WordPress.com to WordPress.org: 3 weeks on

September 25, 2011 in Blogging

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I made the DYI migration from a WordPress.com blog to my own domain at pacejmiller.com.  So far, the results have been mixed, but I remain optimistic.

Presentation

For starters, the look and feel of the blog has improved dramatically and I have more freedom in shaping how everything looks.  I am no longer constrained by the limitations of WordPress.com.  The only problem is that I have to continue to learn how to do these things because a lot of things require knowledge of CSS or HTML, both of which were completely foreign to me not so long ago (and remain relatively foreign now).

I’ve been able to add new plugins and widgets, many of which are merely replicating what I had on WordPress.com before, but some of them are new and pretty cool.  The SEO plugins are particularly useful as they optimise your site and your posts for search engine efficiency.  I have yet to see the results, to be honest, but I’m sure it will pay dividends down the track.  The annoying thing with the plugins is that you often have to learn how to configure them yourself, which can be a pain, even with the help of YouTube tutorials (you have to look for them yourself).  There have been several plugins where I have simply deleted rather than trying to figure out how they work properly.

Visitors

The main thing I was concerned about when switching from WordPress.com is losing my visitors.  Before I made the switch I was averaging around 1,200 visitors per day.  I rarely dipped below 900 and on occasion could soar to 2,000-3,000+ if there was a Stumbled post or if it was ‘Freshly Pressed’ on WordPress.com.

Around the time I made the switch one of my posts had been Stumbled again and I was getting strong views around 2,000 a day.  However, as soon as I made the switch the numbers started to drop.  Check out the stats graph below.

Now, ignore the first day, Sep 4, because the transition was made in the middle of that day and the blog remained somewhat unstable for a few hours (ie the redirect didn’t work all the time).  But as you can see, from Sep 5, my blog stats began to steadily decline from around 1,100 hits until it bottomed out (or so I thought) at around 600 a week later.  Since then, the stats have been fluctuating, dipping below 500 a couple of times but for the most part remaining between 500-700.  That’s about half my blog hits, slashed from the move.

I wondered why that was the case.  Weren’t all the visitors to my old blog being automatically redirected?  Although I don’t know all the answers, I have a feeling one of the main reasons for the drop is that I am no longer reaping the benefits of being associated with WordPress.com.

The SEO of a WordPress.com blog seems to be quite high, plus I get referrers from WordPress.com through their tags and category systems.  By moving away from WordPress.com I lose all of that.

Secondly, the page rank and authority of my old blog has not been transferred over despite the auto redirect.  As a result, when people search for things on search engines, my blog posts are stashed away at the bottom of search results.  At the same time, the rank and authority of my old blog might also be falling, acting as a double whammy for my blog stats.

I have resubmitted my blog to the various search engines and looked for traffic exchanges such as TrafficSwarm and so forth, but none of them made a noticeable difference thus far.

I found an interesting discussion of the loss in blog stats here.  It seems losing around 50-60% of daily hits after a migration isn’t as bad as some who lose up to 90%.  There is no way around it and it will take 6 months or more to build it back up, if at all.  No wonder a lot of people who have made the move are considering moving back.

That’s a sobering thought.

Advertising

I have made the decision to delay advertising on the blog for the time being.  For starters, I don’t think I am getting enough visitors to make more than a bit of pocket change at the moment.  I’ll need to build up my visitors a little more before thinking about it again.

In the meantime, I have signed up to Google Adsense, which I think is having some technical issues in regards to validating websites.  I’m just going to park it for now.

There are several other options, some of which had contacted me previously about advertising.  Interestingly, with my previous visitor average on WordPress.com (ie, 25,000+ page views per month), I could have applied for the AdControl upgrade on WordPress.com and get ads that way, even though I would have to split the profits with WordPress 50/50.  However, from this forum post, it appears that you’ll be lucky to get just 5 bucks a month.

So perhaps it’s back to the drawing board because the income from these ads might not be enough to offset the ugliness that comes with it.

A Final Word

So far, so good.  I’m not happy about losing around half my blog hits on a daily basis but I knew they would take a hit when I made the migration.  Hopefully, in time, things will improve.

That said, I am ecstatic about the new look and the new possibilities the blog has now that it’s moved to its own domain.  I still have a lot to learn and will let people know if I have any new discoveries or breakthroughs.

Welcome to the new blog!

September 5, 2011 in Blogging, Misc, Technology, Websites

I'm back, baby!

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Deep exhale.

Finally, I have successfully migrated my old blog from pacejmiller.wordpress.com to my own domain at pacejmiller.com.  It was a little shaky at first but I think the blog has finally settled in.

The Big Move

To cut a long story short, I ended up doing it all myself, and it took a good couple of days and hours and hours of messing around and reading (and deciphering) online guides to move the blog over from the WordPress domain to my own purchased domain (from SiteGround) and to get it into the shape it is now.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was going to pay the $119 fee for WordPress.com to do a ‘Guided Transfer’ for me, after previous attempts to export the material on my old blog to new blog failed miserably.  However, as it turned out, WordPress can only do Guided Transfers for people who have purchased a domain from one of their affiliates.  So I got the kind engineers at WordPress to do a full refund for me and I proceeded to do the damn thing myself, including how to redirect traffic from the old site to the new one.

For those interested to learn how it is done, I am going to do a post shortly that sets out exactly what I did, where I looked and where I sought assistance.  Hopefully it can help people in my position — ie, want to move your blog to your own domain but don’t really know what the difference will be and find the whole process a little overwhelming.

New Blog, New Features!

The first thing you’ll notice on this new and improved blog is that I have a new theme.  From day one I stuck with Regulus (a free theme from WordPress.com) and it served me fine for more than two years, but I felt it was time to go with a slicker, more professional look that made better use of the space.

So I ended up picking a new theme called Custom Community by Themekraft.  Custom Community is also a free theme but you can upgrade it (for $39) to gain access to more custom features, widgets and so forth.  The best thing about this theme is that it already has plenty of customisation options — the ‘how to’ guides are not necessarily the best, but if you muck around with it for long enough you’ll eventually figure it out.

The most noticeable difference with this new layout is that I have a massive slideshow just below the banner.  I have customised the slideshow so that every time someone opens the Home page it will display four random posts from my new ‘Best Of’ category.  Essentially, I picked out around 20 or so posts which have either been highly popular at one time or another or represent some of my better works and ideas and put them in this category, and I customised the slideshow to show posts only from that category and at random.

The second main difference is the three image boxes directly under the slideshow, which lists my three most recent posts.  Personally, I would have preferred to get rid of them but they are not customisable in the free version of the theme. [Correction: I just figured out that you actually can get rid of the post list under the General/Default Homepage tab under Theme Settings but I realised the blog looks better with them so I put them back in]

The biggest hassle with the slideshows and image boxes is that I have to create these new Featured Images on my existing posts.  There’s a new box in the new post creation screen and I have to separately upload an image to it — and the image has to be resized (to 756px in width) in order for it to fit properly.  And I had to crop the images in cases where the slideshow zoomed in on the wrong part of the picture.  Hours of work, I tell ya.  Hours of work.

Those are the most obvious differences but boy did I have to do a lot of stuff.  Even though migrating your blog keeps all your old posts and comments, etc, none of the widgets in the sidebar are moved over, so I had to redo everything from scratch.  On the bright side, it allowed me to clean out a lot of the old stuff and links that weren’t being used.

Lots of other customisations that you probably won’t think much of but took me forever.  For instance the header of the blog (that little blue strip of the night sky), which I grabbed from my old theme — that alone took like three hours because I had to get the size and placement exactly right.  The drop down menus as well — the colour, the shape, the shadows — all that crap had to be customised.

One of the biggest changes I’ve had to get used to is all the Plugins that I have to install in order to replicate some of the features I had on WordPress.com as well as the new ones to give me additional features that weren’t available on WordPress.com.  It’s been a struggle but I am slowly coming around.

The next step is to install Google Adsense and other advertising mechanisms to take advantage of the ability to advertise (something which WordPress.com prohibits).  I’ve already signed up for Adsense but it might take a few days before the application is approved.

Another thing I will have to go through is the wealth of information provided on SEO (search engine optimisation), which is crucial if you want to increase your blog’s exposure and traffic.

In the meantime, life will be back to normal and I will continue to pump out posts.  I already have a handsome backlog.

Anyway, take a look around at the new site, check out the new features, and let me know what you think.  Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated!