From time to time I like to pull back the blogging curtain and talk about something related to the technical side of blogging. Because there’s more to running a successful travel blog than just travel! I have put together a few guides to blogging, including my popular guide to becoming a travel Blogger.
Today, I want to talk about blogging platforms. For almost eight years, I hosted this site on Blogger, which is the free blogging platform from Google. This is a wonderful free service, but to be honest, it is missing a few key features that are essential for a modern blog. In October of 2017, I started the process of migrating from Blogger to WordPress, and as of January 2018, I relaunched the site on WordPress.
In this post, I want to go through some of the points I learned from my move from Blogger to WordPress to help you out should you decide to make the move yourself. If you found this post because you’re trying to figure out which platform to start with for your blog, my advice would be to just to start with a self-hosted WordPress environment from the beginning, to save yourself a headache further down the line when you dsecide you want to move!
A quick note on WordPress versions – there are two types of WordPress site – a self-hosted WordPress site, and one that is hosted on WordPress.com. The latter is free for a basic plan, but you will not have your own domain (it will be something like https://findingtheuniverse.wordpress.com), is ad-supported, and has a number of other restrictions that mean we don’t recommend it over a self-hosted wordpress.org solution.
Why Move from Blogger to WordPress?
First, let’s look at a few reasons you might want to move from Blogger to WordPress in the first place. There are a number of these.
1 – Control
The most important reason to have a self-hosted blog is that you have total control over it. With a blog on Google owned Blogger, if you happen to violate the Blogger terms of service, they can just shut you down. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had much luck getting hold of anyone at Google to get them to resolve an issue, so I can’t see them being much help if they chose to shut me down someday.
If you are playing by the rules, it is of course unlikely to happen. In addition, any host can shut you down for violating their terms of service. The advantage of WordPress is that you have access to the whole stack, meaning you can have a backup of your whole site and database, meaning you could easily move your whole site to another host somewhere else. If Google shuts your Blogger account down for some reason, it’s not a simple matter of launching your site elsewhere, as everything is proprietary to Blogger.
2 – SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the art of tailoring the content you write so that is more likely to be found by search engines such as Google. SEO can be tricky, and Blogger is not the easiest platform for creating properly optimised posts. Of course, this is offset a little bit by the fact that since Google owns Blogger, it will index your new Blogger post very quickly.
That said, WordPress has a wide range of plugins which extend the core functionality of the platform, many of which revolve around SEO. These can provide hints and tips for creating more optimised content, meaning more people are going to be able to find your posts. Which is a good thing.
3 – Speed
Out of the box, Blogger is a very fast hosting service. It’s hosted by Google, who are clearly not short of fast servers and fast network connections. However, Blogger is not designed to be very tweakable, and as a result there is only so much you can do to optimise a Blogger based site.
WordPress sites have a lot more options for speed, from caching plugins through to serving users the right sized images through to to detailed server configuration options whereby a knowledgeable user (or a good hosting provider) can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your specific site.
4 – Customisation
Finally in this short list of reasons why WordPress is preferable to Blogger is customisation. WordPress powers a significant percentage of the world’s websites, and that has resulted in a huge number of options for how a site looks and feels. There’s a massive range of themes that you can choose from, and these can be customised almost endlessly to produce a truly unique looking site.
In addition, as you have full access to the database and the server-side programming language, you can do a great many things that simply aren’t possible with Blogger, which restricts you to cosmetic changes at the client level.
If all that is a bit geeky sounding, there are also tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress sites which let you do all kinds of things with your site, with minimal coding knowledge. It is definitely a lot easier to customise a WordPress site with zero coding knowledge than a Blogger site!
Tips for Moving from Blogger to WordPress
So hopefully I’ve convinced you that WordPress is the way to go. But, if you are like I was, and are already on Blogger, fear not. You can move from Blogger to WordPress without too much trouble, and there are many guides out there to help you do this.
There are just a few things to bear in mind when you make the move, which I have outlined below. These are the main areas that you need to remember when you make the switch, to ensure the whole process is seamless, and you don’t lose traffic when you migrate.
You can also find a web host who offer a migration service (Orange Geek or Agathon are two I know of who offer this as a service), which might be easier than doing it yourself if the below sounds a bit technical!
