Deciding To Move From Blogger To WordPress
Like many other bloggers, I was not sure how to get started or if I was really going to make the commitment to keep blogging. While I have a techy background, it had been a long time since I have had to do any coding or hands on technical work, so I looked for the easiest path. After a bit of research I decided to start with a Google Blogger blog. A site was easily created off of my Gmail email login and with a free template installed, it seemed to work for what I was doing.
For a year I travelled and blogged, creating 120 blogs on the Blogger platform. While I liked the dynamic template I had chosen and it showed off our travel photos well, I was looking to create a much more professional looking site. And I had proven to myself that this was something I would keep doing for awhile. So it was time to do a major refresh to the site.
After doing a lot of online research to get advice on blogging platforms, I decided it was time to move to WordPress (WP). I was just not sure of the work and time commitment needed to move to a new platform. So I waffled while I spent a few weeks in Bahamas and wrote a few more blogs. When I found out that I needed to travel to be in Vancouver for a few months, I figured that would be my window to move the blog.
I have now completed moving my blog to this new home. While it was not a hard job, it was a long and tedious job to ensure it was all moved and was cleaned up. Part of the work I did was to clean up the posts and work on improving SEO (search engine optimization), so it was work I would have needed to do in any case. Some of the work was needed to fix pictures and watermarking for the first half of the blogs I had written without regard for “branding”. While the tools to help you move your blog and set it up once it is moved to a WP platform proved to be great, it does take time both to research “how to” and then to do the needed cleanup once you are done.
Steps To Move From Blogger To WordPress
Writing down my own “how to” steps, I have tried to explain my choices but my considerations may not be yours. Good luck!
1) WordPress Hosting – Self host or not?
One of the things I hated about my Blogger site was the URL that started with “Blogspot”. My branding got buried far at the end of a very long URL. So for me, the first step was to get my own domain name.
Tied to that decision was a need to assess whether to self host your WP site or host on the official WP site. Given how cheap the cost of hosting has become, I thought I wanted to self host. This could give me a little more control.
In the end I chose to get a domain and a hosted WP site from GoDaddy. I found a good sale and committed for a 3 year deal for both the domain and WP hosting. While not a fully “self hosted” option (e.g. GoDaddy manages the WP site), it provided me with a solid managed offering (e.g. GoDaddy installs the WP site, does upgrades, backups, etc.).
Since GoDaddy did the raw WP install, the next step for me was to go right into WP site design. If you choose to fully self-host, you will need to install WP onto your site.
2) Pick a WordPress Template
I had been collecting potential WP templates for some time so I started with a shortlisted set to look at. I knew the basic look I wanted so could quickly go through the samples to see if they met my needs.
Do you want same template as you used on your old Blogger site (assuming there is one for both platforms)? Do you want a free or paid template? Free templates offer basic capability and you may not need the capabilities that come with the paid version. You should probably test a template for awhile before committing to paying for it. Picking a template may depend on what comes pre-installed in the template (e.g. plugins, functionality, customization capability).
The more detailed your requirements are, the easier it will be to narrow the selection down and the less templates you will test before finalizing. While you can always change a template later, there will likely be some re-work the later you wait to change.
3) Install Key Plugins – Before Loading Content
The template I picked had a few very basic plugins. Many of them showed up as widget choices when I was designing my page layout. There was some design functionality that was not in the basic template that I went and installed right away (e.g. subscription capability).
I must admit that I started designing before reading too much on the plugins generally recommended for a WP site. Don’t do that! I made the mistake of bringing in my old posts before I had fully configured my new site with all the critical plugins. It meant numerous edits of those 100+ posts each time I got a new plugin. Most particularly, you want plugins that require entries for each post before you load the old posts. That way, if the information is in the imported post then you may have less new data entry.
