This post is a bit off-topic for this blog, but I’ve had a couple emails from readers asking me about moving my blog and how I went about the transition. So, I thought it might be a good idea to pass along my experience. Before I begin I should let you know I’m not a web developer and this was my first experience with moving or setting up my own hosted blog on its own domain. I’ve had experience working with websites but not from a coding or database aspect. Most everything I encountered was new. This post will focus on a wordpress.com to wordpress.org move, but many of the steps I go through could be for a move from and to any platform.
With that said, let’s dig in. I had a nice comfortable home on a wordpress.com blog. I can’t say enough good things about the service they provide for FREE. They really have a great product. Why move you might ask? Well, curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to play with widgets, plugins, customized themes, etc. Plus, I have aspirations to expand the Lonely Marketer into new areas someday so making the move now made sense. So, I made the decision to risk losing traffic, subscribers, and links to move the Lonely Marketer.
Step 1 – Research – What You Need From a Web Host
I’m biased towards the WordPress.org blogging platform so my research revolved around using that. They offer the software for free – even if you’re using it for a Fortune 500 company. But, they do have some minimum requirements you should know before looking into a web hosting company. The most important requirements are PHP version 4.2 or greater and MySQL version 4.0 or greater. Your web host needs to be running these on their servers.
Step 2 – Select a Web Host and Buy Domain
All I can say is – read the support logs at WordPress.org. I did not and wasted alot of time. I thought Yahoo Small Business would be a no-brainer. They’re listed as a web host partner of WordPress and you think Yahoo would have all that you need. I was wrong. They were a disaster – I’m really surprised that WordPress lists them after reading about the complaints in the support logs. They’re install was a snap, but everything after that went wrong. The site was slow – sometimes taking an hour to reflect a change I’d make. Many of the plugins did not work without hours of looking up people who had found fixes. After awhile, I gave up and decided I needed a new host. One thing to note here is that I kept my wordpress.com blog running and was building the new site on the side.
So, I called on blogging friends for advice. Many recommended DreamHost who is also listed as a partner. BIG TIP COMING: Before signing up, look through the DreamHost support files – their moderators put coupons in there that give you money off. I saved close to $100 on my first year of hosting. A great deal! They also offer an easy one-click install of the WordPress.org software. If you do find a host you like that does not offer that easy install and you’re unsure about installing it yourself, WordPress.org does offer to install it for free. Plus, the Dreamhost support is incredible. I rarely wait more than two hours for a response to any issue – small or big.
My domain name is still at Yahoo because there is a 60 day waiting period before you can move it to a new host. No problem, I simply pointed the nameservers to Dreamhost and I was up and running.
Step 3 – Building Your Site
Before moving any of my posts and related information to my new domain, I wanted to get it all set up. My first goal was to find a theme I liked. There are thousands of options available so it took awhile. I was looking for a 3-column, widget ready theme. I settled on Tiga which may or may not be a good thing. I will plug the Theme Viewer from WordPress – a handy tool for finding themes that fit your needs.
Tiga is not very well optimized for search engines as the sidebar text shows up before the post content in the source code. If search engine traffic is at the top of your priority list, you’ll want to take this into consideration when selecting your theme. I’m in the market for a new theme, but it’s not immediate since I’m not dependent on traffic from search engines.
Next, I went out and got plugins. My focus was to find plugins that make my sight social and interactive. Here is what I’ve installed so far:
- Akismet: Can a blog afford not to have this plugin? Akismet is a much needed for spam control.
- Sidebar Widgets: This plugin allows you to easily configure your sidebars. You’re able to drag and drop content as needed. You will need a widget-ready theme to utilize this one.
- Google Analytics: I chose to go with Google Analytics for my statistics tracking mainly because I was already familiar with using the tool.
- Google Sitemaps: This generator will create a Google compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog.