1 – Pick the right hosting company
However you decide to handle your migration, the first thing you are going to need is a host. Picking a WordPress host is almost a post in of itself – there are myriad hosting companies out there to choose from.
Our two sites are currently hosted with Flywheel, although there are many other companies that are often mentioned in the blogging groups I frequent, including Agathon, Big Scoots, Orange Geek, WPopt and Kinsta.
For smaller sites that don’t have a lot of traffic yet, there are also services like Bluehost, Hostgator, or GoDaddy offer great low-cost starter packages. These usually run many sites on a single physical server, which can be fine when you are starting out, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re over 20,000 unique visitors a month, you should consider a more robust hosting solution.
For example, Jess started out with Bluehost, and we ran Independent Travel Cats for many years on this service. She was happy with the price, and the responsive 24 hour customer service. It was only when we needed to scale past a certain size that we looked elsewhere, (although Bluehost do support larger sites), ultimately migrating to our current host, Flywheel.
We don’t have personal experience of any WordPress host other than Bluehost and Flywheel. Both of our sites are currently hosted by Flywheel. However, different sites have different needs (and budgets!). My suggestion would be to compare features and pricing, and perhaps go with a provider who offer a money back guarantee within a certain time of you signing up if you are not happy with performance.
Things to look out for when choosing a WordPress host include how much traffic the package offers, if it comes with SSL, what sort of caching they offer, support times, site uptime promises, e-mail hosting, and that they support the most recent PHP versions.
I’d also recommend dropping any potential host an e-mail to ask any specific questions you may have to sound them out before signing up.
2- Pick a Fast Theme
Once you have a host, the next step is to pick a theme for your site. If you are looking for a new look or feel for your website, this is a great opportunity to do a full refresh of your brand – which is what I did when I migrated this site across.
I wanted an easy to navigate site that worked well on any device, and that would let me showcase the photos I take on our trips. Hopefully you agree that the theme I chose does just that.
Look and feel is all well and good, but to be honest, the most important factor for me when picking a theme was speed. I wanted a theme that wasn’t heavy with unnecessary features that would slow down the user experience as this is bad for both the user and from an SEO search point of view – Google doesn’t like sending people to slow websites.
After a lot of thought and research, I went with a Studiopress theme. I started out with a theme called Magazine Pro, and then spent a lot of time customizing it under the hood to look and work how I wanted.
My main reasoning for choosing a Studiopress theme was that they regular update the framework that the themes run on (called Genesis), they optimise them heavily for speed, and they are designed out of the box to perform well across devices. They are also well optimised for SEO.
After installing the theme on my site, I was also able to port it across to our other site, Independent Travel Cats, so we would have a fairly consistent look and feel and design across the two sites.
3 – Use a Staging Environment for your new site
Now that you have a theme and a host, my next suggestion is to ask your host to set you up with what is called a staging environment. This will be a version of your site that is only accessible to you, usually password protected, where you can spend some time getting everything right. Here you will import your Blogger data, and play around with the look and feel as well as install any plugins.
This site won’t be visible to the world or search engines until you are ready to flip the switch, at which point you (or your host) will be able to make your site live to the world, at which point instead of hitting your Blogger site your visitors will reach your new WordPress site.
I highly advise picking a host which offers a staging environment – this will not only help in the initial setup, but will also let you test out changes to your live site in the future without having to worry about negatively impacting your user experience.
Of course, if all this sounds like too much, you can find a hosting provider who will be happy to help out. If even the thought of anything technical worries you, then you’ll want a fully managed WordPress service – these can handle everything for you from migrating, handling your design needs, keeping your site and plugins up to date – essentially everything you need. You just need to worry about writing great content.
Of course, outsourcing this work will cost a bit more, but many find it worth it to reduce the hassle.
4 – Learn how WordPress works
WordPress is quite a different beast to Blogger. On Blogger, you have access to a template file, which is the only place you can make changes to your site. You can also create posts, obviously. Otherwise, that’s about it.
WordPress is a far more sophisticated environment, where, depending on the host you choose, you will have control over everything from the configuration of the actual server, through to database access, FTP access to the files on the server, and the ability to create custom code that runs on the server which can change what visitors see. You can also install plugins, which are essentially just custom code that performs a specific function or functions.
