How to Set Up PHP Includes for HTML Pages

So your pure HTML website is becoming too large, or perhaps it was already large but you are moving to a new host from another platform such as Site Build It! and you need a solution for managing your website with ease. If your website has good rankings you might not want to risk it now and transfer it to another CMS (content management system) like WordPress, you simply want to keep it the way it is. The only thing you need is a solution for your includes, which will allow you to manage your website’s header, sidebar, footer and experiment with ads with ease.

Elephant is an unofficial symbol of PHP – just in case you were wondering about the picture 😉

I was thinking along the same lines when I moved my website from SBI! to Hostgator. I didn’t want to convert to WordPress straight away. I wanted to let the dust settle and see how I rank. Doing this type of changes slowly is a good idea.

At the same time Hostgator was saying that to use servers side includes I would need to rename all my pages to .shtml which sounded terrible… It was also saying that while you can force your HTML pages execute PHP it’s not recommended as it will increase resource usage (the pages would need to be processed by server before being sent to visitor’s browsers).

In addition my PHP includes had to be secure – they shouldn’t be indexed by search engines and should be impossible to  access via browser. If you let your includes accessible via browser hackers can take an advantage of this. You might also have problems with Adsense if you are putting Adsense in these includes, because technically you will have an empty page with Adsense block on it available to anyone who knows its URL address.

If you are coming from SBI! you might get confused by my PHP suggestion. However you should know that there is no way to keep your includes exactly same way they were in SBI! Here is why: SBI! required your include to be coded like this: ***your-include.shtml*** This is not a standard code and that’s not how .shtml includes work outside of SBI! It is possible to keep your includes in .shtml but you still have to edit your pages to replace ***your-include.shtml*** with standard code. Since you are going to edit your pages anyway you could also rename your includes into .php

All this seemed very complex and after a bit of research and some trial I came up with my own method. In this article I will describe how I solved this puzzle.

  • First of all if you are using Hostgator you need to edit your .htaccess file to force our .html pages to process PHP code. To do this paste this in your .htacess file:
    AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .html .htm

  • Create a separate folder, call it something descriptive such as “includes” in your root folder. In Hostgator this folder is called public_html.

  • Create an index.php page in your includes folder. This is necessary for security of your website. You don’t want hackers to navigate to this folder and see your website’s folder structure. You can write something witty in this folder, for example: “Curiosity killed the cat”, draw something funny, or simply express your feelings towards hackers (I doubt normal visitors will ever get there, so the risk of offending a real visitor is very low). Alternatively you can simply say something like: “Oops, seems you got lost. Go to our homepage (or sitemap) by clicking this link“. This is only a security measure and should be done for every folder that doesn’t have index.php of its own, not only “includes” folder.

  • In your “includes” folder” create a new document, call it something that makes sense to you, for example: “header.php”, “footer.php”, “sidebar.php”, “ad-top.php” etc. Paste this code in the beginning of every include:
    if ('your-include-name.php' == basename($_SERVER['SCRIPT_FILENAME']))
    die ('<h2>Direct File Access Prohibited</h2>');

    Obviously change “your-include-name.php” to the name of your include. Then paste whatever you want to be included after this code and hit “Save”. After we have done this your include content won’t be accessible via browser. If you type in path to your include you will get “Direct Access Prohibited” instead.


  • Go to your .html page where you want to add your include. Paste this code where you want include to appear:
    <?php include 'includes/your-include.php'; ?>

    Where “includes” is the name of your folder and “your-include.php” is the name of your include file. Hit “save”.


  • Go to your robots.txt file and prohibit access of search engines by adding this line of code:
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /includes/

    Where “includes” is the name of your includes folder. This will prevent your include from being indexed.


  • To reduce resource usage we are going to compress our files and cache them by pasting this code in our .htaccess file:
    # compress text, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and XML
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
    # remove browser bugs
    BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
    BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] no-gzip
    BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
    Header append Vary User-Agent
    < IfModule mod_expires.c >
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType application/pdf "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 year"
    ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
    < /IfModule >

    < IfModule mod_expires.c > and < /IfModule >
    OR YOU WILL GET SERVER ERROR!!!! Alternatively get the download version here. Right click –> Save As…

    This will significantly reduce your files’ size and page load time making your website faster and more efficient. The effect will be especially noticeable to your repeat visitors because we are caching our files. The files will be cashed for two days, but you can edit this file to whatever you like. The line to edit is

    ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"

You are done! At this point it’s a good idea to test everything. Make sure that pages are displaying correctly. By all means type direct path to includes in your browser and make sure that you see “Direct Access Prohibited” message instead of your include’s content. If you have any issues post in my help forum. Hope you found this helpful ;-).

How to Use HTtrack to Copy a Website to Your Hard Disk

We were talking about transferring a website to another host and I promised I will explain every step outlined in that article in detail. Now if you are not transferring from SBI! you probably won’t have to do this yourself. Most hosts will help you out and transfer your files for you for free. However, you might want to copy your website for some other reason, such as to view it offline or just save a copy for a backup.

We will be using HTtrack Website Copier which is a free tool. You can download it here. I made a video tutorial and written tutorial. Some people find HTTrack settings a little confusing. If you are one of them you can use both. In addition some of HTTrack questions, such as errors, were covered in my forum. If you have any difficulties feel free to post your question there.

NOTE: If you blocking access to some parts of your site (like .pdf files for ebooks or reports for example) via robots.txt Httrack will not copy it. You will need to get them manually.

Here is the video:

Here is what you’ll have to do:

– Decide where you want to save your website. I suggest that you create a special folder for this. I created a folder called “MyWebsite” for this purpose.

– Open HTtrack and set the following settings:

httrack tutorial

Project name and category can be anything you want. Base Path should be the folder where you want to save your website’s copy.

– Click “Next”.

– Action should be set to “Download Website”.

– Enter your website’s URL in the URL box.

– If your goal is only to view your website offline you can go ahead and click “NEXT” without modifying preferences.

However if your goal is to upload this website to server AND your website has outgoing links, such as affiliate links and links to other websites it is better to do some modifications.  Here is how:

– Click on “Set Options”, then click on “Experts Only”

– Choose “Absolute URL” from dropdown menu, like this:

httrak url settings

Now Click “OK” and “Next” then “Finish”. (If you don’t do this all your outgoing links will be broken.)

Your HTtrack will take care of itself now and you will see something like this:

httrack work in progress

Wait until it finishes. HTtrack is pretty fast. At the end you will see this on your screen:

httrack success

Click on “View log file” to check errors. If you you find any errors here take a note and find the page which shows error and fix it manually. You never really get more than a few errors. If they are too many it could be due to some hiccup in connection. In this case it is easier to run HTTrack another time and get another copy which should be better.

You can browse your mirrored website right from here or from the folder on your computer where you saved it. Best of all HTtrack preserves the file structure of your website.

If you are transferring  your files to another host double check all files and images. Something might be duplicated and a file or two might be missing. Fix anything that has to be fixed manually. You are now ready to upload this website to your new host. I wrote instructions on how to use Filezilla for uploading your website here. If you have any questions you are welcome to open a thread in my forum here and we will try our best to help you out.

Good luck with HTtrack!

How to Use Filezilla to Upload Files to Your New Host

filezilla logo
UPDATE: June 11, 2015. Latest version of Filezilla available from SourceForge is full of malware. I am leaving the old tutorial below for those who are still using it, but I would suggest to stay away unless you know a way to download it without malware.

For those who want a good alternative, I suggest to use CyberDuck. Many people also like WinSCP, but their download also comes via SourceForge which I don’t trust anymore. I personally tested CyberDuck It’s great, no viruses, has multiple file upload feature just like FileZilla. CoffeeCup’s Free FTP is another alternative, but I prefer CyberDuck.

Filezilla is a great free tool that allows you multiple file upload. Just hit the button, sit back and it will do everything for you.  If you are coming from a restrictive platform such as Site Build It! you will really appreciate this tool! In this post I will show how to connect Filezilla to your server and upload files from your computer. If you are transferring your website from SBI! you will probably need Filezilla or similar tool to upload your entire site to your new host.

First of all download Filezilla  here and install it on your computer. Once you are done with installation, open Filezilla and do the following…

1. Click on File –> Site Manager –> New Site

filezilla configuration
Give your site a name – something like Now you have to fill some fields to enable Filezilla to connect to your server:
2. Under General (to the right) you will need to fill some information that will allow Filezilla get access to your server.
Here is what you need to enter:

  • near “Host:” enter your IP address (the one that your new host provided like 123.456.578). Some hosts will work with name servers (that’s what I did in video), but IP address works with most. If your website is already actually hosted by this host you can simply enter your website’s address, like I know that most people reading this are transferring websites and have not switched their name servers yet. For them it should be either IP address (ASO) or name server name (Hostgator).

    Nothing seems to work? Contact your host’s support and ask them what you should enter under host for FTP to connect to your server.

  • Keep Protocol FTP File Transfer Protocol and Encryption – Use Plain FTP.
  • Change Logon Type from Anonymous to Normal.
  • User: your username at your new host (you usually choose it yourself when you signup for an account) and Password: your password at your new host.
  • Click  “Connect”. You will see Directory listing successful in the top window. You will also notice your current files that you have on your server under “REMOTE SITE” (right window). You can navigate these files right from here depending on where you want to put your site’s content.

local and remote site filezilla

What you have to do now is to put your files in root directory. In A Small Orange and in Hostgator (affiliate link) and most other hosts I access root directory through folder called public_html. That’s where I would navigate using Filezilla.
Now what you need is to get files you want to upload to appear in the left part of interface where it’s written LOCAL SITE –>FILENAME (from down) and at the same time you need to open a location WHERE you want to upload them to the right part of interface where it’s written REMOTE SITE –> FILENAME (also from down).
uploading files using filezilla

My original image and video say to hit CTRL+A (on Windows) to choose all files and drag them to the right. However I found that people who deal with FileZilla for the first time sometimes mess up with this by dragging files to one of the folders within public_html (like cgi bin folder) then they can’t figure out what went wrong. So it is actually better to do CTRL+A then right clck –> UPLOAD. I am not going to remove old image, but I made a new image to demonstrate Upload button for you:

filezilla upload image

Make sure that what you have in the right window is your root directory (public_html) otherwise you will upload your files to a wrong place.

For HTTrack Users
If you used HTTrack to copy your website, you want to make sure you upload only files you need. HTTrack creates some files you don’t have to upload as explained in my HTTrack video here (at about 1:45). What you’ll do is:

  • Click on folder you created when copying your website with HTTrack
  • Inside that folder you’ll find HTTrack’s Project Name (once again, you created that yourself just before copying)
  • Inside that folder (under the your project name) you will find either or
  • You will click on that and there will be all files and folders you need. Once these files appear in the left part of Filezilla’s interface you can hit CTRL+A (for Windows) to choose all and drag it to public_html (if you are using Hostgator or any other host that provides a cPanel).

Upload only what you find inside (or For this you have to navigate to the contents of that folder in the left part of Filezilla’s interface.

Do not simply drag folder that says to the right. If you do this you will create a folder within a folder. It’s super-easy to fix, but if you are not a technical person it’s a needless stress for you. Already messed up with this? No problem, here is the fix!

FileZilla will take care of everything. It might take quite some time to do that but it doesn’t even require your presence. When the uploading process will finish you need to make sure that it says once again “Directory Listing Successful” in the window on the top. After a while Filezilla will disconnect from server automatically.

Provided there was no errors Filezilla’s part is over. If you were uploading you entire site because you are moving from one host to another you can go and preview your site using your website’s IP. If everything looks ok you can change your name servers from your old webhost to the new one. If you will need to use Filezilla for this website in the future to add some other files you won’t need to do this setup because Filezilla will remember it and will connect automatically. If you have more than one site and you need to use Filezilla you need to do individual setup for every site.

How to transfer a website from SBI (Site Build It!) to another host

turtle with briefcase

How to transfer a website from SBI (Site Build It!) to another hostHello and welcome to our “Turtles with Options” club! You now have TWO tutorials to choose from:

  • the tutorial on this page which proved to work hundreds of times. Basically, we are going to easily copy our website and upload it to a new host. The site is transferred in a static form, but if you would like to convert to WordPress, you can easily do that too. This tutorial is particularly good for those who are in rush and need to transfer their SBI! websites quickly before their SBI! subscription expires.
  • Straight from SBI! to WordPress (without using HTTrack and CyberDuck) was written after multiple requests from soon-to-be ex-SBIers, and for most people it’s a better option. Written in the end of 2013, it was successfully used by quite a few SBIers. The tutorial teaches you how to build a WordPress version of your website while your original SBI! website is still hosted by SiteSell and available to your visitors. Once you complete your work and verify that everything looks right you make one switch and your visitors begin to load WordPress version of your website. I used to charge for this tutorial before, but now that SBIers aren’t so many anymore, it’s free. You can find it here.

Back in summer 2012 I moved my website from SBI (or Site Build It! just for search 😉 ) to another host and during my first week away from SBI! I received many emails from other SBIers asking how I did it. I wrote some very lengthy emails with instructions (which I am happy to do by the way) and since demand seems to be very high and free information is not available I decided to post the instructions here.

For your convenience I split the tutorial in bite-sized chunks. Use the buttons below to navigate to whatever you are working on or read it all at once.

We also have forum where you can ask questions. At the moment this tutorial is 100 percent free.

I am not an affiliate
What are you waiting for?
BlockBuilders can move too
Step 1: Copy your website
Step 2: Open a new account
Step 3: Upload your files
Step 4: Check your work
Step 4.1: Emails and subscribers
Step 5: Contact SBI!
Step 6: Switch name servers
Step 7: Do nothing
Important note
Step 8: Transfer your domain

Although I ended my affiliate contracts with all hosts, this tutorial and some other pages on this site might still contain my old affiliate links. I am not getting anything from you using this tutorial. If you want to know what I use for my own sites — it’s A Small Orange.


RANT: What Are You Waiting For?

In December 2013 SBI! released WordPress plugin that contains Brainstormer, cleaned up version of Action Guide, TNT, monetization articles and access to their forum. It is surprising because, as you probably know, SiteSell spent years bashing WordPress, which was quite ridiculous. The plugin costs $149 per year for multiple sites and has a free trial for 14 days. I will tell you more: the way plugin works right now is “plugin-like” at all and can be used even for non-WordPress site(s). I will not elaborate on what I think about this plugin but seriously what are you waiting for? I can’t come up with one even half-convincing reason to continue paying $300 per year for one site on a clunky proprietary system.

Let’s say you have three SBI sites and are paying 900 per year. How do you justify spending this amount when you can pay $149 for all three sites + any potential sites you want to built using same keyword research tool and a much better site building tool? That is $751 difference.

There is an argument that you still have to pay for web hosting. It is true. But most SBIers don’t need more than shared hosting, which can cost anywhere from 4-9 dollars per month for multiple sites. I have seen a post in SBI forums saying that shared hosting is painful and slow. IT IS NOT TRUE. I don’t have space to debunk these myths here but, trust me, it’s not true. This site runs on shared hosting. Was it too slow for you? I got so annoyed by this blatant misinformation that I took a speed test for this particular page. Despite being a WordPress site, it is faster than 86 percent of all tested websites and loads in 1.18 seconds from New York:

speed test

It’s even faster than the static site of poster who made that claim.

If you have a huge number of visitors, like consistent 5,000 unique visitors per DAY or more + you want to use WordPress then yes, it won’t be cheaper than SBI. You will probably need a VPS which can cost anywhere from $30 to $80 per month and requires some learning (although there are always managing solutions for extra price).

SBI hosting is not faster than any other shared hosting. Static websites, like SBI provides, are fast everywhere. And if you want to use WordPress, there is a simple trick to optimize it so it will run as fast as this website.

If you are attached to SBI! tools or forums, you can open a bizXpress account. While I it’s not something I would personally do, I realize that some people may want this. After all, I’ve seen some of the most loyal SBI! fans come here and, unable to deny obvious benefits, transfer their sites using the tutorials on this site. Even if you do choose to pay for bizXPress, it’s still only half the price and it doesn’t increase if you add more websites.

Having said that, if forums and community is the only reason why you miss SBI!, I am sure you could do much better. Let’s face it: SBI! forums aren’t that good in helping you build a business. Many successful online entrepreneurs run their own communities (usually paid). I am not a member of any of these communities and can’t give any recommendations but you can do your own research and, hopefully, find a community that is more business-oriented than keyword-oriented.

Finally, stop thinking of WordPress as something that can’t be good because it’s free. WordPress is not just free. It is open source. That is a huge difference. People use open source because they want freedom and flexibility, not because they want to save money. This is the reason why many geeks use Ubuntu instead of Windows or Mac OS — they want to be free.

It’s not about not making money and not “being able to pay $300 per year”; it’s about freedom, comfort, flexibility and not being wasteful. If you had a billion dollars, would you set a one dollar bill on fire just for the heck of it? I wouldn’t either. It’s not about money.

Let’s get back to the tutorial!


It is not difficult to move your website from SBI. It’s a straightforward process, but you have to be very attentive to many little details. Please follow the instructions carefully. These instructions are accurate, proven to work literally hundreds of times over the past three years (no exaggeration).

The process boils down to:

  • copying your entire website using a free tool like Httrack;
  • uploading your entire website with all its folders with another free tool (Filezilla CyberDuck) to your new webhost – a matter of pushing one button really;
  • switching your nameservers from SBI! to your new webhost (not more than 10 seconds);
  • when everything is done and settled, you’ll have to register your domain with another registrar (tutorial on domain transfer is available here)
  • you might also want to convert your website to WordPress (optional, 3-part text and video tutorial here »)

All details are below + some useful links. If you do it exactly the way I described, there will be no downtime whatsoever.

It works, it’s safe, you won’t lose your traffic. THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY OR STRESS ABOUT. Trust me.

People who know tools or went through this process at least once before can get their sites transferred in under 30 minutes. Most of you reading this don’t know the tools we are going to use so it might take a couple of hours for you. It’s okay to split the work over a few days to a week if necessary.

My tutorial may seem overwhelming but it is actually easy. Just trust the process, hundreds of SBIers (some of them admitted to be technically challenged) went through this process before you and were successful. There is no reason why you can’t do it.

BlockBuilders can move too

Some people think they can’t move because they are using SBI’s BlockBuilder. They assume they either have to copy-paste their entire sites to WordPress (although this can be a good idea for many) or transfer their sites to their own HTML first and only then move to another host. I thought so too, but recently Ken Evoy said you actually can take SBI’s template with you. His post is available in SBI forums here. So apparently there is no problem in taking your SBI template with you, and the process of transfer will be exactly same like with your own HTML. Once you move, your block-built website will look just like it did with SBI! but, of course, there will be no SiteCentral and building blocks backend (or whatever they have now in BB2). Your site will be in plain HTML now and you will need a basic knowledge of HTML to edit your old pages. You will have two choices now –

  • learn some HTML to be able to add new pages or
  • convert your entire website contents to WordPress which needs some work but is worth it. Again, you don’t have to do it all at the same time. You can take a break after the initial transfer and take as much time as you need to convert to WordPress one page at a time. You will find a link to instructions on how to do this at the end of this tutorial.

I would recommend the last.

The Process

Hold my hand if you’re feeling scared; we’re flying up, up, outta here…
– Far East Movement – Rocketeer

STEP 1. Copying website.
Time: 5 to 20 minutes (depends on size)

A little tip before you run Httrack:
Some things like SBI’s FaceIt!, ezine subscription form, C2 forms and RSS buttons work only in SBI. Of course you can have it all (and much better) when you’ll move but you will need to use other tools. The tools SBI gives you work only in SBI. So it’s a good idea to remove RSS, ezine forms and Powered by Site Build It! in the footer before you run Httrack. These things will not work on your new host and it will be time consuming to go through your entire site to remove them. My suggestion is to remove them before you copy your site with Httrack.

Download Httrack software from here When ready, start HTTrack and copy your website following these instructions (pay attention to settings).


Please pay attention: Absolute URL / Absolute URL setting is very important.





If you got too many errors, it is likely because of connectivity problems at SBI! or your Internet connection. In this case it’s easier to run HTTrack another time (with another project name) than fix anything manually.

HTTrack downloads so many files you don’t need. This happens because it follows all your links, including social media and ads. The screenshots below will show you how to find files that you need to upload (folder “MyTransferProject” sits on my Desktop because that’s how I set up Httrack settings in the beginning of our project. Similarly, “MyTransfer” in my example below is the project name I chose. You should see folders with names YOU chose when setting up Httrack project, and they should be in location you picked for them):


The only folder you need is buried deep inside and has your site’s name on it. You should upload only contents of this folder and not the folder itself. You know you found the right folder when you open it and see something like this:

There is a few files you might want to pull manually. Here they are:

  • robots.txt
  • RSS feed xml file
  • sitemap’s xml file

Can you skip this this manual file pulling part? In my opinion, if you don’t have thousands of RSS subscribers (you don’t because you are not a blogger), you totally can skip this; especially if you are planning to convert to WordPress soon anyway. WordPress will add its own robots.txt and RSS feed. I would still take my sitemap; although even this is not critical.

In case you want to get these files, here is how it’s done:

  • your robots.txt file is found at Just open it, copy everything and save on your computer as robots.txt
  • for your RSS .xml file: you have it only if you had SBI!’s blog function activated. Go to your “Blog” page, right click and view page source. In the first few lines of code you will see something like this:
    link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS" href="

    Copy the URL part. In our example you would copy:


    Paste it in your browser and hit enter. You will see “something” but don’t worry about it. ONCE AGAIN, do right click and view page source. You should see a page full of code. It starts like this:

    ?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?
    rss version="2.0" xmlns:atom=""
    atom:link href="" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" /
    .... the code continues

    COPY THAT AND SAVE IT UNDER EXACTLY SAME FILE NAME. In our example it is knitting-hats.xml

    Set aside.

  • your sitemap’s .xml file: in old SBI! it was individual for every site and you can find its location in the first line of your robots.txt file. Typically it was something like 

    Open your robots.txt and find your sitemap’s address. Once again, make right click, view page source and copy that and save under exactly same name which in our example is “ABCdefgRRT234.xml”

So you basically should have three files: robots.txt, ABCdefgRRT234.xml (example) and knitting-hats.xml saved on your computer. You will have to upload these files with all your files to the main directory of your website. The easiest way to do that is to add them to HTTrack copy of your website which should be already saved on your computer. Open folders created by HTTrack, navigate to where you see ALL your pages and drop these three files there.

STEP 2. Opening a new account.
Time: 10 minutes

When I moved my SBI! site, I chose Hostgator as my host of choice. I’ve been already using them for a couple of years before that and was more than happy. In 2015 Hostgator still goes strong and I noticed that many soon-to-be SBIers prefer Hostgator over many other hosts.

One of the biggest advantages of Hostgator is its flexible billing structure where you can pay monthly, yearly or even once per three years. Paying for a long period in advance allows for good savings while choosing a monthly plan combined with my 1 cent promo code (described below) allows you to host your site for only 1 cent for the first month.

Many SBIers find it easy to sign up for just one month with this promo code, do the transfer and see how things go. If they feel good about everything, they proceed by cancelling their SBI! account and continue Hostgator’s payments. This basically makes it risk-free; besides 1 cent of course 🙂

If this isn’t enough to convince you to give it a go, Hostgator also gives 45-day money back guarantee. I don’t know if someone ever tried to get a refund for 1 cent but if you pay more than that, you definitely will be able to get a full refund within 45 days.

So coupon or no coupon, the deal is risk-free. If you don’t like it or if you find the tutorial too complicated, just cancel your Hostgator account and get your money back.

Buying web hosting and setting up your account for the first time may be a little confusing so I will walk you through the process very quickly.

Go to their homepage; you will see something like this:

Click on “Get Started Now” and you will end up here:


If you only have only one site, go with Hatchling plan.

If you have two or more websites to transfer, go with Baby plan. Once you are paying for Baby plan, you can add as many domains as you want for existing or new sites, and your hosting fees will not increase.

If you have only one website and you are not sure whether or not you will one day want to add another website, go with Hatchling — you will be always able to upgrade later.

For the sake of example, I am going to go with Hatchling account. On the next page we will set up your account and enter your billing information.

Make absolutely sure that you choose “I already own this domain” and then enter your SBI! domain WITHOUT WWW.


Hostgator will try to sell you other extensions of same domain name — you don’t have to buy these domains unless you want to.

Now choose your billing plan. For the sake of example and also to demonstrate one of the most popular choice between SBIers I am choosing monthly payments and I will use a coupon later. You may want to consider other billing options if you like.

As you see, this plan when paid monthly costs $8.95 per month but we are going to make it drop to 1 cent for the first month. (Any coupons they give you are valid only for first payment.)

In step 4 (“Add Additional Services”) some services are checked by default. If you don’t want these services, you can uncheck them.

Finally, in Step 5 I replace the default promo code with webmasterdiary promo code and validate it. The price drops to $0.01 for the first month.

If you chose to pay for a longer period of time, you can use my 25% percent off promo code which is also better than their default 20% for Hatchling. To get 25% off enter webmasterdiary25off.

Once again, any coupons — their default coupons or my coupons — are only valid for the first payment. So if you got 20% or 25% on your first payment, your second payment will not have this discount. They do this to offer you something nice but also encourage you to sign up for longer billing cycles so you will be “committing” to Hostgator. The decision is up to you.

Check out and we will continue in a moment!

As soon as you complete the payment, you must receive an email from Hostgator with title “New Account Info”. Sometimes they take a little time to verify your payment but usually it doesn’t take too long.

Once you receive this email, open it, and you will see something like this:


Keep this information handy as we will use it to log in and upload and preview our website.

Step 3: Uploading your site to new webhost.
Time: 5-20 minutes

DO NOT download Filezilla. It was a great tool for many years, but it seems its developer has a major personality change, and now Filezilla download comes with malware!!! Please use CyberDuck instead — it’s almost as good, is free and has no malware. I don’t have screenshots for CyberDuck yet, but I posted quick instructions in comments here. The idea is same; you will need the same information to connect with CyberDuck — it only looks a little different. I will leave the tutorial as is for now, but I strongly suggest that you chose CyberDuck over FileZilla unless you know how to deal with malware (I had to use three different anti-virus and malware programs to clean up my computer after my last FileZilla install).
Download CyberDuck

Download Filezilla (free). You can do that here.

We are going to connect to our cPanel using this amazing tool and upload our entire site with just one click. The only thing you need to be careful about is to upload the right files to the right place. Let’s connect first. Start Filezilla and find File –> Site Manager like this:


Now let’s set up a new project. For the sake of example I called my project “AAA TEST” and filled the settings in the empty fields.


In host field you can just enter your first name server name. In my case it was; in your case this might slightly differ so please consult your “New Account Info” email for name servers.

Logon type: switch to NORMAL
Username: your username at Hostgator
Password: your password at Hostgator

(if you don’t like your password at Hostgator, there is an option to change it but I am not going to discuss it now so that my tutorial doesn’t become overly bloated).

Click “Connect”. Sometimes Filezilla may flash a warning message that says “The server’s certificate is unknown… Blah blah blah…” Don’t worry about it; just click OK in the warning window to ignore the message and Filezilla will proceed to connect. If things go well, you should see this:

Using links in the left side of your screen navigate to the folder that contains your site’s files. Your files should look approximately like this:

You should be seeing things like “image-files”, “support-files”, “images”, and all your pages’ file names. If you don’t see that, you are in a wrong folder. If you see that, good! Now that we got the right files, let’s navigate to the right place where we are going to upload all this.

In the right side of the interface scroll down till you see pubic_html folder and click to enter. Once you make sure you are inside your public_html directory, go back to the left side of the screen that has your site files in it and hit CTRL+A to choose them all. Now right click and choose “UPLOAD” like this:

Filezilla will take care of itself and you can just relax because it can take a while. Wait until the process is over. Make sure Filezilla doesn’t show any errors and, if everything is OK, you can proceed to Step 4.

Step 4. Check your work.
Time: up to you, but not much.

Once Filezilla is done, you can add your username to your preview URL and see your site! Your preview URL consists of IP address (found in your “New Account Info” email), ~ sign and your username at Hostgator like so:


for example


Of course, you should modify this according to your technical data. Modify it and enter that in your browser. Can you see your website yet? It should look exactly like your SBI! website at this point. You can check other pages by adding their file name to the end of this URL, like this


This is the only way to see other pages right now because if you actually click through the links, you will end up on your live SBI! website. Now… you don’t really have to check EVERY page, in my opinion anyway 😉 If you were careful when checking HTTrack errors and if Filezilla didn’t give you any errors, all your pages should be there. If the site looks fine and a few random pages you choose to check look good as well, it’s safe to assume everything else is fine too.

Believe it or not, we are about to finish!

It’s a good idea to set up your email address at this point to minimize the risk of lost emails. Let’s move on to the next step 🙂

Step 4.1: What to do with emails and subscribers.
SBIers aren’t typically using emails at their because it’s very unreliable in SBI! Guess what? You can have that now and it really works! And if you actually used your webmail in SBI and are receiving emails there then it’s important to create that here too. It is very simple. Go your cPanel (see the control panel URL in your “New Hosting Account Info” email), login with your name and password and find Email Accounts:

Click on that and fill the form you will see to create email address at your

When your site will be fully transferred, you will be able to find your emails at

where you will have to sign in with your email address and password you specifically created for email. There are other great options like redirecting all incoming emails to your Gmail, Yahoo or whatever you are using the most (very handy if you have many sites, so you don’t have to check 10 emails every day), but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

Also if you had eZine subscribers in SBI! you should download them from SiteCentral. For email newsletters, however, you will need to use either MailChimp (free under 2000 subscribers) or other paid services. WordPress has some free solutions which I never explored. I heard most of it will end up in Spam folder, just like it was the case with SBI anyway. MailChimp or something paid is the way to go.

For Contact Us forms:

  • WordPress users will be guided in my free static to WordPress tutorial;
  • static people can set their forms as described here.

Having a blank Contact Us page with “Contact me at me (at)” is always a good idea until you have time and energy to build a proper form.

Please note that this will transfer email address but NOT your old email messages, drafts, replies or contacts. There is no way to transfer that and if you have something critical there, you should print that or back it up in some other way. If your old contacts will be sending you emails on very same address, you will receive that. You don’t need to notify them about anything unless you decided to change your address.

Step 5: Contact SBI to unlock domain.
Time: depends on SBI!

Time to contact SBI! Before we do that, make sure that your domain privacy settings are set to public. If your WhoIs information is currently private, you need to make it public before you contact SBI! Here is how to do that.

I wrote this email sample so that you don’t need to spend much time thinking what to say. Feel free to use it; just make sure to include all required information.


I am the owner of and would like to switch my name servers to another host. Kindly unlock my domain.

My SBI! order number is …………
Last 4 digits of my credit card are ……….
My IP address is ……….

Please do not cancel my account until I tell you. I only want to switch name servers for now.

Kind regards,


* Your IP address as it appears here.
** Use email address that appears in WhoIs record to send this email otherwise they will not unlock it.

Step 6. Switch name servers.
Time: 20 seconds

SBI will verify you are the real owner of the site and unlock your domain. You will then have to go to a special page in your SBI account manager where you can change your SBI name servers to your new host’s name servers (it’s located here

You should sign in with username and password SBI! sent you when you first opened an account with them. It’s different from your regular password you use to sign in to SBI! To find it, search your emails for an email with title “SITE BUILD IT! MAIL”).

Now all you have to do is to change and to your new host’s name servers which you found in “New Account Info” email, for example:

Please make sure to use YOUR name servers found in Hostgator’s email and not my example. Also make sure not to make a typo here.

Step 7. Do NOTHING
Time 24-72 hours

It might take you as little as 30 minutes to begin loading from your new host. However it will be different for different places around the world so just keep it that way 48 hours to make sure the transition is complete. You don’t have to do anything special during this period. Of course, if you want to add new pages or edit your old pages, you should do that from your new host’s backend.

When I was transferring my site, my SBI’s homepage was absolutely identical to my homepage on my new host, except that my homepage hosted by SBI was saying “Recent Articles” and my homepage uploaded to the new host was edited to “Latest Articles”. This way I knew that if I refresh my homepage and see “Latest Articles”, everything is working correctly. This of course doesn’t mean everyone is seeing the same thing, but you can do this little trick just to reassure yourself that everything works. It might even switch back to old host’s version and then back to new host’s version several times. In all cases wait for up to 48 hours to be safe.

Step 8. Transfer your domain.
Time: a few minutes (excluding waiting period)

After about 48 hours the transition will be complete. This means your site is fully hosted by your new host and you can move the domain name itself. Here is a detailed tutorial on how to transfer your domain management to another registrar ». DON’T FORGET TO DO THIS. IT’S NOT OPTIONAL!!!

After you moved both – your website and your domain — you can safely cancel your SBI! account. In fact, you should make sure you canceled it  because SBI will charge you automatically for another year if you don’t do this on time. You will have access to all SBI tools and forum as long as your account isn’t expired or canceled. SBI email makes you think that once you change name servers you will lose access to Site Central, but that’s not what happens in my experience. They might fix it later, so no guarantees.

As you see it is totally doable. There is no reason to be

frightened turtle inside the shell cartoon

Sorry couldn’t resist! After all you are a strong self-reliant turtle in this big amazing world wide web, a turtle with options, I would say 😉

This is more than enough for successful transfer but I still have two tutorials you might want to check out:

1- One huge  problem is that SBI adds tracking code to all your outgoing links so all your affiliate links or links to other websites will be broken and you will have to fix them manually. You will have  to go through your entire website and remove this piece of code

onClick="window.location.href=''; return false;"

This was a good idea while you were with SBI but once you leave you won’t be very thankful for this 😉

2 – It is very important to preserve your URL structure. In SBI your website had www. prefix before it and you should make sure you keep it after you transfer your website from SBI to another host. It is simple to do, but for some reason I saw many people neglect this as if it were a minor detail. In fact, it is an important detail. Technically your URL with www. and without www. are different URLs!  Once you transfer you files to another host, find your .htaccess file (usually it is in hidden files) If you can’t find it ask support to point it for you. Open your .htaccess file and paste this there (if you are doing WordPress, you don’t have to do this. You will set this from your WordPress dashboard instead):

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

Obviously replace with your website’s address.

That’s all. Hope this helps someone. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in my help forum.

Last updated: May 1, 2015