Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Moving from WordPress to Blogger

Michael Salsbury
The Shared Hosting Problem

I had my blogs on shared hosting for many years.  My first shared host was reasonably fast, but expensive.  At the time, it was worth it because I wanted to try my hand at a web business I thought might take off.  It never did.  About ten people signed up for and visited the site.  Then I moved to low-cost shared hosting (I'm not going to name names, but you've certainly seen or heard their ads).

The problem with shared hosting services like that is that your site tends to serve pages very, very slowly because you're competing for resources with every other site on the same service.  WordPress is a reasonably efficient content management system, but when you cram dozens or hundreds of WordPress instances on the same box, performance can become... a problem.  With all the tuning and optimization I could manage, my blogs all displayed glacially slowly.  I'd finally had enough.  There was no point paying $100 a year or more to host blogs that loaded so slowly no one would want to stick around to read them. To get faster hosting, I'd have had to pay $30 a month or more.

Enter Google's Blogger service.  It's free, which means no more $100/year bills.  It saves your pages as HTML, so they load very fast compared to hosting systems like WordPress that tend to generate and cache pages as they're accessed.  And faster still over a shared service hosting hundreds of blogs on a single box.  It's comparatively secure, since it's hard to infect a bunch of static HTML pages (though comment spam and malware is a possible infection vector - which is one reason I moderate all comments to the blog).

What You Give Up

Moving from WordPress to Blogger isn't a "one for one" swap.  You'll be giving up some things that you might be used to.  I don't profess to be an expert in either WordPress or Blogger, but in my experience there are things a WordPress blogger gives up to move to the Google Blogger platform:

  • XML-RPC Support:  I liked being able to use Windows Live Writer to create blog posts.  I could build them offline, save them on my laptop, and upload them to WordPress when I got home.  If my post had images, Live Writer uploaded those as part of the process.  While Live Writer does work with Blogger, it's not as easy to set up and image uploading is problematic.
  • Plug-in Support:  WordPress allows you to extend the service with plug-ins that do things like display lists of related posts, perform search engine optimization, add a link to your post on your Twitter feed, etc. Blogger doesn't have plug-ins.  It offers "Gadgets" but they're nothing like WordPress plug-ins.
  • Themes:  WordPress allows you to customize the appearance of your blog with professional and free Themes.  Blogger does this, to a degree, but I've had trouble finding Blogger Templates that I liked.
  • Categories:  I liked being able to assign my posts to Categories.  That way, as a reader who came to my site through a search about a particular topic, you could see what other posts I had about the same topic.  You can do this to a degree with Blogger's Labels, but that's not quite the same either.

Aside from the above, it's been a good move.  My blog loads faster than it ever did.  I'm seeing higher hit counts, probably because it doesn't take 10-30 seconds for a page to load like it did on the big shared hosting services.  I don't get tons of spam comments now.  I don't warnings from my security plug-in, telling me someone tried to hack my blog to put spam or malware on it.

How To Do It

The conversion process from WordPress to Blogger isn't as simple as it sounds at first.  What I had to do for each of my blogs was:
  • Export all your content from WordPress
  • Go into the hosting service's control panel and download the WordPress "uploads" directory, which holds the images that you had inserted in your posts (if you don't, you'll lose those when your shared hosting account goes away... they'll remain visible until then)
  • Upload the WordPress export file into a free conversion service that turns it into a Blogger import file
  • Import the converted file to Blogger
If you didn't have any links in your posts that pointed to other posts on your blog, and didn't have any images in any of your posts, you might be finished.  If not, you've got some more work to do:
  • For each post with an image in it, edit it Blogger.  Delete the image.  Upload the image from the WordPress "uploads" directory that you downloaded from your original hosting service.
  • When you've fixed all the images, it's time to fix the links.  You can do this by reading through your site a post at a time, or by using a tool like the freeware LinkChecker.
If you have a custom domain name (like "mikesalsbury.com"), you'll need to go to your domain name registrar and change the settings to point to Google's Blogger hosting.  Instructions for this can be found in Blogger under Settings, Publishing, Blog Address.

At this point, you'll have made the conversion and your new blog should be up and running.  If not, your domain name registrar and Google should be able to help.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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