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

by Sherryl Perry

Post image for How to Change a WordPress Theme and Keep your SEO Meta Tag Data
Share Button

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.

Share Button

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Abhishek October 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I have a Geneis child theme isntalled. What if I try to switch to another Genesis child theme. Do I still need to transfer the SEO data??
Abhishek recently posted..Debian Based Linux Distro SolusOS Bids AdieuMy Profile

Reply

Paul
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Paul,
I agree that Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is great and I recommend it for people who are using themes without built in SEO functionality. However, for those of us who have invested in premium themes with SEO built in, it’s nice not to have to install another plugin.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..SEO Gets Social | How to Use Social to Get More out of SearchMy Profile

Reply

Paul
Twitter:
January 26, 2013 at 3:07 am

I don’t think that premium themes should even come with SEO settings. Any functionality that is not theme specific should be in a plugin just like SEO settings.
Paul recently posted..Create Post Tags With CSSMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I respect your opinion Paul but to me, the fewer plugins I use, the better off I am.

Reply

Rajkumar Jonnala
Twitter:
January 16, 2013 at 8:12 am

I never knew about this plugin, and so I lost my website ranking which led to my downfall in Google searches. It\’s better that I am going to use the plugin to store the meta data information.

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

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

Reply

John Banks
Twitter:
November 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

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.

Reply

John Banks
Twitter:
November 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for that. I will check it out.

Keep up the great work – I will be visiting regularly!

John
John Banks recently posted..CommentLuv Blog SitesMy Profile

Reply

saikrishna
Twitter:
November 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks for the great informative post to change the theme. Finally my search of two hours on Google for this post has been ended by you! thanks alot/ After reading this post it is the time ofr me to hunt fot nice theme and change it!
saikrishna recently posted..How to Install Windows 7 and Windows 8 on Pen-drive/USBMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Thanks so much for letting me know that you found the answer to your search in my article! It’s always nice to hear from someone who found one of my blog posts helpful.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..5 Essential Apps for EntrepreneursMy Profile

Reply

Keyuri Joshi
Twitter:
November 14, 2012 at 7:32 am

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!

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm

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

Reply

Jeri
Twitter:
November 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry November 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm

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

Reply

nikol November 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry November 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

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

Reply

Leora
Twitter:
November 8, 2012 at 8:25 am

Sherryl, I am a big fan of Yoast’s SEO plugin. But any SEO plugin is only useful if the client sincerely updates the information and doesn’t just hit Publish each time while ignoring the SEO suggestions.
Leora recently posted..Analytics Tools to Understand Website VisitorsMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

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.

Reply

Ranjan November 8, 2012 at 1:50 am

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry November 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm

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. :)

Reply

Robert James November 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Great post.I must say that plugin really worked very well.
Robert James recently posted..Importance of SEOMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for letting me know that you found my article valuable Robert.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How to Grow Your Google+ FollowersMy Profile

Reply

Geek Girl
Twitter:
November 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Very good information! I had not even thought of this. Looks pretty simple and straight forward. Thanks!
Geek Girl recently posted..Will You Be Voting?My Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

All that meta-data is too valuable to lose. Since different themes and plugins store the data in different fields, this tool was exactly what I needed to transfer it.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..4 Basic Steps to Better Blogging, Better Branding and More BusinessMy Profile

Reply

Anton Koekemoer
Twitter:
November 6, 2012 at 4:27 am

Hi Sherryl,
Thanks for mentioning the Plugin. I might just be moving my domain soon and think this should come in handy. Will be sure to have a look in depth before putting all my eggs in one basket. None the less, thanks for sharing.
Anton Koekemoer recently posted..Use magnetic content with your social media strategyMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

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.

Reply

Jeannette Paladino
Twitter:
November 4, 2012 at 10:32 am

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

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
November 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

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

Reply

Lexi October 31, 2012 at 12:46 am

Nice tutorial for the SEO! Thank you for letting me know how to work with WP.

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm

You’re welcome Lexi. Thanks for letting me know that you found my article helpful.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Want Ideas to Promote a Niche Ecommerce Site With A Blog?My Profile

Reply

Jackie
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm

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.

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

You’re welcome Jackie. You undoubtedly will need it at some point. It’s amazingly simple to use too.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Why You Should Be Your Own Google Analytics Ninja and 4 Steps To Do It – Part 1My Profile

Reply

Susan Oakes
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Hi Sherryl,

I was only reading another article yesterday about losing SEO information if you change themes. Unlike your post they didn’t give a solution, so this is helpful. I don’t plan on changing themes but if I hear of anyone doing it will send them this link.
Susan Oakes recently posted..What Do New Customers Look For When Buying?My Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

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.

Reply

Susan Cooper
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

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.

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hi Susan,
Thanks for letting me know that you found this info timely. Good luck with your site. Your web guy may already be familiar with this plugin but if he isn’t, knowing about it ahead of time may save him having to research it.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Is Cloud Computing Safe for Your Business?My Profile

Reply

Susan Cooper
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

He may but it never hurt to share the info. In any case it’s good info for me too. :-)

Reply

Catarina
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

Interesting article Sherryl!

If I decide to change theme I will use that plugin. Nice site you made for Eve!
Catarina recently posted..Do you know how to defuse difficult people?My Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm

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.

Reply

Catarina
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Some “social media experts” probably copied and pasted without even looking at the plugin….
Catarina recently posted..Do you know how to defuse difficult people?My Profile

Reply

Jayme Soulati
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thank you! Eager to learn more from you!
Jayme Soulati recently posted..Tennis Balls And Business StrategyMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

You’re welcome Jayme. Sometimes I blog about really niche things like this one. It tends to bring new readers here. Thanks for joining us.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Why You Should Be Your Own Google Analytics Ninja and 4 Steps To Do It – Part 1My Profile

Reply

Dwayne Kilbourne
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

Great tip! I sometimes switch back and forth between Thesis and Genesis, so this plug-in will come in handy in the future!
Dwayne Kilbourne recently posted..Friend Your Boss, Others on Facebook Without FearMy Profile

Reply

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hi Dwayne,
Thanks for letting me know that you found my post helpful. This plugin worked very well for me.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Google Authorship Means for SEOMy Profile

Reply

Leave a Comment

 

Current day month ye@r *

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: