This is the story of how and why I migrated from Blogger to WordPress.
I joined up with Blogger back in January 2013 when I started blogging. I’d played with Blogger several times in the past, with short-lived personal journal type blogs so I was familiar with the basic setup and was very impressed with the fact that it was free and pretty intuitive to use.
Blogger served me well for the last year as I found my voice and style and I customized my website, bought hosting through GoDaddy to lose the .blogspot.com out of my URL and started getting a great audience and a few new friends in the bargain. But clouds were on the horizon because Blogger has some very restrictive terms of service which I had unintentionally become out of compliance with. Specifically, I have an ambassadorship with Bondibands which violated the TOS. I started hearing rumbles from other bloggers about blogs being “taken” by Blogger for similar (but on a larger scale) violations. I’ve put countless hours into this project and just the possibility of it being taken away was too much for me to bear in the long term. I also had heard good things about the flexibility of the self-hosted WordPress platform.
Once I decided to make the move, I started asking around and doing some web research to see what my options were. WordPress has two basic functions, .com and .org. WordPress.com is similar to Blogger in that you are hosted by WordPress and subject to their limitations. WordPress.com holds your hand a bit more, handles the hosting, security and updates. It is also free. And it has terms of service and limitations on the themes and plug-ins you can use.
I decided that I didn’t want to transfer my site twice and wanted maximum flexibility and minimum rules (can you tell I live in a neighborhood without a homeowner’s association?), so I went ahead and made the big move to WordPress.org. WordPress.org provides a framework for building a website (it can be broader than a blog) but doesn’t host your site. You have to contract with an outside vendor to host the site, I went with BlueHost after some research and have been happy with the conversion so far. I had some bizarre login issue at first and got instant online help that resolved the issue quickly. I’m paying a little less than $4 per month for the hosting and a bit extra per year to keep my information from being displayed (like my address and phone number) and a bit extra per year for backups. It’s fairly affordable and I was able to keep my own website URL.
- Chose a company to self host my new WordPress.org site and purchased my URL (I was able to purchase the same one I was using at Blogger through GoDaddy but it wasn’t turned on/transferred immediately).
- I went through BlueHost to set up my WordPress.org site using their MOJO Marketplace.
- I used my same URL, but initially set it up using the temporary URL option. So instead of using http://runthegreatwidesomewhere.com, I was using something like http://67.123456789/runthgre~. It let me play around and experiment within WordPress.org while my regular blog was humming along. It is also the decision that made things complicated later. This is only necessary if you’re going to use your same URL and want your old Blogger site to keep going while you are developing your new one.
- Using the temporary URL, I first selected a theme. You could spend weeks doing this if you’re not very decisive and want to see all your options. You can spend between zero and around $100 buying a theme. WordPress.org has a lot of free themes, and luckily I was able to find one that met my needs (for now at least). I downloaded and previewed several free themes before settling on this one. You can also buy themes from a third party and the Genesis framework has some great reviews, I was just too cheap to invest in it (hope I don’t regret that decision later!).
- I first changed the header image and text to make sure it was customizable (it was!).
- I then installed some plug-ins. So far, I’ve been blown away by the variety and quality of the plug-ins for WordPress. Again, I think you could spend weeks exploring them all, but I knew I wanted just a few basic ones to start with like social media buttons, SEO and Aksimet for spam prevention.
- I activated and set the settings on my plug-ins.
- I then played with the widgets which are very similar to the Blogger versions to set up some HTML boxes, search fields and text boxes.
- After feeling like my site was 80% done, I transferred my posts, comments, images and links from my Blogger site to my WordPress site using an import plugin. This worked very well, I only had to reset and restart once during the process.
- OK, everything looked good, I was ready to switch from the temporary URL to the permanent URL.
- First, I had to transfer the hosting of my URL from GoDaddy through GoogleApps to BlueHost. This was a huge pain in the rear. You have to go into your new hosting website (BlueHost for me) and input some keys and passcodes that you get from your old hosting website. Because I didn’t buy directly from GoDaddy, but through GoogleApps, I had to spend about two hours figuring out how to create a GoogleApps admin account (different from my Google+ account) to give GoDaddy the authorization to give me the codes.
- I had to go into GoDaddy to unlock my account and to take off the privacy setting (which required me to sign into yet another vendor’s site). Then I went to BlueHost and entered the transfer codes and then I had to go into the GoDaddy site to click authorize. If you don’t do the authorize step, the site will eventually transfer but it could take a couple of days up to a week.
- Then I went into WordPress and redirected my site from the temp URL to the new URL. And here is where things went terribly wrong. Suddenly I couldn’t sign into my WordPress admin account at all. When I tried to get there manually, I got a 404 error on my old Blogger site. And my old Blogger site still seemed to be up at my URL which supposedly had transferred. Ack!
- It was around 8pm. I’m not Amazon.com (no one is going to scream if my site goes down for a day or two), I could have just gone to bed and seen if it was a timing issue. But that’s not my way. I’m a tinkerer. So I started tinkering and ended up uninstalling my WordPress application and reinstalling it. With the reinstallation, everything from the last one was gone. Template, plugins, widgets, customization and my entire blog’s import. Oh no, did I just lose my entire blog history?
- The first thing I did was reinstall my chosen template and then I reimported my blog. Luckily it was still there and imported everything with no problem. Whew! I then spent the next four hours customizing my template (again), installing plugins (again) and messing with the widgets (again).
- The next day I played with the background and finished the plugin and widget installation.
- I published my first post on WordPress!
- I noticed my traffic was down considerably. And then realized that while the links within my posts were working, old links from other sites like Pinterest were not.
- I’m not sure if this is where I made my biggest mistake or not, but the naming convention for my posts was different when imported to WordPress. So while one post might be http://runthegreatwidesomewhere.com/2013/09/allons-y.html in Blogger it came over as http://runthegreatwidesomewhere.com/2013/09/27/allons-y/ in WordPress. WordPress was smart enough to update those links within each of my imported posts, but external links to my posts would now get a 404 error.
- So, I installed the Redirection plugin which gave me a log of my 404 errors, so I could see what URLs people were trying to link to and then I could set up a permanent 301 redirection (do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? Well I am no expert, this was all learned in the last 24 hours!) to the new URL from the old URL. This is complicated by the fact that when accessing the site from a mobile device, the old URL may have an extension on it like ?/m=0, so I had to do multiple redirects for each 404 error.
- One additional Redirection complication is that my really old posts that were done on .blogspot.com before I bought my domain had some links that Blogger would automatically redirect to the blogger URL without the .blogspot.com in the URL, but it must have confused the WordPress importer because those links were not updated to the new URLs in WordPress. I had to manually update the links within my 2013 Princess Half posts because those were all wrong and were not redirecting properly due to the .blogspot.com links. I’m sure I have some others back there, but I that’s a project for another day.
- I also installed the WordPress SEO plugin which allows me to set up focus keywords and meta descriptions for each post, but doesn’t do it retroactively. So I’m also manually going in and setting up the SEOs for my older posts.
- The WordPress theme I’m using has a featured image which I love, but on the converted posts, it just took the first image in the post which often isn’t the one I’d want to feature. So, I’m slowly going through my old posts manually to update those as well.
- Even though my base URL didn’t change, somehow my bloglovin’ followers got left behind at the blogger site. I contacted bloglovin’ support and they said they were able to transfer my followers to my new blog, hopefully some of you are reading this from your bloglovin’ feed (awesome customer service and quick response from bloglovin’ by the way!). The FAQ says they can even do it if you change URLs.
Overall, the fact that I was able to fully transfer my blog in less than 24 hours is a success. I’m sure I did some things completely wrong and went the long way on some things that should have been much easier, but I ended up where I wanted to be, transferred to WordPress without losing my old posts, comments and images.
Here’s what I would have done differently (maybe):
- I’m not sure it’s possible, but I suspect there is a way to do the conversion so all these manual redirects I’m slogging through wouldn’t be necessary. I probably should have researched that a bit more before making the conversion. Especially with over 200 posts to convert.
- I probably could have spent some more time choosing a template, including seriously evaluating the non-free options out there. I suspect template changes are not particularly easy.
- I should have explored whether to move my blogger site back to .blogspot.com first and then whether to maintain my old site there as well. I’m not sure I would have done it, but migrating back to .blogspot.com probably would have at least given me the option. Right now, it’s completely gone off of blogger and I probably risked losing the ability to import my old posts (although I’m not sure about that).
- I should have been patient with the URL transfer process and switch from the temp to permanent URL. I think I ended up having to reinvent the wheel for no reason.
- Actually, considering I’m not Amazon.com, I could have just transferred the URL hosting first, let my blog be down for a couple of days and then developed the new site “live” in production. Probably a lot less risk for transition errors that way. If I hadn’t loved my URL name, it would have been a good time to move to a new one.
- Had a little more patience. I’m bad about this. Once I really decided that I was migrating for sure I just wanted to get it done and stop having to worry about it. So I didn’t do as much research or planning as I should have for such a major project. Meh, it seems to have worked out ok. I could have spent months to do an optimized cutover but that’s not how I operate! I’m a jump in the deep end kind of girl, I detest easing into the water.
Have you done a similar conversion or have one in the works? Tips on how to make this go smoother (especially the redirects!)? Any comments on how the new site looks, feels and functions? I’m open to all constructive criticism, this is going to be a work in progress for a while!