What I Learned While Migrating to WordPress
originally written and published April 2009 at ylcf.org
updated August 2010
When I was searching for help on migrating from Blogger to WordPress.org, there was a different list of suggestions for every Google search result. None of them actually applied to me in their entirety. And since I already owned my own domain and hosting, some of the solutions seemed rather ridiculous (I did not want meta redirects, or to add lines to my Blogger template to redirect each page). So I had to figure it out one step at a time. I’m sharing what I learned, and the migration steps I took, in the hopes that it might help someone else like me who’s searching for help on changing over from Blogger to WordPress. No guarantees it will work for anyone but me, but hopefully it will help you figure out your own situation.
One more note: WordPress’ support pages are woefully out of date. If you’re dealing with any third party site (such as FeedBurner) where you can look for help, look there first: it will probably be years more recent, and 100% easier, than it appears on wordpress.org/support. Otherwise, if it’s really a WordPress issue, and the support file doesn’t help, check WPBeginner.com or the WordPress forums. The people there are helpful.
That being said, here are the steps I took to switch to WordPress:
(My situation was this: I’d long had a Blogger blog hosted on my own subdomain at http://blog.ylcf.org. I wanted my new WordPress.org blog to be at http://ylcf.org. This is how I got from there to here.)
- I installed WordPress in a test directory, ylcf.org/wordpress. Thanks to our host, it was an automatic application installation. Most hosts provide that wonderful feature, but that doesn’t mean all their tech support staff understand WordPress issues if you need to call in the future with issues like a failed database or unknown errors. Check out current the recommendations at WPBeginner.com before you choose a host, if possible.
- I installed the plugins I wanted, chose a Theme and designed a Child Theme (a way to customize your WP theme without making changes to the original theme files), and pretty much got everything just the way I wanted it in that test directory (including setting my permalinks settings in WordPress to the custom setting of /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/ as directed here–very important for when you import your Blogger posts in step #7).
- A note on plugins–don’t search for a plugin, but instead browse through the most popular ones. If you have FeedBurner, you’ll want a Feedburner Plugin. There are great Google Analytics plugins to allow you to easily use Google Analytics. There are SEO plugins to allow you to define meta tags and much more for your site. And that’s just the beginning of thousands of plugin options!
- I made a final post to Blogger, letting people know I was making the switch, to bear with broken links for the moment, and most importantly, to check back soon if another post didn’t appear in their feed reader. Important Lesson Learned: Wait until this post shows up in your own feed reader before you go any further, otherwise if you have any problems with feed redirection you’ll have to retrace your steps to let your old feed readers know, and that’s not pretty.
- When I was all ready to go, I logged into my WordPress dashboard in the test directory (mysite.com/wordpress/wp-admin), and in the General Panel changed the WordPress address and Blog Address URL’s to my root directory. I saved the changes, and got an error, just as I expected, thanks to similar (though slightly reverse) steps at http://codex.wordpress.org/Giving_WordPress_Its_Own_Directory. I went into my FTP, and after deleting the html files I already had in the root directory, moved the contents of my test wordpress directory into my root directory (make sure you get every one–these are the files that run WordPress). Then I logged into the dashboard again, through the new URL using only mysite.com/wp-admin/, and chose to upgrade WordPress again (thus fixing files that were messed up in the transition).
(If you can avoid changing install directories, it’s easier–I had to deactivate and reactivate a few plugins, and re-publish all my pages, for them to work in the new root directory, after they had worked fine in the test directory. If you’re already using the root directory you plan to publish WordPress to, the other option is simply to change the settings so that it publishes to the root, but the install files stay in the test directory–making for no moving files via FTP, etc. It all depends on where you want your WordPress admin files to be.)
- Before going any further and making changes to Blogger, it’s time to import all your posts and comments into WordPress. It’s simple and painless if you do it now. If you wait until you’ve changed your address at Blogger or changed your DNS settings with your host, it’s much more complicated. An additional precaution against missing importing any comments is to disable comments from anyone but your blog members on Blogger before you make the import into WordPress, just so you don’t have one comment that didn’t import.
