This post is different from my usual posts, it is quite word heavy and there is no cake in sight! I really wanted to write it to help my fellow bloggers, as growing and developing your blog can be a tricky thing and supporting each other is so important. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Do you have some water and a snack? Let’s begin!
I’ve been blogging now for almost 5 years and I started my blog using the platform Blogger, which is owned by Google. I always found it easy to use, and I felt very safe and comfortable using it for all my blogging needs. As blogging is currently a hobby for me and not a source of income, I knew that if I ever wanted to change this I needed to move to WordPress.org and start self hosting my blog. I decided to make this step in June and I wanted to share with you how I got on, the problems I faced, and share the tips and useful info I picked up along the way. I couldn’t find any detailed information out there about this type of move from an actual blogger so hopefully you will find this helpful!
Before I get into the details of what self hosting is, how it all works and what I did, I want to let you know that this ‘how to’ is solely based on my experience in moving my blog. I’m not advertising particular hosts or services when I mention them, they are just what I’ve used. I’m not a super techie person, but I did the move by myself and overcame the issues I faced by myself too (I did have some help from my lovely Twitter followers!) I didn’t pay anyone to move my blog for me. This is an option you can choose, especially if you have the budget available, don’t understand the technical side of things, or you just can’t spare the time!
What is the difference between hosted & self hosted?
There are two options when it comes to blogging. Your blog can be hosted or self hosted. Hosted means you are essentially being ‘looked after’ by the platform you choose (examples of hosted platforms are Blogger and WordPress.com) They take care of everything from updating the software in the background on a regular basis, keeping the website secure and trouble shooting. The downside of being hosted is that you still have your training wheels on, so to speak, and there are many things you’re not able to do. For example you won’t be able to add as many additional features, and you won’t have as much choice when it comes to the appearance of your blog. However, it’s a great place to get started while you learn the basics of blogging.
Self hosted means the training wheels are off and you can pretty much do any and everything you want with your blog! You’ll be able to add a huge selection of plugins to customise it, and you’ll have a wide selection of themes to choose from to edit the appearance and layout. If you’ve got the skills, you’ll also be able to add your own code. Of course all this choice and freedom doesn’t come without responsibility, which is now all on you. You’re now responsible for keeping your website up to date, dealing with any issues and security.
How do I go self hosted?
I already had a domain name for my blog which I had set up via GoDaddy a few years ago, so I felt that the easiest thing for me to do was go with them as my WordPress host. Even though you are moving your blog to WordPress.org, what you need first is a host (examples include GoDaddy, Tsohost and Bluehost) to actually host your website on their servers. This is like your blog’s home and the patch of land where it lives, and the host provides the facility for people all around the world to come and visit it. WordPress.org is the bricks and mortar; the building blocks of the blog/website. Then you can think of themes and plugins (more on these later) like wallpaper and appliances to make the home pretty and user friendly. That analogy helps me understand it anyway!
Have a look around and choose the host that works best for you. Of course, you do have to pay for this service so cost may factor into your choice. Just make sure that the host supports WordPress before you hand over the cash. I went for a 3 year Deluxe hosting deal with GoDaddy, which I had to pay for all in one go. It was easy to set up via their website and I’ll list the full info of what was included below. You may be able to get a better or more suitable deal for your needs, so definitely shop around and find what suits you.
Once I’d signed up and paid I just followed the steps on GoDaddy’s website to create the WordPress account. This was all easy to follow and straightforward. I did have a couple of questions and I just used GoDaddy’s live chat option, where they have support staff available 24/7, and they were always able to help me.
Time to import
Once I was all set up, I had to move my content – and there was a lot of it! – from Blogger to WordPress.org. In order to do this I added a plugin to my WordPress account called Blogger Importer Extended. I tried another plugin called Blogger Importer first, but I kept getting errors and it didn’t work for me and caused me a lot of stressing! So watch out for the similar names. Using the plugin was very simple, although it did take a long time. I had to leave it running overnight. Of course if your blog content is less than mine it won’t take this long.
Link Structures & Broken Links
There are two main ways a link is structured and Blogger and WordPress.org do them differently, which can lead to broken links all over your newly imported content. A broken link is a link that, when you click on it, takes you to a page that will say something along the lines of ‘ooops that page doesn’t exist’.
A standard Blogger link structure looks like this: http://thebakingexplorer.com/2017/07/23/lemon-cupcakes
A standard WordPress link structure looks like this: http://thebakingexplorer.com/lemon-cupcakes
You can either choose to stick with the Blogger format, or change to the WordPress one. There is a setting change you can make in WordPress to choose your preferred link style. Go to Settings >Permalinks and select from the choices pictured below. I decided to change to the more simple WordPress structure as I think they are cleaner, and easier to remember.
I used a broken link checker (brokenlinkcheck.com) to find them within my blog and I went about the task of fixing all 300+ of them. Not all of them were due to the import. I had a lot of old external links on my blog that now didn’t lead anywhere, so it was a good exercise me for to remove all of these, and it’s a check I’ll be performing more regularly in the future in order to keep my broken links to a minimum.
Turning off Blogger
Now you are set up in WordPress you need to turn off your Blogger account and redirect any visitors to your new home. I used a plugin called Blogger 301 Redirect to assist with this. This was very easy to use and the plugin provides all of the code and instructions of where to put it.
Themes and useful plugins
Since using WordPress I’ve come across multiple useful plugins that add features to my blog that I could not use on Blogger. The majority of plugins I’ve tried have been great and incredibly easy to use, I’ve listed a few of my favourites below. If you have any recommendations please let me know in the comments!
Amazon Associates Link Builder
Contact Form 7
Exclude Pages from Navigation
Google Analytics for WordPress
Simple Share Buttons Adder
WP Recipe Maker
WP Instagram Widget
Now you’re using WordPress.org, you have a huge variety of themes to choose from too. I was honestly overwhelmed by choice just looking at the free options! In the WordPress sidebar, if you hold the cursor over Appearance you’ll see the option for Themes, click on this and you will be able to search through all the choices. There is also a website called Theme Forest which has even more options. Themes are a bit like apps in that you can install them for free, but then they do offer more features if you pay. I got a theme for around $20 which suits me for now, but I may change it in the future. I just chose a simple one as I didn’t have a lot of time to go through them all.
Other things I’ve noticed
I used a code from the website Recipe Wiz to create recipe cards in Bloggers, but this does not work in WordPress and I ended up with broken code on all my posts, so I had to go through them all and remove it which was quite a long process. Again, this depends on how much existing content you have and if you’ve used any pre-made code like this.
I can’t edit or re-position the images that were moved over from Blogger so this does provide some restrictions if you want to edit any pre-WordPress posts. I’m currently going through all my old posts and re-making the recipes and taking better quality photos so this is something that eventually won’t affect me, but it’s something to be aware of.
There are two viewing options when writing a post in WordPress – Visual and Text. I’ve found that I can only edit some things in text (raw html) in order to make the change appear in Visual.
I’ll probably add more things to this section as I discover them! If you have any to add, let me know in the comments!
I hope that this post has provided both answers to your questions, and also reassurance that this move is possible to do by yourself! I’ve listed below some websites I used as guidance, which are definitely worth a read if you are planning, or in the middle of, this move. If you still have questions, please get in touch and I will do my best to answer them!
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I’m linking this post up with Brilliant Blog Posts hosted by Honest Mum.