Two particular examples. I imported posts before I installed my SEO plugin. This meant that post descriptions did not get pre-populated from the import and I had to re-enter the descriptions for each post. Since I was cleaning up the SEO and descriptions, it was less of an issue for me but if you did a great job at SEO on your old Blogger blog, you don’t want to have to re-do that work! The second example was the Geo Tagging. I had to manually assign a location to each post rather than have the location moved over from my old blog.
When deciding on which plugins to install, I did a bit of research on key plugins to find the top types and the the top ones in each class. I was particularly looking for plugins that did not require me to edit the WP template as I was not comfortable with that level of techy work. Overall, installation of plugins was simple. Find the one you want, install it (put the code on your site), activate it (set it so you can use it) and then set the configuration parameters so it works how you want it.
Below you will find a list of plugins that were in place, configured and the corresponding post entries set (e.g. Geo codes) before I finally launched my site.
SEO plugin (Yoast) – Supports setting descriptions, keywords and helps with revising blog content for better SEO. See notes below on editing the posts for some of the editing needed for fully utilizing the broad capabilities of this SEO plugin. As noted above, if you have descriptions already in your Blogger post, installing this plugin before importing will bring over existing descriptions.
Geo Tagging (WP Geo) – Lets you add a location for the post. As a travel blogger, having a visual map with a location for each post is essential but may not be necessary for other types of blogs. As noted above, if you have geo codes already in your Blogger post, installing this plugin before importing will bring over existing geo codes.
Spam Filter (Kismet) – Used to check and catch spam comments.
Robot Filter (Really Simple CAPTCHA) – This was already loaded in my template (or through another widget). This will make the user enter a CAPTCHA string when subscribing to my blog to stop bots from automatically doing this.
Analytics (Google Analytics Dashboard for WP) – This was a critical plugin to have working before launching the new site. I have a detailed spreadsheet I keep of blog traffic. For the period where both sites are active, I will want to add the traffic from both sites in that spreadsheet. I tried a bunch of different options before going to this advanced Google plugin. Most of the analytics plugins require you to actually edit the template and add tracking code. I was not happy trying to figure out how to work with FTP to get the template code, edit it and then publish this new template. I spent some time on the help line with GoDaddy and decided editing the template would be my last option. I was pleased to find that the Google plugin did any template modifications it needed so I didn’t have to touch code. I simply needed to set up my Google Analytics account and add in my new web site. There are a lot of links online that will help you with setting up Google Analytics.
Contact Form (Simple Contact Form 7) – I could never fix my old Blogger template to actually display the “Contact Me” widget even though it was on the template. I wanted to make sure that any followers could email me directly if they wanted to contact me.
Old post importer (Blogger Importer Extended) – I looked at a few plugins to import my old Blogger posts. I wanted to find one that would let me import a selection of blogs rather than them all and couldn’t find one. This would have let me test the result. In the end I installed this one and brought all of the old blogs in at once.
Subscribe (Simple Subscribe) – This was the one thing that I really wanted that my old Blogger template couldn’t seem to get right. I wanted people to be able to get my blog updates automatically.
Social media publishing (Simple Social Buttons) – This was also pre-loaded with my template and I just needed to include my own social media accounts so that people could easily share my blog content.
Blogger to WP Redirector (Blogger 301 Redirect) – After you are sure that all the blogs have been moved and cleaned up, you should redirect traffic from the old Blogger site to the new WP site. I put up a new post on the old site to tell people I had moved my site but when I continued to watch the site traffic on the old site, it was clear that traffic was hitting individual posts without ever seeing this front page redirection notice. I considered editing every old post with a specific re-direct link. But then I found a plugin to cause an automatic redirection. This was the one plugin that I ultimately needed to do techy work on. The plugin generates code that needs to be put into your Blogger template. Luckily it is easy to edit the HTML on Blogger and the plugin help files walk you through the process. I was nervous but it was quick and simple to do. So far I have found a few posts that don’t seem to be going to the exact right page on the new blog, but the blips are minor.
