How I moved home in cyberspace

Readers eager to know how I accomplished my move from Blogger to WordPress.com – this is the post for you. I’m going to talk about the practicalities, timescales, and also what I’ve gained and lost in the move.

Like Blogger, WordPress.com is a hosted service. What this means is that there’s a server somewhere, and you do all your administration remotely via a web interface. No big surprise, most blogging systems offer the same. However, in this case, if you are used to vanilla WordPress and have installed it on a server of your own… hosted WordPress is a little different. You can’t add arbitrary plugins, Javascript and embedded HTML in iframes is stripped out for security, and there’s a limited amount of customisation you can do… saying that, it is still far simpler to customise your site than Blogger makes it. If you’ve never installed and run your own WordPress server, then pretty much everything I’ve just said is irrelevant – move along.

So, first of all, let’s look at the profit and loss side of things.

Features I’ve lost Features I’ve gained
Google AdWords (due to no JS) MUCH easier administration, I mean, it’s like Blogger’s the Dark Ages or something
Technorati search box (due to no JS) Better comments system, integrated trackbacks, comment moderation, etc. etc.
Flickr badge (due to no JS, but replaced by an RSS feed of my most recent photos) arbitrary pages (see the bar at the top of the page)
Favicon / tab icon w.bloggar now knows the names of posts when I retrieve them

There’s nothing there that upsets me too much. I did waste some time trying to make things like Google AdWords and my Flickr badge work, until I read the small print and realised that they are not going to do so. I’m over it.

Now, let’s look at the sequence of events.

  1. Created the WordPress account.
    Remember that the username you choose is going to be your domain name. In hindsight, for continuity of branding I should probably have used thelostoutpost as my username, but I didn’t. I’m keeping the name for the blog, though. I’m also a bit disappointed at losing the favicon, from a branding perspective – everyone on WordPress.com gets the same icon and I can’t see a way to change it.
  2. Using the Dashboard (which is a fantastic feature and again, far better than the Blogger tools), used the Import option to move my posts over from Blogger.
    The import tools support Movable Type or Blogger only, so I guess I was lucky. It was a brilliant process – you give WordPress your Blogger credentials, and it pulls everything over, including comments, and retains all the dates. The only things I lost were a couple of bits of style information (span style tags in HTML) and Amazon Associates iframes that I’d embedded in a number of posts.
  3. Chose a theme.
  4. Setup the pages and the sidebar.
    I moved some of the information that was previously in my sidebar into pages, available from the top bar. I effectively moved my profile information and site links to the About Me page, and information on other stuff I’ve written to the Writings page. The WordPress editors make this a breeze.
    The sidebar and overall customisation was a bit trickier, basically because I didn’t understand about the lack of Javascript and embedded HTML objects. On the Presentation section of the Dashboard, there’s a nifty drag-and-drop Sidebar editor (this is what I would have expected Google could have provided for Blogger, but go figure). I added a Text widget with the disclaimer, and a couple of RSS widgets to add my Flickr photos feed, and some IBM-related feeds. I also changed the titles of a few of the existing widgets, and shuffled the order around a bit. Warning – this is so easy to do, it’s addictive. I kept fiddling around, but I think I’m happy now.
  5. Created categories, aka tags.
    As you create categories, there’s some AJAX funkiness that tries to present you with existing tags that are similar. If similar ones exist, choose them. The reason is that posts added to the categories you choose will be added to the global WordPress.com tag cloud. This is a great feature.
  6. Created links for my blogroll.
    As you add links (Dashboard -> Links -> Add Link), they will be displayed in the Links widget in the sidebar. You can also setup relationships, e.g. colleague, friend, met etc..
  7. Updated references elsewhere.
    In my case, I had to change my newsreader and email signatures; my domain redirection on www.andypiper.co.uk; my FOAF profile; my Flickr, Technorati, Plazes, Suprglu, and other profiles. I’m sure I will have missed some. I also needed to add the new blog to Flickr’s BlogThis feature, and create a new w.bloggar account (now up to 5 and counting…)
  8. Tagged/categorised old entries.
    Finally – and this was the kind of tedious bit – I needed to go back through my old posts (~90 of them) and categorise them. The other thing I did at the same time was to change any links pointing back at old blog posts, to point at the same blog posts as they had been imported here, e.g. change thelostoutpost.blogspot references to andypiper.wordpress references. This was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole exercise.

So, there you have it. A “how-to migrate from Blogger to WordPress” guide. The other thing I said I’d discuss was timescales – the initial migration took just minutes, but overall this has taken me a good portion of the weekend, with the last step taking the most time… largely because I kept distracting myself and doing something else instead of churning through all my old entries.

The final thing that is exercising my brain is how to get the new blog higher in the Google search results. It could be that Blogger-hosted blogs get a higher priority in Google’s search results. Although I’ve submitted the new site to MSN Search, Google, and others, I haven’t managed to get a single hit for entries from this blog in search results, yet. Maybe I just need more traffic. Anyway, the last entry in my Blogger blog says that it is closed… I’m not currently planning to go through and change every entry there to point at this new site, but if traffic doesn’t change, then I may do that. Some automation would be helpful, though :-(

Anyway, here I am. Looking forward to this new experience. I hope you’ll continue to read, possibly comment on, and possibly even enjoy (!) this blog.

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20 responses to “How I moved home in cyberspace

  1. You could add a message to your blogspot’s template pointing people at the front page of this blog?
    Thanks for the detailed break-down. Hope you have a productive blog here!

  2. Yeah. I have posted a final “goodbye” message over there with a link to this site. I wanted to close down the comments, but in order to do that I’d have to edit each post individually and remove the commenting permissions, so instead I’ve limited comments to registered users only. You’re right, I could actually modify the template to say that the blog is over here now. My biggest concern is that this blog isn’t showing up in any search engines yet.

  3. Search engines take a little while to refresh their content, especially as they probably optimise certain sites as blogs

  4. Hi Andy, I’ve updated my link to your site – this should also help getting your new blog higher in the Google search results.

  5. Hi Per – thanks for the visit and the link :-)

  6. Hey, Andy, I’m wondering, since you seem to have worked so much on this move, why you simply didn’t go for some web hosting, and install your own copy of WordPress so you’d get everything you want, plus some space to install a bunch of apps to simplify your life.

  7. Simply for time and cost reasons, really. I’d run WP on my home server before so I knew it could be straightforward. I didn’t want my own host because I saw that as more hassle. I’m just too lazy ;-)

  8. Yeah, I know about the hassle. And the potential security risks of someone invading your home LAN too… I was getting nervous with people testing my ports and linux install at home in the end… I’d bet 90% of the traffic were folks wanting to break in and using brute force attempts and dictionnnary attacks. Which is why I went ‘hosted’.

  9. Pingback: The lost outpost » Blog Archive » RSS feeds for tags

  10. I’ve also migrated to wp about 2 months ago, and I’ve experienced almost the same benefits and flaws, expect one: I’ve loved the the mail-to-blog feature at blogspot, unfortunately wp does not support such things. Btw, I can live without it, but it’s missing.

  11. So, did you also have the same problem with search engines? I’m still waiting for Google to index my new blog :-(
    I noticed some comments on mail-to-blog in the WP.com forums, it might be worth raising the feature request there.

  12. Pingback: The Blog That Should Not Be :: Today’s Links :: April :: 2006

  13. Andy,

    Have you considered getting your own domain name and pay for hosting? You then can put adsense on your site, etc.

  14. Howard, thanks for your comment. I did consider that – actually I do own andypiper.co.uk, which redirects here. I didn’t particularly want to pay for hosting though (I’m a cheapskate… well actually, no, I’ve got other things to spend money on!) and to be honest, adsense was making me no income and effectively cluttering up the page. If it becomes an issue in future, I might consider switching again, but I’m very happy at the moment – except for Google still not indexing the site – GAAAAH!

  15. Pingback: The lost outpost » Blog Archive » Blog migration progress

  16. I’ve looked and looked for the Import option on the Dashboard and can’t find it. Can you point me in that direction? This is exactly what I need to do.

    Thank you!

  17. Look on the Dashboard under Manage -> Import. Then choose the type of account you are importing from. Simple.

  18. Congrats on the move, wordpress kick bloggers a$$ any day. :D

  19. Just used this to migrate my blog from blogger. Some of the limitations Andy mentions (from 2006) are gone now and it’s even easier!

    Awesome. Thanks for the post.

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