- After you’ve imported your posts, install and activate the “Maintain Blogger Permalinks” plugin, which will change all your Blogger permalinks (which truncate and cut out articles such as “the”) into WordPress permalinks (you can see it in custom fields at the bottom of your posts afterwards–otherwise, you can delete this plugin and you won’t have to deal with it again, nor will it affect future posts made through WordPress).
- Then I went to my host’s domain manager, and deleted all CNAME and A records for Blogger (might be just ghs.google.com, but could include other IP addresses–if you set it up, hopefully you’ll remember). In my case, I had a subdomain for my blog, which I now wanted to redirect to my root folder, I set up a subdomain which forwarded to my root–but that step won’t apply to most of you.
- Since I had a FeedBurner account, this was the point where I logged in there and set my original feed location as mysite.com/feed (WordPress’ feed addresses are so very simple if you change your permalinks from the default setting!). Then I added my FeedBurner address to the FeedBurner option which was now in my settings, thanks to the FeedBurner plugin.
- This was also the point I added my Google Analytics code to my Plugin settings, so I could keep track of my traffic fluctuations throughout the switchover.
- Here came the final dealings with Blogger. I went back to my Blogger dashboard, and told it to publish my blog to my new address. Of course, since I hosted my blog at my own domain (and Blogger instantly told me my domain wasn’t set up correctly any more), this didn’t do me much good other than updating the blog link in my Blogger profile. But if you were previously publishing to BlogSpot and switched to WordPress, this is the only way your BlogSpot address can redirect to your new WordPress blog, since you don’t own the Blogspot domain and can’t set up a redirect for it.
- By the exact same token, I set my post feed redirect address in Blogger. This does nothing but keep your Blog Followers following the feed of your new site. This is the spot that no one explained well in the tutorials. If you already owned your own domain and published to it on Blogger, and then switch to WordPress, your domain hosts will not be asking Blogger where to send your feed links–but every single site said Blogger would take care of the feed redirects for me. Not so. I had to set that up manually in an .htaccess file (that step coming in a moment). But again, if you were previously publishing on BlogSpot and switched to WordPress, this is the only way your BlogSpot feed will redirect to your new WordPress feed, so tell Blogger to send all your feed requests on to yoursite.com/feed or your FeedBurner address.
- Finally, in your Blogger Dashboard, tell Blogger not to let robots index your blog. You can say goodbye to your Blogger Dashboard–you won’t need to come back to it. But don’t delete it–if you’ve uploaded pictures to Picasa through your blog, it’s best to leave it right where it is so your picture links don’t decide to disappear from within your WordPress blog someday. And your Blog Following can still see you as long as you set up your feed redirect in Blogger and leave your Blogger blog right where it is in your dashboard. But don’t worry–your Blogger blog has entirely disappear from the eyes of anyone but you now (so it doesn’t matter how out of date the template is), and you can only find it through editing the posts in Blogger–all the old permalinks will redirect right to your new blog, in just the next step or two.
- Here’s where the magic of .htaccess comes into play. Check out the section on .htaccess to find out exactly what to put into your file, save it, and upload it to your root directory (it may overwrite a blank one put there by WordPress).
- Just for the fun of it, test your redirects. Enter an old link like http://www.mybloggerblog.com/2009/02/an-old-post.html and see if it shows up with the proper post at http://www.mybloggerblog.com/2009/02/an-old-post/ To test your feed redirects, enter http://www.mybloggerblog.com/feeds/posts/default into your browser and make sure it redirects to your new feed. If not, you won’t see your post in your feed reader if you were subscribed to your old feed address, and neither will anyone else–so it’s back to the .htaccess drawing board until you get the redirects just right (and sorry, I don’t guarantee these directions).
- Make a new “I’m here–can you see me?” post on WordPress. It should appear in your feed reader, no matter whether you had your old feed address, your FeedBurner address, or your new feed saved there–thanks to the redirects.
- You’re all set and ready to enjoy using WordPress (or start missing Blogger, as the case may be).
Sites I referenced in my learning process: