Building an online Knowledge Base
Part of the Zendesk Suite is the Help Center. A SaaS solution to build an extensive knowledge base around your product or service. You basically get it for free if you purchase the Zendesk Support Suite. It looks great, it’s easy to set up and your users will love it. Despite all that, let us tell you why you might want to migrate Zendesk help center to WordPress.
Limitations of Zendesk’s Help Center Tool
At CMNTY we were using the Zendesk Help Center as well, but there were a few limitations that we were never really happy about:
1. You have to run the Help Center on a subdomain. I.e. support.cmnty.com
While at first glance that may seem great, it is bad for SEO. If you have spent months or years on creating backlinks to your www site then your subdomain will not benefit from that. This means your Help Center articles will not rank very high in Google, and that way you will miss out on people stumbling in on your Help Center and become interested in your tool or service. If you want do it the right way, you want something like www.cmnty.com/support
Of course it’s great you will have access to Analytics but if you are serious about content marketing you probably want to install Google Tag Manager and load more sophisticated stuff like Kissmetrics or Segment. That is not possible.
3. You are stuck with Zendesk’s CMS and HTML/CSS limitations
Like I wrote in the intro, the Zendesk Help Center does what it needs to do. But if you want anything more, like display a Twitter feed, show a newsletter registration form or if you want to do anything exotic to the HTML or CSS, then you might feel limited.
Zendesk Help Center Alternatives
For us these things started to become an issue and we were eager to find a solution. That turned out not be that easy. There are alternatives to Zendesk’s Help Center, like Help Scout but they turned out to be similarly limited as Zendesk.
Taking the WordPress Route
We were already quite happy with our blog which was running on the latest WordPress. It gives us full control over content and the desired SEO tactics, and because it’s installed on our own servers there are no limitations in terms of urls either.
After doing some research, we learned we could build a Help Center on WordPress that was better looking and better performing than Zendesk. However, figuring out how to do that took some time, and because there is a chance you want to migrate Zendesk help center to WordPress as well, we’ve compiled this little how-to for you. It might save you some time!
– Steps to take –
1. Get your Help Center content out of Zendesk
The first thing you need to achieve is download you current Help Center articles and media from Zendesk. But hey, guess what? Zendesk does not offer an export function. That is a big bummer. However, there was a smart chap that wrote a script that utilizes the Zendesk API to download the articles to your server, or computer. You will need to know how a terminal works and how you can run a Ruby script. If that is not your cup of tea then you can ask one of your developer friends to do it for you.
After running the script we had a folder that looked like this:
2. Install WordPress
I’m not going to explain how to install WordPress because there are plenty of articles on how to do that, but make sure you use the version that you can install on your own server or webhost. Do not use WordPress.com because that one won’t allow you to install the plugins you need.
3. Install a Knowledge Base WordPress Theme
Out of the box, WordPress is designed to publish posts. If you want to build a knowledge base, you want some more control over the taxonomy. Next to that you don’t want to spend a ton of time thinking about information design while others have already done that for you. We chose the HelpGuru theme. It’s not free, but it’s the best 50 bucks we spent in years! Buy it, download it, follow the instructions. Done.
4. Import your Zendesk articles into WordPress
This is a tricky part, you need to import the Help Center content you exported in step 1 into WordPress. Luckily there is a plugin for that called HTML Import 2. It is pretty straight forward and comes with simple instructions. Basically you need to make sure you upload the entire folder of articles and images to the root of your WordPress installation that is on your server. For example, if your WordPress install is in “/html/wordpress” then upload the entire folder you retrieved in step 1 to “/html/wordpress/zendesk-hc-export”. Next, run the plugin, and you will have all the articles as Posts in WordPress!
5. Convert WordPress “Posts” into Knowdledge base “Articles”
The knowledge base theme we installed doesn’t work with WordPress Posts, it works with WordPress Articles. But your Help Center articles were imported as Posts! No worries, there’s also a plugin for that. It’s called, you guessed it, Post Type Switcher and you can get it for free. Install it, run it, and you’re all set!
There you have it. Your new Help Center running on WordPress!
There are a couple of things you probably want to take care of when you’re done with the migration.
- For example. Our original Help Center ran on support.cmnty.com while the new one is on www.cmnty.com/support so we needed to add a 301 Redirect to our .htaccess file to make sure the old links kept working.
- Also, because the Zendesk urls all had very SEO unfriendly urls like “support.cmnty.com/hc/en-us/articles/202288908-quick-start-guide”, we had to do some manual work to turn those into friendly urls like “www.cmnty.com/support/quick-start-guide”.
- Finally, not all of the images were imported correctly, so we uploaded them manually as well.
That’s it. I hope this article finds you well. Let me know if you questions, or run into trouble. I’ll try to improve this article along the way.