Farewell 2011…but 2012 is going to epic!

January 1, 2012 in Best Of, Blogging, On Writing

I miss Sydney already (Source: cbsnews)

And…we’re back to our regular programming.

2011 was a massive year for me.  I made WordPress.com’s “Freshly Pressed” list (with this post).  I migrated my website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (and this is how I did it).  I graduated from my masters degree in writing (and this is what I thought of it).  I moved from one country to another (again).  I secured my first major piece of freelance work.  I scored a full-time job in writing and editing.  And most of all, I became a dad (and this is how it happened)!

As for this blog, since making the move in September 2011, traffic has slowed down significantly without flow from WordPress.com channels.  Instead of an average of 1,000-1,500 hits a day, my stats dropped down to around 400-600 a day.  Was it worth it though?  Err…yes!  Less hits but more freedom, and it’s prettier!

For the year, I racked up 346,525 hits, with 289,807 coming from before the move and just 56,718 from after.  Unless the new address takes off, and given that I’m about to have a lot less time on my hands to post, chances are this will be the most hits I see for a very very long time.

So that’s my 2011 in a nutshell. It was great, but I have a feeling 2012 is going to be EPIC!  New apartment, new country, new job and new baby!  Oh, and the NBA is back, baby!  Will Pacquiao and Mayweather finally get it on (after Mayweather gets out of prison)?

And my goodness, the movies that are scheduled to come out: The Hobbit (Part I), The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers (holy crap I think I just sprayed my shorts), just to name a few.  And yeah, the final Twilight movie (more reason to celebrate?).  I wonder what awesome books are coming out next, sorry, I mean THIS year too.

Of course, this is all contingent on the world not ending in 2012.  I dunno, but I tend to believe in crap like this.  While I don’t expect the world to end (per se), I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some seismic event that changes the world (as we know it) forever.  Maybe it will make me work harder to finish writing my books.

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.

Ultimate WordPress.com to WordPress.org DYI guide for dummies

September 10, 2011 in Blogging, Websites

I'm out!

I am master of my domain.

This is the fourth day since I completed the DYI migration from my WordPress.com blog (pacejmiller.wordpress.com) to my own domain (pacejmiller.com), and it looks like all is going well.  My blog is now freer, better to look at, and packed with more features than before.  And I can (potentially) advertise.  My old stuff is still all there and my new blog is still getting regular visitors.

For a lot of people in my former position (ie, thinking of migrating from WordPress.com to their own domain — and in doing so, shredding the ‘wordpress’ from their URL), I am hoping this post will provide a simple, comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to get it done — from getting your own web host to exporting/importing your old materials, installing themes and plugins and redirecting visitors from your old blog to the new one.

I had to learn the hard way because almost all of the guides I came across online were difficult to understand, required assumed knowledge or were plagued with gaps.

Anyway, I am going to start from the beginning and separate the process out under specific headings.  Feel free to skip the sections you are familiar with and go straight to what you need.

I must preface this guide by saying that I am no expert, just someone who had no idea what they were doing but figured it out eventually, so pardon me if I don’t get all the terms right.

Read the rest of this entry →

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!

Moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

September 2, 2011 in Blogging, Misc, Technology, Websites

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I’m finally doing it. At last. Well, not me specifically, but someone at WordPress.com is doing it, for a handsome fee.

What am I talking about?

Well, in Feb this year, after consulting my blogging guru friend, I purchased my own domain name at pacejmiller.com. This friend told me that my blog had potential but was been kept in shackles because it was being hosted by the free and wonderfully user-friendly WordPress.com. However, being a free blog, there are of course restrictions on what you can do with it, including how it looks and operates, and the big killer, the inability to advertise. Accordingly, it was time for the blog to break free and soar to new heights.

So I purchased a domain (on special) at Siteground for a very very cheap price and it appeared as though everything was ready to go.

However, being a complete tool at the Internets, I got a bit overwhelmed by the numerous step by step instructions (which weren’t step by step at all!) on how to migrate my current site over to the new address. After all, my current blog is where everything is at — I lose the content I have on it and I lose everything. It was, frankly, a tad frightening.

I tried to use the supposedly simple migration process stipulated in the help articles at WordPress.com, which involved ‘exporting’ everything on my blog into a single file, which I would then take over to the new blog and ‘import’. Sounds easy enough, right?

Not quite. I made several attempts to create the export file, but perhaps it was because I had too much content or something, the system kept crashing. After a frustrating struggle, I finally obtained an export file, but the import process just wouldn’t work. The export file was corrupt or incomplete or just plain evil.

And even if it was successful, I’m not sure if everything could be moved over smoothly. For starters, I read somewhere that the embedded videos will not make the migration. Secondly, is it just the posts or do my numerous pages get moved over as well? What about all the custom drop down menus I painstakingly created? What about all the widgets (including the text ones I created myself)? Do I have to do everything again myself? And more importantly, what about my existing visitors and my Google rankings and what not? Will they become innocent victims in this seemingly innocuous move?

It was blowing my mind, and in any case I wasn’t in any particular rush. I also had a bunch of other things I had to take care of, so the migration almost entirely slipped my mind.

More recently, I started getting quite a few requests for advertising, which rekindled my passion for the migration. I had already wasted 6 months and who knows how much that has already held my blog back? But with a massive move on the way, job applications, freelance work, freelance work seeking and other crap, I just wasn’t prepared to go through all the time and effort of relearning how to migrate the blog and doing it myself again.

Thankfully, WordPress.com offers a ‘Guided Transfer’, which can be found in the ‘Store’ tab towards the top of the left side menu when you log in to the WordPress dashboard. In short, it’s $119 bucks and you work with an expert to do everything for you — seamlessly, of course. You agree on a date and time for the migration and they even stick around for a couple of weeks afterward to answer any queries and guide you into the world of WordPress.org.

Anyway, there’s no turning back now because I have just purchased the Guided Transfer, so the move will be imminent. I’ll keep everyone updated and informed on how things go, but in hopefully it will all go smoothly and visitors to the current address will automatically be redirected to the new one.

Moving forward, I think I will start a series of posts on the actual experience of migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org — including whether this Guided Transfer was worth it, any obvious differences between .com and .org, the impact of the migration on my visitors, rankings and stats, and (fingers crossed) my foray into running advertisements on the blog, in particular the best options for bloggers and the effectiveness they have in generating revenue.

So if you’re interested in any of that crap (told from a web moron’s perspective), stay tuned, and if you haven’t already, subscribe!

On a final note, having tried a couple of other blogging platforms, I can honestly say that WordPress.com has been absolutely fantastic and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone thinking of starting their own blog.