Cannot open file (D:/Hosting/3821072/html/BACKUP/.htaccess)Cannot write to file (D:/Hosting/3821072/html/BACKUP/.htaccess) FerroGate » I Moved From Blogger To WordPress

I Moved From Blogger To WordPress

April 6th, 2009 by Martin


For quite some time I’ve been wanting to create a more professional appearance and workflow for FerroGate, and ultimately it meant giving up on Blogger as a platform. Below is a lengthy post about the whys and the hows. The result is the new WordPress based FerroGate you’re looking at (subscribers please click through to have a look-see).

Why I wanted to move from Blogger to WordPress

Up until a month ago, FerroGate was hosted freely on Google’s Blogger platform, using a custom domain setup. It was a practical and easy way of doing things, I had no hosting expenses, and the blog was located seemingly native under the ferrogate.com domain (although with a Blogger favicon). I had tweaked the template quite a bit, such as added more columns and widgets, and even done an ‘illegal’ hack to remove the ever present top menu because it looked unprofessional.

I still like Blogger. It takes less than a minute to set up a new blog, and anyone with anything to say has a channel of communication ready without any technical skills required. It’s a very flexible platform with plug-n-play widgets and many themes available. It’s a great place to start and, ultimately, a superb vehicle for democratization and freedom of speech in general.

However, as I learned more about blogging, SEO, and interface/communication design, my ambitions grew too large for the Blogger platform. I wanted a more flexible design with support for easy page creation, not just posts, and a customizable landing page. Through my workplace I had experienced the new WP 2.7 which in my honest opinion is probably one of the best information and usability interfaces I’ve ever seen for an online application.

I had also enviously been looking at the many wonderful plugins coming out for the WP platform. Some of their functionality has been ported/simulated for Blogger, but never with the same easy of use, and never with the same level of developer support. Where there are pros and cons to any blogging platform, I very much see the richness of plugins available as key to creating truly innovative information designs. There’s no doubt that the majority of hardcore developers prefer WP over Blogger, and I was sick of missing out on all the fun.

Another point on envy was the many neat themes available for WP. In fact, I had found a really cool theme I was trying to implement on Blogger. I spent quite a long time on that, until I realized the theme was flawed and almost impossible to work with. It was only then that I discovered the theme was actually a copy of a popular WP theme! That proved to be another motivational factor: The wealth of perfect themes readily available, easy to implement and modify, and many with cool AJAX modules and still fully W3C compliant.

Finally, while it’s a fact that Google does not favor Blogger content over other blog content when it comes to page ranking and indexing, I was nonetheless beginning to realize that the setup with a custom CNAME was not ideal for SEO. I wanted to to control every part of my hosting setup too, even though I had little or no experience with this. But blogging is very much the true amateurs’ realm, the one man DIY media movement, where you learn as you go, taking advice from other blogs, and blogging about your mistakes and experiences as you get wiser.

How I Moved From Blogger To WordPress

All the domains I owned was under a GoDaddy account, and without doing any research I simply bought their cheapest hosting, called Economy hosting. I did this because I was familiar with their interface and I trusted their brand enough to believe they could provide something as simple as a hosting account for a WP blog. I was given the choice of Windows or Linux hosting, and I chose Windows. It would later turn out that both the choice of GoDaddy and Windows hosting perhaps wasn’t the best. But as you can see on the new FerroGate, it can be done, and judging from the feedback and posts I’ve read online, you may not need to experience any trouble with this setup. But read on and I’ll let you in on it all as we move forward.

I found a lot of blogs telling you how to move from Blogger to WordPress, but only found one post that gave me (almost) all I needed:

Moving From Blogger To WordPress – Maintaining Permalinks, Traffic & SEO

One of the most important things I was interested in, was keeping my URLs, as that’s what people link to and what search engines have in their registry. Try googling ‘site:yourdomain.com’ and you’ll see what Google has on record from your blog. It’s imperative to keep the URLs intact, or you’ll essentially be starting from scratch.

You’ll soon discover that WordPress handles post URLS very different from Blogger. A typical WP URL would be ‘blog.com/?p=112′, where it on Blogger with a custom domain would be ‘blog.com/very-interesting-blog-post’, which is better for SEO. But the post above from Devil’s Workshop takes you through the process of importing while keeping your URLs. You’ll find many people online advising you to just do a redirect (you can find plugins that does that), but it entails a lot of manual labour, and redirect are less than ideal SEO-wise. Devil’s Workshop (DW) has a PHP script ready to automatically change the URLs once your posts have been imported to WP – and it works (just make sure to make it’s a true PHP file and not a text file. I first just created the script with TextEdit for Mac with no effect, and then later created it with DreamWeaver where it worked. Rookie mistake, I guess).

