make a big difference on the amount of traffic that you get through organic searches. I know you have your hands full now on other projects but you could even go back to some of your previously published posts and break up your text with headings. (Shoot me an email if you have any questions on this. You know I’d be happy to give you my 2 cents on this. 🙂 )
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How to Use SEO to Improve Your Website Ranking in GoogleMy Profile

I have thought about changing my WP theme quite a few times, but was hesitant because of the ever-lingering fear that I might muck up all the effort I’ve put into using the All in One Seo Plugin for the past four months or so. Your post makes it seem more than doable, so thanks for steering me ever closer to taking the theme-switch plunge.
Jeri recently posted..Writer’s Workout: 15-Sentence Portrait PoemMy Profile

You’re welcome Jeri. As many times as I’ve migrated websites, changed themes etc., it can still be a little nerve wracking. I think if we become over confident, we’re at risk of making mistakes. A little bit of caution can be good. There are so many variables for every site, that sometime things don’t always work as expected. That’s why it’s so important to not only backup your site but track the changes that you’re making. That way, if something does go wrong, you should have a pretty good idea of what caused it.

Good luck if you try it!
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Google Authorship Means for SEOMy Profile

Really great post.. I’ve often wondered where do you draw the line with theme functionality? You could quite easily create a theme which supports, well, everything (to an extent). I guess its a question of drawing the line between content

Hi Nikol,
There are some great premium themes available and with all the competition, the vendors are really stepping up their game. Personally, I think a premium theme is worth investing in. The more functionality that is built in, the less we have to depend upon plugins.

Thanks for taking the time to join the conversation.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How to Grow Your Google+ FollowersMy Profile

Leora, You make a very good point. It does take a conscious effort to optimize your posts before publishing them but if we ignore SEO, who’s going to find our posts? You and I both know that we can’t rely on social media alone.

Excellent post SherrylI was working on my website with Rabbit Cockpit theme and now I am turning back towards Thesis but this time with SEO Plugin by Joost de Valk. Actually its difficult for me to give any specific comment about this plugin I need few researches. Thanks again for your great suggestion.
Ranjan recently posted..How to Improve PersonalityMy Profile

You’re welcome Ranjan. You’re smart to do your own research. I could not find anything negative about this plugin but everyone’s site is different. I always recommend backing up before installing any new plugin. I took screenshots of some of the SEO data on the site before I migrated it and then after I ran the plugin. I just checked a sample of old and new posts. For me, the plugin performed exactly as it said it would. After all, it should just be a simple remapping of fields. Having said that, there’s always a chance that something could go awry. Good luck if you do try it. Feel free to come back and give us an update. 🙂

Very good information! I had not even thought of this. Looks pretty simple and straight forward. Thanks!

Hi Anton,
After I migrated the meta data, I compared the old and new sites and the plugin seemed to work perfectly for me. I’d be interested in hearing if you do try it or if you come up with another solution. It’s always good to have options.

Sherryl — very useful information, as usual. I don’t know if you are aware that Yoast recently released an extension for his WordPress SEO plugin called Video SEO for WordPress. It’s his first paid plugin and costs $89. I’ve installed it. It optimizes the videos on your site. It’s gotten excellent reviews. Here is one that explains what it does and why you should have it http://bit.ly/SKCRza.
Jeannette Paladino recently posted..Is Letter Writing the Next Innovation?My Profile

Hi Jeannete,
Thanks for mentioning the Video SEO plugin for WordPress. I don’t use much video on my site (although, I realize that I should use more). I would use any plugin that Joost creates. He’s that good when it comes to SEO. It’s a good reminder that we should optimize all of our content for SEO. It’s so important.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Google Authorship Means for SEOMy Profile

Cool Stuff

Thanks for sharing this one Sherryl. I’ll be bookmarking for future reference as no doubt at some stage I’ll come up agains this issue with one of my clients.

Susan,
I was a little frustrated when I was searching for a solution and kept finding posts recommending using an obsolete plugin. Some of the posts were written at the time that the plugin was being updated but many are fairly recent posts. I finally found a post that mentioned the SEO Data Transporter plugin and it occurred to me that there was a need to make people aware of this. Taking the screenshots while I was using the plugin made it a breeze to write this article. Thanks for tweeting it and for letting me know that you’ll keep it in mind if you hear of someone who could benefit from this.

This is very timely for me. I was talking with my web guy last night about beefing up my site in the coming months. This was one of the things we discussed. I will be forwarding this info to him to discuss on our next call this week. Thanks you for this. It will come in very handy.

Thanks Catarina. I was surprised that there was more written about that obsolete plugin than this one. Some of the posts were recent too. It reminds me of the article you wrote a while back about people recycling old content.

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