This post is a summary of the steps used to migrated a website that was using Pretty Links over to using BetterLinks. This is not a complete “how-to” post, but rather notes for myself or others that may be useful.
Some Information About Redirect Plugins
In this context, at its simplest a link redirect looks something like this, where:
- The title or name of the redirect
- The permalink that you share
- The slug, which is the title in lower case with spaces removed (perhaps replaced with dashes)
- The destination URL
- The number of times the outbound link has been clicked
Link redirect plugins server a number of purposes:
- They help you gather and manage your outbound links in one place.
- You can change the redirect destination link without changing the places where you have posted or otherwise shared the outbound link.
- The outbound links are “prettier” as URL parameters don’t show. For example, if you add UTM parameters for analytics tracking.
- Affiliate IDs are “cloaked” and less likely to be indexed by search engines.
- The outbound links are branded with your domain name.
- The redirect plugin may allow for A/B testing.
- The plugin may alternate between several outbound links in a weighted fashion.
- The plugin itself may provide statics such as the number of times the outbound link was clicked.
About BetterLinks and Why I Selected It
I recently migrated a site that was using the pro version of the Pretty Links plugin over to using the BetterLinks Pro plugin. Pretty Links pricing continued to increase and the parent company has bought up several other redirect plugins and seems to be consolidating them.
I got the WPDeveloper’s agency bundle a while ago and noticed last year that they added BetterLinks Pro. BetterLinks Pro supported all of the features required for this site, but unfortunately it was released after Pretty Links Pro was already in place. Why pay a subscription for a plugin when you already own a capable replacement? It makes sense to take the time to migrate and use the one you own. Right, so I decided that when Pretty Links came up for renewal I’d migrate over. Waiting a while would also give time for any “version one” issues in BetterLinks to be ironed out.
Testing the Migration Process
To start to get a feel for BetterLinks Pro, I converted a small, low traffic site over to using it. This site only had a couple of dozen links and I migrated them over manually (copy / paste). Using BetterLinks on a low traffic site helped give me confidence in the new product.
Pretty Links was up for renewal in July, so late May I decided to test the migration process. I brought a copy of the site down to my local development environment and installed BetterLinks. I saw that BetterLinks has the option to import a spreadsheet from Pretty Links, but also, if the Pretty Links plugin was activated, BetterLinks offered to migrate the links and analytics automatically. I tried the automatic process a few times on my local machine and BetterLinks wasn’t working, at all. I eventually put debugging code in the BetterLinks install routines and discovered that the BetterLinks database tables were not all being created. I discovered that the date / time format BetterLinks was using as a default was not supported on an old version of MySQL. This was one of the first times that Laragon let me down, as the default installer includes a very old version of MySQL.
All of my production servers were running up to date versions of MySQL, so when I was able to get back to testing, I cloned the production site to an InstaWP temporary site. I tested the migration of Petty Links Pro to BetterLinks pro a couple of times to get the steps down. A note on that below, but suffice at this point that I was confident to migrate the production site.
The Migration Steps for Moving from Pretty Links Pro to BetterLinks Pro
So, here are the steps:
- First, I took a full backup of the site.
- Second, since BetterLinks offers to migrate Pretty Links if they are both activated, my first step was to deactivate the Pretty Links plugin.
- Then I installed, activated, and entered my license for BetterLinks Pro. BetterLinks Pro is one of those plugins where you need both the free and pro versions installed.
- I configured the BetterLinks defaults.
- I reactivated Pretty Links. As soon as I did that I was prompted to migrate.
- After I clicked the Start Migration button, I was given a screen to pick what data I wanted to migrate: links and / or analytic data. I clicked on both checkboxes and clicked the Migrate Now button. Several times when testing the migration the process would complete very quickly, but there were also a few times when I never gave a “done” message. In those cases I let it sit for several minutes and then x’ed out of the dialog. I found that in those cases all of the links were migrated and it appeared that the clicks were also, though perhaps not all of them were? For me, the links were the important factor. In the case of the actual migration, I had this happen again. I waited and after a while I closed the dialog and checked. All of the links had been migrated. I also spot checked several links and saw that even the advanced “pro” feature options had been carried over.
- I cleared the site cache and tested the links. Everything seemed to be working correctly.
BetterLinks Pro seems to have all of the same advanced features as Pretty Links Pro, however, there are differences in the package prices. The top package for Pretty Links Pro is $149 annually for 5 sites. The top annual package for BetterLinks Pro is the same price, but for unlimited sites. Also, BetterLinks is available in lifetime packages, either standalone or in the WPDeveloper Agency bundle.
A counter-balance to pricing is that Pretty Links has been around for a long time and is very stable. BetterLinks is newer. I see the BetterLinks team releasing frequent updates, so it is good to see it is under active development. The updates to BetterLinks include fixes, but also new features. Pretty Links doesn’t seem to be getting new features.
Fixing the timeout, or whatever causes the import dialog to stay open, would increase confidence in the migration process. That BetterLinks offers to migrate the data automatically without needing to go through the export / import of spreadsheets is a nice convenience.
I expect I won’t be the only one migrating from Pretty Links to BetterLinks. I hope these notes are useful for other people.