- Ultimate Tag Warrior: I mainly use UTW to put my Technorati tags into my posts. There are tons of other uses as well. Andy has a post on how you can use UTW to display related posts.
- FB StandardStats by Thomas McMahon aka TwisterMc. – Plugin to easily incorporate FeedBurner’s StandardStats into your blog. Thomas works with Lee Odden and he’s made some great tools for bloggers.
- Feedburner Feed Replacement: Forwards all feed traffic to Feedburner while letting through some important User-Agents.
- MyBlogLog Widget: A fun widget to display visitors to your site who are also signed up at MyBlogLog. Check out my community!
- Related Posts: Returns a list of the related entries based on active/passive keyword matches. I caught on to this one from a SoloSEO post and am glad I did. I’ve seen my page views go up about 100% from before I installed it. Installation wasn’t exactly a snap on this, but once up and running, its been great.
- Sociable: I use Sociable for my social bookmarking icons in each post. I think this is a nice feature to offer readers. You never know when someone might want to refer back to your posts from a bookmarking site.
- Subscribe To Comments: I liked this feature on other blogs. Subscribing to comments allows you to be updated on comments made to a particular post.
- Democracy: I haven’t used this too much yet, but Democracy is a polling feature that can be used in posts or sidebars.
- WordPress Database Backup: If you’re not backing up your blog, you should start very soon. I back mine up about three times a week and receive the backup file via email.
- WP-ContactForm: A nice, easy plugin that cuts down on alot of spam and allows for a professional method for readers to contact you.
Step 4 – Move Your Content
I had quite a few posts in my old blog that I wanted to carry over to my new site. WordPress.org has a bunch of import options from sites including Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad, etc. But, there wasn’t anything built in to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Then, I found Technosailor’s plug-in that moves posts, comments, etc. from WordPress to WordPress. Incredibly easy plug-in that worked without a hitch!
Step 5 – Transition Your Feed
I was concerned about moving my Feedburner feed from the old site to the new site. I was aiming for a seamless transition for my readers. I had read some bad stories in support logs about this going bad. This post on the Feedburner site helped explain that I could just change my Original Feed URL and all should be okay. That did the trick. I pointed it to my new feed url and everything moved over very nicely.
Before doing this, make sure you have posts up at your old and your new site announcing the move and launch of your new blog.
Step 6 – Submit to Search Engines
Here are some URLs I used to submit my new site to search engines. Depending on your level of knowledge, you may want to look into redirecting your old posts to your new site.
Step 7 – Contact Your Friends
As any blogger knows, links to your site are very valuable. I contacted many of the people who had added me to their blogrolls or referenced my material in one of their posts. Almost all took the time to change links and help me out. I was quite thankful for that as that gave me a jumpstart on my new site.
Step 8 – Have Posts Ready
I think having four or five posts ready to roll is a good idea. You’ll want to generate more traffic than usual in the first week or two of your new site being live. Having quality content ready to go will help with that. You don’t want to launch, create a buzz, and then not post for two weeks. Also, spreading some links around to other sites can’t hurt your chances of getting noticed
Step 9 – Tap Into Other Blogger’s Knowledge
There can obviously be more highly technical aspects to setting up a blog that I don’t cover here. Like I said earlier, this is sort of a basic guide. Searching for blog optimization tips will bring up many results that will help you further. Below are a couple articles I used for reference when moving the Lonely Marketer.
- 25 Tips To Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines
- 21 Surefire Tips for a Successful Blog Launch
- Expectations and Best Practices for Moving to or Launching a New Domain
That’s alot of information for one post! I was thinking of creating a page on the Lonely Marketer blog dedicated to blog moving information. Do you have or know of related content or posts that you think could be added as reference?
UPDATED – Additional Content From Readers
- Thomas McMahon’s Social Bookmarks and RSS Buttons
- My 10 Tips to Optimize Your Blog by Doug Karr
- Blog Optimization by Lee Odden
- Web Hosting Unleashed – Research web hosts