It’s a good idea to get a handle on how the WordPress stack works, from server through to database through to the front end logic. I’m not saying you need to become a PHP whizz (PHP is the programming language that WordPress is coded in), but it is a good idea to at least have an overall understanding of how everything fits together, which will make conversations with your web developer easier to understand – or, if you’re more tech savvy, will let you make tweaks to your site yourself!
Before you import your Blogger data, now is a good time to decide if you want to adjust your permalink structure. I’m very much of the belief that if you’re going to make a big change to your site like moving your hosting, you might as well go all in.
In case you’re wondering what a permalink is, it’s the url structure of your site. On Blogger, you don’t have much control over this – posts are created with the URL format of https://yourdomain.com/yyyy/mm/post-name.html
WordPress, by default, will have the terrible permalink structure of https://yourdomain.com/?p=xxx where “xxx” is a number, so you definitely need to change this on a clean install. But you have a lot of options in how you want to customize it in terms of date, article name, etc.
Note that there are some key differences to Blogger url’s and WordPress urls – WordPress url’s don’t usually have .html at the end, and they don’t support spaces in the url, these will be replaced by the “-” character.
6 – Change WordPress maximum file upload size
To get your Blogger content (posts and comments) onto your new WordPress environment, you will need to export your blog from Blogger using their easy to use backup tool, accessible from your Blogger dashboard.
Before you can upload your Blogger export to WordPress though, you will need to change your maximum file upload size. The default file upload size on WordPress is usually 2 megabytes, and the majority of Blogger exports will be larger than this.
The easiest way to adjust the file upload size is to ask your host to do it for you, as the way it is achieved will vary depending on your server environment. There’s also a handy guide here to help you out.
7 – Install the right plugins for migrating
As mentioned earlier in this post, WordPress has a lot of plugins available in the official WordPress plugin repository. Whilst many of these focus on the day to day functionality of your site, some have more specific features that are useful for migrating from Blogger to WordPress.
The first of these that you need is the official Blogger to WordPress import plugin. This is the plugin that will take the file you exported from Blogger and use it to create all your posts in WordPress. It will also import all your comments and draft posts, and create the permalinks for each post. In my experience, the permalinks it created weren’t all quite right, so it is definitely worth having a list of all your post url’s (you can get a copy of these from the Google webmaster tools console) to compare against.
The next plugin you need to install is the Cache Images plugin. This hasn’t been updated for a long time, however it does still work. What this does is scan your posts for any images hosted on other domains, and then it gives you the option to copy these images to your server. It will also update the url’s of the images in your posts. What this means is that you are no longer relying on Google to host your images, which is a good idea as you want to have control over all of your content.
The first of these is basically a find and replace tool that will allow you to search your blog posts and quickly replace strings of text. This is particularly handy for updating URL’s for example, if you choose to move from http to https.
The second plugin handles redirects. Redirects are discussed in depth in the next part of this post. Usually, you will want redirects to be handled by your host at the server level, as this is more efficient than via a plugin, and puts less stress on your WordPress install. However, sometimes you want to make a quick change to a single URL, so the redirection plugin is handy to have.
8 – Check your redirects
When I’ve spoken to people about migrating from Blogger to WordPress, one of the most common things that go wrong is the redirects.
A redirect is essentially an instruction to the users browser, and also to search engines, that a url has changed. So for example, if your old Blogger site had a post with the following url:
but your new WordPress URL structure is:
You will need to redirect users and search engines from the first url to the second. This is done using what is known as a “301 Redirect”, which signifies to search engines in particular that the URL has permanently changed, and that they should update their search results pages.
Why is this important? Well, you likely already have a number of posts that are indexed in search engines and have been linked to from other locations on the web, like other websites or through social media shares. If you don’t redirect that original url, users will end up on a 404 page, indicating that the blog post no longer exists. This is bad for user experience, and bad for your search engine positioning, as the search engines will just assume the page has been deleted. This will lead to a significant drop in traffic.
Getting your redirects right is absolutely essential for a successful migration where you don’t lose your existing visitor traffic.
Thankfully, redirects are not so hard. For example to remove the dates and strip “.html” from the end of a url, this can be done with one simple redirect rule. This will vary depending on your new permalink structure, but this tool from Yoast will help you implement the right rule.
