Article

UPGRADING YOUR BLOG: MOVING TO CUSTOM URLS & NEW PLATFORMS FROM BLOGGER


custom URL and different platforms from Blogger

Hi guys! As you may have noticed,  I recently redesigned my blog and moved to WordPress from Blogger. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I’ve learned during this process since it can be really confusing and feel a little overwhelming once you go down the rabbit hole of online tutorials. I think a lot of us want to make changes and let our blogs grow and evolve, but may be intimidated by some of the more technical aspects of web development (I know I was!)

MOVING TO CUSTOM URLS & NEW PLATFORMS FROM BLOGGER

I’m not going to talk too much about the design end since this is pretty personal and really depends on your style and blog identity. Rather, today I am going to focus on the technical side of moving from a blogspot address to a custom URL, and some basic information about other blogging platforms if you are considering making a move.

Blogger is a really wonderful platform when you are starting a blog. It’s free, simple to customize and has a user-friendly interface. There are many beautiful blogs on Blogger and I don’t want to disparage it, but I realized it was no longer right for me as Closet Case Files started to evolve, especially since I am an insanely picky designer who needs to  have total control over everything.

My number one piece of advice to Blogger users who want to grow their blog is to switch from a blogspot.com address to a custom URL, even if you do not intend to switch blogging platforms.

WHY?

  • It looks better and more professional as a web address. I always hated the blogspot.com at the end of my URL. When people used to ask me for my website I would say “Closet Case Files dot *whispering* blogspot dot com”. It felt like saying “Geocities” or “Angelfire” (‘member the 90’s, people?!)
  • A custom web address is easier for people to remember.
  • If you ever move to another web platform, it will be ten times easier to transfer your content since you will be keeping your permalink structure (more on that shortly).
  • There is no guarantee that Blogger as a service that will be around forever. It is owned by Google, and we all know what happened to Google Reader (RIP old friend). Setting yourself up to make a quick switch if you need to is in your best interest!
  • Down the road you may decide to purchase your domain name and realize someone got to it first. Beat those cybersquatters to the punch!

There is a rather techy way to do a custom url (buy your custom name from somewhere like iwantmyname.com and then follow a somewhat convoluted Google tutorial to manually reset your address)

OR

You can go the easy route and follow this detailed tutorial which walks you through moving from blogspot to a custom url very easily using the Blogger interface. That tutorial also includes a discount code to switch to a custom domain for only $1.99 (it generally runs around $15-20 a year). You can still continue to use Blogger as your platform – you just won’t have the blogspot suffix anymore. Blogger will automatically redirect your web traffic (from bookmarks, Pinterest, web searches etc.) but you will still have to update your RSS feed link (keep reading for more on that….)

WHAT ARE PERMALINKS AND WHY DO I CARE?

A permalink is the “permanent” link to all your individual blog content. Even if you change the name of a post later on, the permalink stays the same.  For example, you write a post called “Sewing Buttonholes” on your blogspot address. Once you create that post, the permalink becomes:

http://sewingblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/sewing-buttonholes.html

The non-italicized part is your web domain address. The italicized part is the permalink for each post or page. In order to make transfers between blogging platforms easier, it is better to have a non-Blogspot address so your permalinks never change. Instead of:

http://sewingblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/sewing-buttonholes.html

it would be:

http://sewingblog.com/2014/03/sewing-buttonholes.html

If you ever import your blog history into a new platform, the links to all your pages and posts stay exactly the same. This is really important for things like maintaining web traffic, keeping your “Google juice” and making sure links from other sources like Pinterest keep working. I know all this stuff because I imported my Blogger blog directly into WordPress without doing a custom URL first and it created some headaches down the road. I had to use a plugin to reroute traffic and pay my web developer to help me manually move a few stubborn links; it’s not an ideal situation but it was my only option. Save yourself the aggravation and get your custom URL set-up BEFORE you make any other moves!

For anyone moving to WordPress, you will have to change your permalink structure in WordPress to mimic your old Blogger permalink structure. The tutorials I link to below explain that in more detail.