WordPress has an outstanding import feature (Tools/Import) so that was really easy, and I was happy to see that images, links and embedded widgets were intact. I’ve left images hosted on my old Blogger account, and I see no issues with doing this. DW even has readymade code to fill in your template if you want to redirect any traffic to your old Blogger blog to your new WP blog (my old Blogger account is now hosted on the standard .blogspot.com domain). I did that, but soon after I was notified by Google that I had to verify that my blog wasn’t a spam blog, so obviously Blogger doesn’t like this behavior, and I changed it back to a default template so it wouldn’t be shut down.

The main source of trouble while porting my content to WP was caused by my choice of hosting. GoDaddy has it’s Hosting Connection with plug-n-play support and wizards for all sorts stuff to put on your hosting servers, including WP, which is really neat, but for more advanced server use, at least the Economy package leaves some things left to be desired.

It turned out that I couldn’t get Godaddy to work with the Blogger URLs (called Pretty permalinks on WP). Although the posts URLs were correct while hovering over them, they wouldn’t work when I clicked them (I got Godaddy’s standard 404 page). The reason is the lack of support for ‘mod_rewrite’ (Wikipedia) which lets you write the custom URLs to the server. Researching online I found many people stating that Godaddy’s Economy hosting in fact does support mod_rewrite, it’s just only updated by the hour. I waited an hour, in fact a day, but with no result, so I haven’t been able to confirm that. Many also say that with the more expensive hosting packages you’ll get this as standard. Finally, I found this bit on info on Godaddy saying that mod_rewrite is standard on all their Linux bases hosting, so maybe it’s not even an option on Windows hosting.

But I wasn’t ready to pay more for simple WP hosting or make the switch to Linux hosting, and I wasn’t ready to wait, not even an hour; who wants to wait up to an hour for your new posts to be linked correctly? The whole point of online media is that there’s no post production time! So, I dug through loads of posts, tried a bunch of things and finally found an answer linked to from the official page WP Codex page about permalinks (that’s another advantage of WP; the great support pages!). Using a custom 404 file (GoDaddy lets you point to one in their hosting admin) I was able to get pretty permalinks handled correctly and instantly without any fuss or less-than-ideal URL layouts. Read all about it here.

While reading through all this material I generally saw lots of advantages to the Linux hosting, so you may want to choose that if you’re going with GoDaddy. I’ve read that you can easily make the switch later, but I haven’t done that yet.

All that was left for me to do was to convert the Blogger tags to WP categories. This may not be the ideal choice for you as tags often are at a lower level than your average category, and you’ll end up with too many categories. Once again there’s a really neat tool built into WP that allows you to do that (there’s a link to it from the Categories page in the admin interface). Since I was going to use the categories for navigation purposes I had to choose a smaller amount, and I landed on the ones you now see in the Topics bar on the site: Activist/Strategy, Advertising, Culture, Digital/Publishing, DIY, New/Media, Tech, and Uncategorized.

I was tempted to delete a few older posts that was pretty experimental, but I chose to just use the Uncategorized category for those, as they’re a key part of the blog’s genesis. Choosing the categories was tricky, as it forced me to think about what I would be writing about in the future, while the categories also should be able to describe earlier posts. And in general I don’t like thinking about labeling while I’m in the creative process of writing. So, I landed on some pretty wide categories, the most broad of them probably being Culture, that will cover multiple forms of contemporary art and human behavior / subcultures alike.

(Using the term like that is something I learned from my Friend aladin; rather than talking about art where you always end up discussing what is the correct labeling of art, instead of the art itself, talking about culture is often more agreeable to most people, and it’s much more flexible at the same time. So, thanks aladin (always spelled entirely with lowercase, which is something you can do when you also happen to be one of the best sleight-at-hands in the world), but I digress).

The idea of using categories as a simple means of organizing and navigating content is also unique to WP (at least Blogger doesn’t have it). And if you need more metadata, WP also support tags, so make sure to add many of those too, as it’s adds yet another way of drilling down after specific content on your blog.

The New FerroGate

The new FerroGate is using a premium theme from NattyWP. I can’t remember how I spotted them but I like their work and the theme does everything they promised it would. It has a flexible landing page layout, controlled entirely by use of categories. A prominent feature is the headline box, that shows a number of posts that’s changed with an animated slide. There’s a number of layouts, color schemes and intelligent options for the behavior.

Of course I couldn’t help myself customize it. That took quite a few days (well, nights really, as I’m very much ‘married with a day job’), and I had to learn more than just a little about stylesheets, browser compatibitliy, server hosting, and html. It always amazes me how technical the blogging world is if you sometimes just want to do simple changes for a page. And all the time spent on that is spent without creating interesting content, of which I’m sure society would benefit more from. But, alas, the whole point of moving the blog was a more professional look and feel, and hopefully by achieving that it’ll add more weight to the content produced here (quoting John Latham who said “Context is half the work”, which is just as true for online presentation).

