How to Convert Old Blogs to the WordPress Block Editor

Convert old blogs to the block editor

WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform, but has now become a more complex and powerful content management platform. And the Gutenberg Block Editor is the newest step in its evolution.

Instead of having to know how to code HTML, WordPress lets you build pages using blocks and pre-built layouts. The Block Editor is a controversial addition, but it’s also a logical change.

What Is the Block Editor?

The original WordPress editor – now referred to as the Classic Editor – looks and functions a lot like a conventional word processor.

WordPress.com on a laptop

Despite all the success it had enjoyed with its original CMS, WordPress felt it was time for an update. And so, in late 2018, it launched a completely new CMS, the Block Editor or ‘Gutenberg’ editor, which has been the default from WordPress version 5.0 onwards.

If you have been using WordPress for longer, you have a choice. You can, of course, jump straight onto the Block Editor. But WordPress has also provided the option of continuing to use the Classic Editor with a plugin.

But siport for the official Classic Editor plugin will only run until December 31, 2021. If you want an easy life, it makes sense to convert your old blog posts to the new Block Editor before time runs out.

If you want to convert old blogs to the block editor, you might be asking:

  • Are there any benefits to switching?
  • How does the new block editor work?
  • Is it easy to convert old blog posts to the new layout?

Let’s start by taking a closer look at how to update your old blogs to new block editor.

How to Update Old Blog Posts in the Block Editor

You should be routinely removing, improving, and rewriting old blog posts as part of maintaining your website.

In addition, you can now also easily convert those posts into the Block Editor format.

But what if you then want to start editing content in that block? Anticipating that many people will be happy to continue using the tried and tested methods, WordPress has actually included the functionality of the old editor as a feature of the Classic Block. All you do is click on the block and the familiar toolbar from the old editor appears. You can then edit anything in the block as you please, just as you would in the Classic Editor.

Convert old blog - shown in classic block

While this is straightforward, it means you miss out on the benefits and additional functionality that the Block Editor provides. You wouldn’t for example, be able to play around with the layout as easily, or add updated content like video or social buttons. The old system also makes it harder to switch images, as unless you insert a new image of exactly the same size to replace an old one, you will knock the rest of the layout out of line.

One of the reasons for updating your old blogs might well be to bring them in line with a new brand design, or improve the layout so information is clearer and easier to scan – which in itself has SEO benefits. Block Editor makes it much easier to do this, but first you need to convert your Classic Block into individual blocks. Fortunately, this is much easier than it sounds – just follow these steps:

Enable the Block Editor

Make sure you have Block Editor enabled. This will automatically be the case unless you actively disabled it previously. If you have the Classic Editor plugin installed, remove it now.

Open Your Post

Click on the Edit option for your chosen blog post. This will open it in the Block Editor, and the content will appear as a Classic Block, like our picture above.

Convert Your Post to Blocks

Click on the Classic Block, and then select the hamburger button (three dots) in the top right corner. From the drop down menu, select Convert to Blocks.

Convert Classic Editor blog to the new block editor in the dropdown

It is important to check that the different elements on your page have converted to the right block types, otherwise you might not be able to format them the way you want to. Click on each block in turn and check the element type. Click on it if you need to change it.

Tidy Up Your Content

Once you are happy all elements on your page have been assigned to the right block type, you can start editing each post and adding more layout elements. This gives you the freedom not just to, say, update the text, but also refresh the entire look and feel.

Images can be replaced or moved around without disrupting the whole layout, individual blocks of text can be reformatted to stand out more, new headings can be included to signpost information better and you can add new elements as you wish.

You can also look at adding new blocks that give you more options than the default Gutenberg blocks. For example:

  • Otter Blocks is a nice plugin that adds more blocks and layouts to the block editor
  • Atomic Blocks adds blocks for newsletters and CTAs
  • WPDoze is a block addon for Gutenberg that lets you easily add your Amazon Affiliate links.

This is also a really good time to think about keywords. Add internal links to your old blog posts, focusing on the posts or pages that are most important – your ‘cornerstone content’. If you struggle with this, consider a content audit to bring out the best in the content you’ve already invested in.

Publish Your Page

Hit Update to update to go live with your updated blog. Don’t change the slug before you do this or you could create a 404 error. Just update it with the same publication date and URL slug you had before.

The new version has been designed to preserve the formatting of your existing content. It does this by treating everything on an old-style WordPress page as a single block – a ‘Classic Block’, to use the language. Everything in that block will appear exactly as it does on your page.

What’s New in the Block Editor?

Now you know how to convert your posts, you might be interested to learn what you can do that you couldn’t do before.

The Block Editor takes a different approach to building web content to the Classic Editor, one that has increasingly become the standard across content management and digital design platforms. 

Unlike the Classic Editor, which treats the entire page you are working on as a single field, the Block Editor breaks everything down into distinct boxes or blocks – text boxes, image boxes, different blocks for headers and body text, the option to drop in tables, charts, pre-formatted link buttons and so on.

While the Classic Editor set the standard for ease of use for the first generation of content builders, the approach the Block Editor takes has several advantages.

Better Layouts

Compared to the Classic editor, the Block Editor provides much greater flexibility to create complicated layouts.That’s because the Classic Editor is relatively limited in terms of how you can set different elements out on the page. For more advanced formatting, many people find they have to revert back to using HTML code to get the customised look they want from their blog or web page, which of course means you need coding skills.

The Block Editor now provides the same layout controls as a page builder like WP Bakery or Elementor. It lets you place different blocks on the page and reformat each block to make your layout more interesting.

Overall you can achieve more unique, pro-quality designs without relying on pre-formatted templates.

If you don’t like messing with the layout, you could consider creating a company blog on Medium instead.

What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get Editing

The Block Editor introduces better What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editing. In other words, you are seeing a closer match to your final page as you are building it.

This is a major departure from the Classic Editor, where you have to use the Preview function to check how your page looks.

If you’ve used WordPress for a while, you’ll know that, when you do click, Preview there is always something that doesn’t quite look the way you want it to. The Block Editor is (generally) better at showing you what you will see on the finished page.

For that reason, it is faster and easier to make adjustments as you can see the effects of what you’re doing.

More Varied Page Elements

The Classic Editor was designed for building pretty straightforward web pages – headings, body text, a few images and that’s it. Even adding fairly commonplace elements like tables can be fiddly and require you to start dipping into HTML code.

For anything complicated, you have to start adding plugins. But the Block Editor, you can add multimedia content more easily.

Whether it’s a video, social media buttons, a contact form or a table, you simply choose the relevant block, drag and drop it into position, and format it as you wish.

This block system will become even more versatile when the block marketplace is live in WordPress 5.5 next week.

Is it Worth Converting Old Blog Posts to the Block Editor?

WordPress has earned a legendary reputation in the world of website building. And rightfully so. An astonishing 35% of the world’s websites are built using WordPress. When you narrow it down to sites built using a content management system (CMS), that percentage rises to 62%.

WordPress can attribute its phenomenal success to the fact that it was one of the first services to make a fundamentally tricky and technical task – building web pages – simple and straightforward for the average person.

Millions of blogs have been successfully launched using the Classic WordPress editor, with tens of millions of web pages built using it. Inevitably there will be many people sad to see it go.

But Block Editor represents a step forward in terms of flexibility and usability. Once you get used to it, the controls make it much easier to get your content looking the way you want it.

If your content is looking dated, it might also be time to consider a content audit. That way, you can update your blog posts and your layout at the same time.

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