It was a scary decision to move from Blogspot to a new domain. Using a software package like the Blogspot editor helps make it easy to design attractive blogs but when it comes time to actually do something ourselves, it can be downright intimidating!
Thankfully, free online tools make it possible to do the job with minimal heart palpitations or acid reflux. I’d like to help reduce those symptoms for the readers by showing the basic steps needed. It was pretty painless and much easier than I’d thought.
WHY MOVE? First, the reason I moved the blog was to gain greater control over the content, its security, and to explore the potential to monetize. Of course, it is cool to have your own domain name, too. The URL is shorter and better yet, easier for people to type and remember. It is affordable, too.
So why is there a need to protect the blog’s content? In recent days, I had heard horror stories about people who have tried to implement advertising programs on their pages and have had their blogs canceled for one reason or another. The risk is too great. Not only is the blog written to help others and make a few dollars, it’s also something I look at as a diary to document a journey that changed my life. It’s required many hundreds of hours of work to get this far. I don’t want to lose it! Getting my own domain name means handpicking a hosting company and being able to back up all of the content safely in case of anything going wrong.
CHOOSE A HOSTING COMPANY. This is important. There are a bazillion places out there today that will host your website for a few bucks. That’s great, but will they be there tomorrow? Will their servers (where your objects reside) be reliable and fast enough? Can you trust them? Are they affordable? Do they have tools available to help you accomplish tasks without a lot of computer expertise? How about their customer support? In these areas, GoDaddy impressed me. They also have offices in Cedar Rapids and the tech support people speak English fluently!
To get the ball rolling, all I had to do was call the GoDaddy 800 number and tell the sales person what I wanted to buy: a domain name (vantrekker.com) and have my web content hosted on their servers. They will walk you through the process, asking questions and making sure you buy what you need. The expense is reasonable. You can get a domain name and unlimited storage space and bandwidth for the monthly price of a burger combo (or less). As I recall, it was something like $68 / year for the package. That also included one free email address which I set to Brad@vantrekker.com
CONVERTING TO WORDPRESS. Once you have a domain name registered and the server space rented, the content needs to be moved from the old blog to your new server. I’ll focus on moving from Blogger / Blogspot to WordPress. Remember, you can keep Blogspot and point it at your new domain if you like. I prefer to use a copy of WordPress located on my own server space.
GoDaddy.com provided (free of charge) the latest version of WordPress. You click on the install icon and it walks you through the setup. It’s amazingly simple. When finished, all you have to do is go to the web and log in to the Wordpress Admin Panel (normally your domain/wp-admin/ ) You will e asked for the WordPress username and password. It’s that easy!
Now you get to do the fun stuff.
Like Blogspot, there are many themes available and they are highly customizable. You will need to add a number of widgets (like Blogspot / Blogger calls “gadgets”) to add some functionality. This takes time. Sometimes you won’t like the spacing between widgets. You can either edit the existing widget and add an HTML line break or add a new HTML widget and use <BR> in the text area Like Blogspot, you have a high degree of customization options. Just don’t try to do it all at once though. Plan on spending a couple of weeks customizing the page before you go live. I would set little goals like “Today I am going to fix the archived posts list”, etc.
During the customization process, there were some widgits that I really liked and wanted to share that information with the readers. Some of the widgets used by this blog are:
Blogger Importer = Easily moves all the content from Blogspot into the new WordPress blog. You just tell it where to get the content and where to send it… There are a few easy configurations, too. You can even save all of your comments!
jQuery Archive List Widget = Created the archive list with the “Blogspot” feel to it. It took a while to find an archive list application that would actually let me show the title names in the list. This is my favorite widgit!
Math Captcha = Keeps the spam robots out by letting users enter the answer to a simple math problem when leaving a comment. It’s more fun than the kind where you type a blurry, cryptic word.
WP Hit Counter = This cool counter is highly customizable. I was able to start the number where the old blog left off!
REDIRECTION. Before you “throw the switch”, it is polite to let users know that you are going to be moving. I posted a picture of the new URL (with a clickable link) for a bit to let users know. The faithful readers will make the switch pretty quickly. Once I knew everything was ready to go, I posted an HTML redirect on the old vantrekker.blogspot.com site.
It is pretty easy to tweak the code to add a redirect and they are plenty of examples on the Internet. If you are familiar with the Blogspot / Blogger interface, go to Template -> Edit HTML). Below is all the code I needed to send the friends to the new domain. The “5” you see is the time in seconds before the “refresh” to the new address occurs. It’s that easy! This code goes near the top of the template just below the <HEAD> tag. I think it was line 4 or so on the Blogspot template I was using.
<meta content=’5;url=http://vantrekker.com’ http-equiv=’refresh’/>
YOU CAN DO IT. I realize that there is much more to a move than what has been laid out here, but I wanted to give you an idea that it can be done. You might need to call Tech Support (I did) with occasional questions. With GoDaddy, they are patient and it’s relieved a lot of stress during the transition. Looking back, the whole experience was pretty painless! I think choosing a great hosting company made the difference!
The whole process: choosing a hosting company and domain name, moving the content, picking a theme, loading it with widgets, and writing a redirect, and follow-up tweaking can take a couple of weeks. In reality, if faced with doing this again, I could do most of it in an afternoon.
I realize that this high level overview may have left out some details. Please comment with your thoughts and questions. I’ll do my best to answer them but please keep them at a high level rather than the nitty gritty of HTML and Java Scripts. 🙂
A future post will discuss monetizing the web page. I’m using Skim Links and Skim Words as well as being an affiliate for GoDaddy. Hopefully the way things are set up, the new page is not too hard on the eyes… There are no obnoxious flashing things or floating adds, etc. If you notice, the Iowa Trout Stocking schedule link is above the GoDaddy ad. There’s a reason. Fishing comes first!
Thanks for reading along! Hopefully there will be a fishing trip next week and a chance to explore some more.
Bradford, the Van Trekker
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