Plugins, Plugins, Plugins

Like I said earlier, plugins are key to customizing the appearance and flow of information for your blog. For a hack like me, developing something from scratch is too time consuming, but tweaking and mashing up stuff is very much doable. Here are the plugins I’ve installed so far:

Akismet – It’s a must to keep spam comments away. Works flawlessly so far, and I know that even a major blog such as TechCrunch uses it. An indication that SEO already has improved for my blog is that I got 80 spam comments just a week after moving. So unless it’s because Blogger just deletes spam entirely, or bots just prefer WP, I can only assume things are picking up already (my recent Google Analytics stats is another positive indication of that).

BackUpWordPress – A genius plugin that backups your content. You can schedule when and how, and there’s even a recovery feature, that I for obvious reason haven’t tried yet – and I hope I never will. But constantly tweaking as I am, with an unfortunate record of poor self-control once I get exited about a new feature or hack, it’s a must. Another approach would be setting up a sandbox environment for testing out new stuff behind closed curtains before releasing onto the main blog, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

FD Feedburner Plugin – A neat plugin that redirects all your default WP feeds to a FeedBurner feed. Why should you do this? Because Feedburner adds stats for your feed subscribers, and allows you to create an email newsletter via your RSS. Try hovering your mouse over this site’s feed, and you’ll see ‘ferrogate.com/feed’, but if you click it, you’ll end up here: ‘http://feeds2.feedburner.com/ferro’. Neat, huh?

Google XML Sitemaps – SEO heaven. It’ll build a sitemap and an archived sitemap automatically. Choose settings for what and how often, and you’ll never have to worry about that again. Sitemaps are important, as it tells Google robot about the content you want (or don’t want) included in its index. Note: for it to work with Godaddy economy hosting, you’ll need to enable write access for your server files. You can do this in Godaddy’s File Manager. For a long time I tried to ‘chmod’ (Wikipedia) via Filezilla and mess about with ‘.htaccess’ (Wikipedia) to achieve this, but had no luck probably because Godaddy doesn’t support it. Using the built-in file manager on Godaddy was easy as pie, and I’m sure it was my lack of knowledge with hosting in general that led me astray.

ShareThis – They add social sharing features automatically for your blog. They constantly improve their design, and I like them.

Theme Toolkit – Adds proper coloring and layout to your themes and stylesheets, which makes them easier to work with.

WP-Cumulus – A flashy, yet usable, 3D tag cloud. Click the Tags tab on my landing page to see it in action.

WP Issuu – A simple plugin for embedding Issuu on your WP blog. What can I say, it just works. I’ve also made an automatically updated Issuu embedding in the sidebar on my landing page; it updates each time I bookmark something I like on Issuu. Ain’t it cool? There’s even an RSS feed for that too. WP Issuu doesn’t support this yet, but I managed to embed without it, here’s how.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – A smart plugin that finds related posts and link to them in the end of your blog post and RSS feed. It has all sorts of wonderful settings for how you want to look at your content, and what not to look at, when finding a match. I’d say it does a terrific job so far.

I’m pretty satisfied with the result of the new FerroGate right now. The only major thing I want to do is research some more sharing/reposting features, and also Facebook, Twitter and OpenID login for comments (it’s such a pain having to manually log in to just post a comment) and from what I’ve learned already there are some excellent plugins for achieving this.

OK, that’s already over 2700 words which is generally not recommended for a blog post. But since this is a ‘behind the scenes’ kinda post, I decided to just put it all in here. I left out a bunch of minor things, and perhaps some bigger ones I forgot about, but feel free to comment for details if you like. It’s now 4:24 AM here and I need to get some sleep – and possibly a life. If you made it this far I’m sure you know what I mean.

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22 Responses

  1. Nathan Janitz

    Followed your link from My blog post at http://intellectinteractive.com/search-engine-optimization/2009/moving-from-blogger-to-wordpress.html. I agree that you have some great tips on here about moving your blog from Blogger. Great post!

  2. Martin

    Thanks, Nathan. Moving from one platform to another encompasses almost every trick in the book. It’s a great learning process, and a reward in itself if you make it work correctly.

  3. pinaywifespeaks

    followed your comment on my blog post at http://pinaywifespeaks.com/blogging_internet/guide-to-moving-from-blogger-to-wordpress/. I too started blogging with Blogger and still have some blogs on it, but I agree with you once you want to have some enhancements and you want to do more on your blog you’ll really be itching to transfer to wordpress. I’m still learning about WP and I find it immensely rewarding to discovering new plugins and tricks to get my WP blogs to work..

  4. robin

    congrats, Martin! Very nice and professional looking. Some day, when I have enough energy, I will make the move too. And then I will have some questions for help – or two…

  5. Harsh Agrawal

    hey Martin, its good that you moved from blogspt to wordpress.
    If possible plz change your theme. The font is not very friendly and comment box on sidebar making it hard to recognize.