WP Optimizer (TBD) – Moving the blog over from Blogger and updating content, links, titles and other things for SEO and testing created multiple backups. I was not sure how much of my paid GoDaddy capacity I was chewing up but wanted to clean up old versions and make the best use of the capacity I was paying for. A utility like this would help me with optimizing use of the WP site capacity. I am still assessing options.
WP Backup (TBD) – As part of my GoDaddy WP hosting, regular backups are done and there is an easy utility for restoring specific backups (code and data). But even with this, I still want my own periodic copy to keep. The challenge is that most of these include robust backup capacity and scheduling and are paid services. For my intermittent need, I really did not want to pay. I am still assessing options.
4) Write a New Blog On the New Blog Platform
It is probably better to test your settings on a new blog post so you can know what you may need to do with the old blogs that get imported. As noted above, try to have all your plugins loaded before so you don’t keep having to go back and update the new posts. I wrote the new blog post with MacJournal and then had to configure MacJournal to publish to the new WordPress blog. This was a little trickier than it had been to publish to Blogger but after trolling the internet for some time I was able to make the small change in the publishing box to get the connection established. Once set up, publishing the next blog post was simple.
5) Re-Publish Your Old Blog Posts
I debated for days whether I would re-publish my blogs from my blogging software (MacJournal on my Mac) or bulk upload with a plugin utility. I finally decided to bulk upload and see how this worked. My fallback was to delete everything that had been uploaded and then publish one at a time. As noted above, I had not choice to test individual posts but had to import all old posts at once. Blog text and pictures (at the right size) were generally imported with little issues. All comments were brought over as well. Overall, things moved over much better than I had expected. For some weird reason, about a dozen images did not come over properly so I needed to manually add these pictures (mostly pictures I was using in my template as a “featured image” (which shows on the main page).
6) Edit the Blog Posts
There was a bunch of editing I did after the blog posts were imported:
- Enter the description and location if not imported.
- Improve the SEO. Adjust the title and URL to reflect the focus keyword. Review your blog post to see that it reflects the keyword in enough places.
- Ensure that you have Alt Text in your images and that your reference the focus keyword in key images. One interesting thing I found when doing this picture editing step was that this description should be in real language and not just keywords (e.g. “Mary’s Restaurant in Nassau has real pizza oven.jpg” rather than “Marys_Restaurant_Nassau_oven.jpg”). This makes it so much easier to type. Just don’t go overboard in naming your pictures. In my case, I gradually replaced my cryptic Alt Text – but it was another full set of edits to do!
- Make sure you have headings flagged.
- The final big task I took on was to replace all of my pictures in all of my old blog posts. We are quite anal about ensuring that all of our pictures are watermarked with my Twitter account and the blog URL. Unfortunately this meant that all pictures would point back to the old blog. I finally decided that I would leave the old blog up for a while in case people were following pictures and would over time replace the picture watermarking. This was a big job and I did not want to hold up taking the new site live until this work was done. If you can get help to do this in parallel, that would help speed this up.
7) Go Live With The New Blog
Once I had the new site fully operational and edited, I needed to let everyone know. I had new posts that had not yet been promoted. I wanted to send out a “we have moved” promotion to try to get subscribers. And I wanted to re-publish links to some of the content that was relevant at this time of year (in my case, posts for people going to Europe in the fall). I set up a blog schedule and using the Buffer app, set the posts to publish. In doing this, I included new pictures with the right water mark (which started my process of fixing the large picture repository).
As noted above, I decided to leave the old blog live for a short period of time until I could get all the pictures fixed. With the redirection plugin, I was pretty confident that people would get redirected to the new site. I added a new blog post as the front page blog that told people about the new site and provided a hot link.
8) Keep Writing
Now that the new blog site is active, you can keep adding new posts and optimizing your design.
I was really happy with the end result after moving my blog to my new Domain, re-designing the layout and cleaning up the content. It was a lot of work but worth the effort.