RSS FEEDS

I recently discovered Feedburner and HALLELULAH! If you are interested in keeping tabs on who is subscribing to you via rss, this is a lifesaver. It is essentially a feed management system which creates a simple place for users to subscribe to your blog via their rss reader of choice. You can see what my Feedburner page looks like here. Providing a link on your blog to your Feedburner page makes it really easy for people to subscribe to your content, and allows you to track followers which is nice to know (and also may be helpful if you are interested in providing reader statistics to possible advertisers down the road). It only takes a minute to sign up.

If you decide to move from a blogspot address to a custom URL, you will have to update your rss feed address in Blogger so all your followers are automatically rerouted to your new rss feed. There is a simple tutorial here. Again, it only takes a moment. Please note Feedburner does not include Bloglovin’ as a subscription service! You will have to email the customer support team at Bloglovin’ and let them know your url has changed; they will update it automatically for you. They explain how to do that here.

ON CHANGING PLATFORMS….

There are pros and cons to all of the popular blog hosting services. I did a ton of research before I moved over to WordPress and I’ll be honest… it’s not for everyone. I’m very grateful to Blogger for creating a super easy-to-use interface that let me focus on my content when I started writing Closet Case Files. I probably would have continued to use it if I wasn’t building a business and discovering how much more functionality I required.

WordPress is great in that it offers limitless creative potential IF you have some money and time to invest. You’ll need to pay for monthly web hosting (Bluehost is around $7/month), find a good template (which range from $20-100), and unless you are technically inclined and very patient, may need help from a professional developer to tweak things here and there (if you are a nitty gritty perfectionist like myself). I spent a lot of time researching arcane CSS and HTML tutorials and in the end, it was much easier for me to hire a professional to do the heavy lifting. I think it is definitely possible to go full DIY, but you will definitely be googling things you never imagined.

Squarespace is another great option. They have BEAUTIFUL templates and once you get the hang of it, the interface is easy to use. I came very close to using Squarespace for my blog, but in the end I decided I needed more design flexibility and better plug-in options. It is a fun, affordable option if you want something polished without a lot of hassle.

Please note that not all of their templates have the option to add a blog sidebar, which is pretty important to most bloggers. The following templates have sidebar capability:  Beatrice, Dovetail, Hudson, Montauk, Avenue, Frontrow, Forte, Ishimoto, and Galapagos. If you’re curious about checking them out, Squarespace has a free two week trial period and SUPER helpful customer service. It will run you about $8 a month all included (google discount codes since they often have specials).

If you decide to switch platforms there are lots of great online tutorials for handling the transfer. I referred to this one and this one. One thing to keep in mind is that if you make the switch, your tinkering will be “live” so it’s wise to either:

a) Refine your blog design before importing posts OR

b) Set-up a “test” blog on a subdomain and play around there before going live. There are dozens of resources online explaining how to do this.

This is only a small portion of things I discovered in this process but I think I’ll leave it at that for today. My apologies if you’re bored out of your skull. I just wanted to share some hard earned lessons and save you from some of the “head banging against wall” I’ve been doing the last few months. Hope this helps anyone thinking about upgrading from their .blogspot address! It takes a little time and effort but I think owning your own domain is definitely worth it!

  • lisa g

    this is super useful info! a year ago i switched from blogger to WP and yeah… live tinkering happened that i wish i could have avoided! someday i’ll customize my space to get a more polished look, but as it stands i’m not building a business–i just want things to look nice. thanks for taking the time to write up this info!

    • Thanks Lisa! It can be insanely overwhelming to do it for the first time so I was hoping to help people avoid some of the mistakes I made. The joys of being a DIY blogger!

  • Perfect timing as I’m just starting to look into doing this! One question: did you find a way to move all the photos over automatically or did you have to do it manually?

    • When you import posts into WordPress, the content moves, NOT the photos. Your newly imported posts will basically link back to the original image URL on Blogger. This is totally fine to keep as is, but I was hosting photos on Picasa (which is being phased out by Google, surprise, surprise) and I wanted to host them from my own site. I used a plugin to import them. You just want to be double check on a test post that things like Pinterest links come to the NEW post (they should – they are linked to the original blogger post, which should be rerouted to your new WP site). One more reason to do the custom url FIRST!

  • Thanks for posting this! I’m currently on Blogger but I’ll probably switch somewhere down the line. I started with Blogger because I don’t have a lot of time to play around with it, so I wanted something free and easy. I’ve only been blogging for just over six months now, so my blog is still super basic. I keep meaning to redo parts of it, but I just haven’t found the time. Anyways, it’s good to know that it’s do-able to switch platforms. By the way, I love what you’ve done with your blog!

    • Thanks love! It’s so worth it to invest a little time. Feels good to love the space where you share so much of yourself. I’m super excited to see what Lucky Lucille is working she she’s developing some great templates for DIY bloggers!

  • This is a really great post! As we evolve as bloggers and business owners, this is a change we all consider. Thanks for the help!

  • FYI, there’s a WordPress plugin that allows you to update all the URLs in your posts. :) It’s basically like doing a “find and replace” on your blog. This is useful if your domain name changes (whether from a migration or an actual blog name change).

    Velvet Blues Update URLs

    • Hi Ashley. Thanks for this – I may run it just to see if I have any other broken links I’m not aware of.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for the info! You new site looks great! I’ve been thinking of changing to wordpress and a custom domain for a while myself but haven’t had the time or motivation to take the plunge. Soon! This is definitely encouraging. Thanks.

  • This post has been very helpful. Thank you for that! I’ve been considering for quite some time to make the switch to my own custom url….soon I hope!

  • Senjiva Studio

    I use WordPress, but probably not to its full potential because I don’t know how to code. I managed to get it to auto-direct to my .com domain. Please keep us posted on all your insights. I bought my domain from GoDaddy and basically WordPress is the host. Your site is beautiful.

    • Thank you! The nice thing about WP is that there are tutorials or forums for just about any question you have but seems fairly simple to use without going crazy with the customization. I’m trying to limit my widgets because I don’t want to slow down the site but its hard – there are so many good ones!

  • As someone who does this for a living, congratulations on moving towards wordpress. Its fantastic and far better option than blogger. Your import shouldve been easy if you used the import tool, and then changed the permalink setting under settings and then deleted your .htaccess file.

    if you ever come across any wp issues, let me know.. would be glad to help out

    • Hi Lola! Thanks for your comment.The import would have been okay but I didn’t change the permalink structure correctly so we had to do some McGyvering after the fact (but omg importing DIsqus was a nightmare!). All my research seemed to indicate its just all around better to have a custom url before moving to WP so you get the ideal 301 reroute. I also think that doing it in stages would have saved me some stress which is why I was recommending people buy their domain name now, regardless of when or if they want to make a move elsewhere.

      • Totally, agree! you have no idea how many headaches I could’ve saved myself, if I just sat back and looked at the big picture first.

        PS – I’ll def be getting in touch soon for sponsorship (once I have more free time from freelancing to do more sewing)

  • sallieforrer

    Ooohhh girl!! Such a helpful post – especially that link to the tutorial for moving to your own custom url. I have a mini blog face-lift in the works currently. I think I mentioned in one of our emails that I’m going to stick with Blogger for the time being, but spruce it up with a new template. And I think moving to my own custom url is a good move.
    So as I’ve been working on a redesign I’ve been trying to come up with a fresh blog header and I feel like every time I get one that I’m like, “Yeeahhhh… that looks good” I realize a second later that it’s totally ripping off your sweet new logo! Further proof that I’m about a blog header away from completely sneaking into your life and taking up permanent residence – cuz if it’s good enough for Heather Lou then I WANT THAT SHIT!! So I keep going back to the drawing board!

    • HAHAHAHA.
      I’m sure withe amount of sewing I’ve been doing lately Guillaume wouldn’t even notice.

      Feel free to send me any options. It’s nice to get a second opinion! Can’t wait to see the facelift (But I have always and will always love your current blog design….)

  • Your site looks so great, it was definitely worth all the painstaking effort! I feel like there are tons of us in the same headspace about revamping/moving, which I’ve needed to do for YEARS! Yikes. I have about a thousand things on my to do list (and it’s freaking me out), so it’s encouraging to know someone else found this process to be a pain as well. :)

    • When it feels overwhelming we stall stall stall. That’s why Squarespace is a nice option. It’s pretty easy and non-tech expert friendly.

  • Oh how I wish this post went live before I switched from blogger to wp. I honestly had no idea what I was doing back then… or now. But I manage, ha! Fabulous advice all around – and I can’t recall if I complimented you on your new design back when it went live – but it really is gorgeous. I kinda like mine being a bit of a hack job – it’s a good representation of me 😉

  • i so want to jazz up my blog. i just need a day by the pool with cool drinks and snacks. shouldn’t be hard, once i find the pool….

    • Oona.. I have a backyard with a koi pond.. maybe a kiddie pool once summer kicks in.. its not much but feel free to come kick it.. its where i’ll be working on some wordpress sites.

  • Amy

    This is all really fantastic advice. I love WordPress. It does make a lot of things easy within most skill limits. I have used just about every blog platform (I’d forgotten about Geocities–my first ever website in the 90s!). But moving is a real headache–even though I can code, sometimes it’s worth paying someone who does it all day long. One particular note about feeds–Google owns Feedburner and pretty much stopped actively supporting it over a year ago. I worried that it may become one of their “give it the axe” services. So now I just let WordPress handle my feeds. WordPress actually has a pretty decent way of looking at feed stats!

    Did I tell you before how much I love your typography? It’s a visual treat on its own!

    • Thanks Amy! I’m not gonna lie – I AGONIZED over fonts for a few weeks before finally settling down. I love fonts. I have hundreds on my computer. It’s an issue!

      Do you use a widget for WP feed monitoring or is it a built in service? I never even noticed the settings…. Damn Google and it’s “Here! Love it? NOW WE’RE TAKING IT AWAY” mentality….

  • Deb Cameron

    I have just moved from Blogger to SquareSpace. I was going to WordPress but when I found SquareSpace I just loved the wisywig interface, WP looks fantastic but I felt overwhelmed in the set up process. Thanks for your insights, it’s certainly an ‘adventure’ LOL

    • How are you liking Squarespace?! I don’t know of any sewing bloggers using the platform but it seemed like it could be great.

  • This is great! I’m currently working on moving from blogger to squarespace. Very exciting!

    • Send me your link when you’re done! I’d love to see it!

  • Pingback: Hi there, it’s been awhile!()

  • Pepperminting.com

    I stumbled upon this article and I LOVE your writing style. I feel confident about potentially switching from my WordPress blog. Thanks for your insight, I’m definitely a new follower!!! :)

    – Jesi
    Pepperminting.com

  • EEP, just found your post! I’m just juggling this now! I’ve had my domain since 2011 and haven’t had any time til now to shift it… really struggling to decide about squarespace/wordpress though xoxo

    • I had the same struggle… in the end I’m happy I went with WP but I am a control freak and wanted to have a lot of design wiggle room. If you find a template that suits your needs on Squarespace and don’t think you’ll want to spend hours or hundreds of dollar on a web desiger customizing the CSS for a WP site, I say go for it! You can always switch over to WP later once you’ve got your own domain. I think it’s the least stressful solution.

  • Great post! I am currently using Squarespace and have been happily for about two years–however, I have started the notice that Squarespace is quite limited when it comes to custom design and I am finally at the point that I’m ready to invest in that. I’m excited for my start to have more capabilities that I’d like it to have. If you’re a total beginning, I would say Squarespace is a great way to go!

  • dental implant treatment for 1 day 400 euro.