  6. Martin

    Thanks, Harsh. I agree with the comments part – am going to add an anchor link below the post, where you’d normally look for the comments. I do like that comments are placed already from the top of the page, as it’s the comments that make content come alive and start discussions – and they’re often the most fun part to read (especially for a loooong post like this one).

  7. How To Redirect Traffic From Blogspot to Migrated Wordpress Blog | Zemalf

    [...] I Moved From Blogger to WordPress @FerroGate [...]

  8. Jon Marks

    I love the fact that we all go through the same pain. I was lucky and went for the Linux GoDaddy option, and it worked a treat. My migration was WordPress.com -> WordPress.org, which was of course easier than Blogger. The story here:
    http://jonontech.com/2009/03/30/goodbye-wordpresscom-hello-freedom/

    We’ve also got a nice overlap on the plugins. I can recommend the MyBrand feature of FeedBurner if you like your own domain for the FeedURL. Can also strongly recommend Mofuse.Mobi. My list of goodies here:
    http://jonontech.com/2009/05/17/my-first-50-days-of-wordpress-part-i/

    Time to give BackupWordPress a try.

    Jon

  9. Carla

    I glanced at this closely enough to realize that it was a long diatribe about how and why you changed from one blog forum to another. It gives me the impression you were assigned to write a 3,500-word report or some such nonsense. (I recommend Dave Barry-style btw.) Naturally, I didn’t sit here and read it all. Vincent Flanders’s (www.webpagesthatsuck.com) number one biggest mistake webmasters (also applies to bloggers) make: Thinking others out in cyberspace care about you or your website (blog).

  10. Martin

    Thanks, Carla for caring enough to take your time to write this, although I’m sorry to hear that it’s based on just a glance. I’d love to learn from your writing style, but the link to your website doesn’t take me anywhere. I couldn’t agree more that long posts most of the time is a mistake, and of that I’m guilty on more than one occasion. That’s the beauty of blogs; you don’t have to read them. But I would say that an even bigger mistake is passing judgment on a shallow basis. I’ve written another long post related to that here: http://ferrogate.com/2009/05/quantity-vs-quality-does-the-web-stupify-our-culture.html

    I’d like to hear your comments on that as well, and I would very much like to read your blog. If you have one?

  11. Amílcar

    Hi,

    In terms of SEO/SERP, did you notice a improvement on your posts ranking? Now, with your experience, do you think that wordpress is much better than blogger regarding SEO/SERP, or the difference is not big?

    Thanks.

  12. FerroGate

    Hi Amílcar.

    Yes in fact I did. Before the main page wasn't even ranked (I'm only talking about Google which is the only search engine I bother to concern myself with). Now it's starting to be ranked. It's not much yet, but I'm pretty satisfied considering the rather slow rate I'm posting at, and since I'm also doing very little to see my posts…

    I suspect that maybe the CNAME setup I had with Blogger make things a little too confusing for Google.

  13. ronnefeldt tee

    Looks good

  14. Scott

    sweet hope this works keep your fingers crossed I’m planning on making the cross over as well with a few of my blogs.. keep your fingers crossed

  15. deeba

    For someone lost at sea in the technical world, would you recooemnd I attempt the shift on my own, or should I seek help? Thank you.

  16. Martin

    Speaking from personal experience there’s a lot to be learned just jumping in. But, I’m not totally lost in the tech world, and I’ve made my share of stupid mistakes, and have experienced shortcomings more than a few times.

    So, to be on the safe side, I’d find a tech-savvy allie. Or start out small in a safe environment where you won’t destroy anything that you’ve worked hard to build.

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  18. Free Java Code

    This is an excellent post was really helpful
    does anyone know how to enable mod-rewrite in godaddy?

  19. skierpage

    It sounds like GoDaddy’s Windows hosting doesn’t use the marvelous Apache web server! That means a most free stuff and many explanations you read about on the web, like all the redirection and request transformations you can do in a .htaccess file, won’t work. With free and open you’re better off without Windows.

    @Free Java Code, mod_rewrite is a popular module for the Apache web server that has to be loaded in the server’s config. If GoDaddy doesn’t do this or use Apache you’re out of luck. Then you may need to turn it on for your directories with the line “RewriteEngine on” in .htaccess. Try e.g. http://corz.org/serv/tricks/htaccess2.php

  20. Blitter and twisted

    Very useful guide, thanks. This is exactly what I’m contemplating doing as Blogger is driving me mad, and I have hosting already but it’s Windows based.

  21. Tomi Pearse

    I find this interesting.

  22. Scentsy

    I just moved my blog from blogger to wp and I must say I should have just started with WP great post!

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