Redirect rules should be implemented at the server side, not via WordPress, as this is a lot faster and won’t slow your site down. If you are running an Apache server, this can be done in your .htaccess file – there’s a guide here to doing this.
If you are on an nginx server, you will have to contact your host to do this. Any reasonable host will have no problem handling redirects for you, make sure you contact them before you commit to ensure this is something they can help with.
My last word on redirects is an important one that is often overlooked. Blogger has a feature whereby when a visitor visits your site from a mobile device, Blogger will automatically add “?m=1” to the end of the url. – a bit of text known as a “query string”. Using my example from before, this would look as follows for a mobile user:
Unfortunately, that “query string” is actually treated as an entirely separate url when it comes to search results, and also for searches. So you can set up a redirect that handles stripping “?m=1” from the end of url’s as well so all those indexed pages don’t lead to 404 errors.
I appreciate that this might sound fairly technical and intimidating, but fear not, a good hosting company with a Blogger migration service should be able to handle all this for you. All you have to do is test your old url’s, including old url’s with “?m=1” at the end, to make sure they are redirecting properly.
9 – Test Everything!
By this point, you should be fairly close to flipping the switch and going live. Before you do though, you are going to have to test as much as is humanly possible, to minimise issues when you finally do go live.
Check as many posts as you can for formatting issues, internal link issues, correct permalink structures, and images. This is going to be a time consuming process if you have a lot of posts, but is going to save you time in the long run.
10 – Optimise for Speed
At this point, you can go live if you want, however, I would advise that you spend a bit of time tweaking your site to ensure it performs as quickly as possible. Google ranks faster sites higher than slower sites, everything else being equal, so having as fast a site as possible will benefit both your existing users, and will potentially result in you gaining more users.
There are a number of ways you can improve your site speed, and a high quality host will be able to advise you on this as well.
There are a number of plugins that you can also install to improve performance. The first of these is Autoptimize, which performs a number of functions on your site to make it faster, such as compressing the pages of your site so they load faster.
The second plugin you should install for speed is some kind of caching plugin. This will, admittedly, depend on your host, as some hosts (such as Flywheel), handle caching at the server side, meaning you don’t need a plugin. But if your host doesn’t do this for you, there are a number of plugins available. We had good results with WP Super Cache on Independent Travel Cats, prior to migrating to Flywheel.
11 – Get your SEO right
Last, but certainly not least, you will want to make sure your SEO is up to scratch so Google can find and index your posts properly. We think the best plugin to handle SEO on WordPress is Yoast SEO. In particular, when you migrate from Blogger to WordPress, one thing that won’t copy across (annoyingly!) are the descriptions that you might have entered into your Blogger posts.
Both Blogger and WordPress (through Yoast SEO) support meta descriptions, and these are a great way to quickly show readers (and search engines) what your content is about. Unfortunately, the Blogger export file doesn’t include the post meta descriptions, so you will need to copy these across manually. Thankfully, Yoast SEO has a bulk metadata editor which will make this process a little bit faster, although if you have a lot of posts, this will still take a while.
Once you have your SEO right and your site is live, make sure to submit your sitemap (usually found at https://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml) to Google Webmaster Tools, so Google can quickly index your site.
That just about sums up my guide to migrating from Blogger to WordPress, based on my experiences doing the same. I didn’t want to write a definitive guide to the migration (a simple Google search will turn up a number of good walkthroughs), but I hope that by sharing some of the most important parts of the move I was able to give you some food for thought when it comes to your own move across.
Or, maybe you read all this and think it all sounds like too much – in which case I can very much recommend enlisting the services of a good web developer, or a host, who can handle this for you. Just remember, no one will care about your site as much as you, so even if you involve a third party, make sure you test everything thoroughly, and continue to do so after you go live, to be sure it’s working as planned.
This series of tips should have given you some ideas for migrating from Blogger to WordPress. We also have a number of other blogging guides you might find useful, including:
- My detailed guide to how to become a travel Blogger, which has everything from getting started through to making a living
- Our guide to setting up a travel blog, which has a step by step walkthrough for beginners
- An overview of branding your blog, to help you understand why that’s important
And that’s it! We hope you found this guide useful – as always, let us know your feedback, thoughts, and questions in the comments below!