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Lessons from migrating from Blogger to WordPress

Though a relatively late bloomer to the blogging community, there are several reasons why I blog, one thing that stands out for me in hindsight is how important a decision it is to choose a blogging platform.  For this blog, my personal blog, this blog, I’ve used Blogger since my first post in 2009 but in the past couple weeks I’ve made the leap to WordPress.

Blogger is easy.  It’s simple.  It’ll allow you sound control over your blog’s style, theme and personality.   However, because it’s simple, it misses many of the new innovations a more professional platform offers.

Google simply hasn’t devoted the resources to keep Blogger current since it acquired the company in 2003.  For example, you cannot write custom URLs for your blog posts in Blogger.  It’s a simple feature, incredibly important for SEO, yet it hasn’t been rolled out.

I’ve considered migrating to WordPress for a long time and as I tip-toed to the edge, Google would announced new features that made me think they were turning it around. That made me pause.

Migrating is a lot of work and it’s scary because I’ve invested so much time and effort into this little humble blog.  There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing the results of all the hard work  Certainly, I didn’t want to lose any of my work in the course of migration.  But with cool new tools coming out regularly, Google just wasn’t keeping up, I decided to move.

I’m technical enough that with no time limits, I could have probably have stumbled my way through the migration on my own.   However, it would be a whole lot easier with some help from someone that has done it before.

So when Adam Singer, who has developed The Future Buzz into a must-read blog, provided a sneak preview of his new blog template, I took note of who he was using as a hired hand.  Since I’ve been away for the last year, blogging infrequently, I decided I’d take the plunge, and hit up ProBlogDesign for the project.  I’ve been very happy with their work.

It’s been an enlightening experience and I’ve realized how naive I’ve been about some of the nuances of the technology behind blogging.  Here are a few of the things I learned along the way:

  • Domain Registration.  A few years back, I opted to get my own domain name, the one you see now, and eliminated the blogspot from the URL (i.e. www.swordandthescript.blogspot.com). When this happened, Google uses a third party, eNom, to register the domain, but the process is completely transparent to the user.  I didn’t discover eNom until moving the site to WordPress.  This point and the one below may seem obvious, but remember, sites like Blogger do all of this for the user behind the scenes.  I guess we all are aware you’ll have to do this, but the gravity of these actions set in when you have to make a decision — and especially when it’s your own work.
  • Web hosting.  You’ll have to get a hosting company.  Google, or perhaps some other transparent third-party hosts Blogger’s blogs (I’m not even sure who that is), but I went through several vendors before finding one that would work.  First I tried DreamHost and Bluehost, (based on recommendations from people I trust on social media) but both companies didn’t like the fact I was overseas at the time (think IP address) and wanted me to jump through hoops to verify my identity.  Dreamhost actually asked me for a fax (yes, a fax) to verify my identity and I found their customer support abrasive.  Eventually, I opted for MediaTemple which costs about $20 per month.  They were very helpful and quick.  MediaTemple will both register the domain name (or renew) and host the site.
  • Migration won’t be perfect.  Even though I had a professional working on it, the migration wasn’t perfect.  This should be an expectation.  It’s going to happen. There were several issues to work through and I’m still working on some of them.  First, the permalinks from Blogger are not permanent.  WordPress categorizes blog posts differently – by month and date – so I’ve got a ton of broken links both internal – and worse external.  I’m going through now and fixing a few links a day; it’s going to be a lot of work. The only way to get the link juice back from external links is to hunt down each site and ask for a fix; I probably won’t do them all, but I might hit a few sites and ask politely.
  • Social counts plunge.  It’s popular to say Retweets and Likes don’t matter, but deep down inside, every blogger loves to see them. After all, social shares means someone thought enough of your writing to share it. You’ll lose the counts when you migrate; I’ve lost them twice: first when I secured my own domain and then again when I migrated to WordPress.  My most popular post of all time – Seven Creative PR ideas – once had nearly 1,000 Retweets and the visibility that post received was one of the reasons I opted to start investing some of my hard earned money into the site.  The good news is that post has shelf-life and continues to rank well in search and draws by far the most visitors to my blog than any other single post.  Even with the new URL under WordPress, it ranks high in search and attracts new viewers on a daily basis.  Talk about a long tail.
  • Chance for fantastic features.   WordPress has a ton of plugins and social tools you can add to your blog that Blogger simply doesn’t offer.  One huge change I’ve made is adding Livefyre as a commenting system.  Initially, I was of the mindset to go with Disqus, even after reading Danny Brown’s review a while back, but after being involved in a rather heated comment debate on SpinSucks, I really liked the way Livefyre worked.  It’s simple.  It’s elegant.  It has spam controls.   One little added benefit, is that when you use Livefyre to comment on other posts, it’s shows your last conversation.  That’s a really nice touch; a non-promotional way to show people in that discussion where else you’ve been active. Currently, I’m considering adding JugnooMe’s beta analytics to the site; I’ve signed up but haven’t taken the plunge yet.
  • You’ll be more limited.  When using the Blogger platform, I had the complete flexibility to go in and change anything I wanted.  For example, I could add new widgets easily, experiment with AdSense (or kill it) at will.  I cannot do that now, I’m dependent on the ProBlogDesign team for just about everything beyond little tweaks.  Still the more professional look and feel makes the cost-benefit analysis pretty easy.  I’ll probably hit them up in the future for projects and refresh.

There are a lot of benefits to blogging and one of the most important to a marketing or PR professional is the technical things you’ll learn along the way.  Trial and error can teach us a lot.  You don’t have to become an expert, but a little understanding of the how and why things work will go a long way to help you succeed.  Overall, I’d give the outcome, the result you see here,  an 8.5 on a 10 point scale of happiness and I’m a tough grader.

If you are thinking about blogging, or updating your blog, there are two resources you should get in the habit of reading:  Copyblogger and ProBlogger.  Both sites were founded and continue to be managed by people that have become highly successful – they make a living from blogging.

Finally, if you’re pro and have a tip for me, or how I can improve this blog, please do share it in the new Livefyre comment system below!

Photo credit:  Blogger To WordPress – The Lonely Lost Week

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