Moving your blog to a self-hosted domain is a huge decision! And it has to be a well thought of one.
A blog, to me is a project akin to raising a child. It involves a lot of effort, time, energy and money. It is something that’s built with love and care, over a period of time. And moving homes for it – so to say – is as much an emotional decision as a practical or technical one.
Why I decided to move my blog?
Since I started blogging on WordPress in 2014, I moved things around just once to make the home page more relevant to the services I offer. But social media and blogging evolve and pretty rapidly at that. One can’t create a blog once and hope to catch up with changing online trends forever. And after a lot of research, I decided my blog could be more business oriented. That required some big changes. I was told that self-hosting – moving my blog to one of the servers other than WordPress would be a good option. This would help move out of the confines of a WordPress theme and add functions and features that I wanted.
And now, after months of not so easy transition, my blog has been living and breathing on its new server – a new home. But while I was going through the process, there were many times when I questioned the sanity of my decision – to uproot my blog from its current warm abode and resettling it in a new place. Did I really have to do it? And when the move was underway – what could I have done better? And we are all wiser in hindsight and it makes sense to share my experiences and lessons if it might help anyone else considering the move.
Here are a few lessons I learnt in my experience:
LESSON 1: IT’S NOT AS EASY AS PEOPLE MAKE IT TO BE
I think people who are tech-savvy tend to present things more simplistically than they actually are. Everything seems to be accomplished by a wave of their magic wand! But for someone who is technologically-challenged, I found it pretty confusing. Although I had a great developer who patiently went through the process with me, it was tough during the best of times. I tip my hat to anyone who moved their blog on their own with no expert help. But no matter who tells you this – it’s not as easy as 1, 2, 3!
LESSON 2 – THINK LONG AND HARD
Blogging has evolved through the years and business blogging especially is no longer about posting regularly and sharing on social media. Blogs can be actual tools to generate business apart in addition to building your personal brand. Also, one needs to catch up with increasing complexities online and decreasing attention spans of people. Do you really, really want to move? And what exactly do you wish to achieve that you aren’t able to on your current server? And how much more of a difference would that make to your blogging/business goals? Can you make the same changes on your current blog/domain like I did the first time?
LESSON 3: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
If you do decide to move blogs and have rock solid reasons to back that decision – Congratulations! But before you merrily begin moving things around – hold your horses! Look before you leap. Thorough research will only prepare you better for the process.
Research the best domain for you to move to – features and cost wise. After I had moved my blog and feeling quite proud about it, I spoke to another blogger friend. She told me that her recent move (a few months before mine) to a new domain was actually pretty easy! The new domain support included giving her the SSL certificate (more later) and solved her email problems for her – free of cost! And I spent the first week of this year fussing over getting someone to make my email work!!
Research which themes support the features you want. Look online and see which look and feel you like. Don’t fall in love with any because your tech-help/developer will definitely shoot it down saying some things are not possible on it. I bought one theme and had another on stand by. But after initial discussions, I went for the stand by one since I liked that better. And I am glad I made that additional expense and not compromise on the second best.
Look for sites/blogs you love. I’ve always had reference sites of other trainers/coaches from across the world to figure out the content trends and international standards for training blogs. You can look at the blogs you like and look up to.
Read up as many blogging forums and support sites as you can. The domains you are moving from and to being the most important. I found that when the domain shift was complete, the home page content wasn’t transferred. We were at this for 4 months, the year was going to change and I was at the end of my patience, quite literally. After an early morning panicky call to my developer – who assured me that only the links were missing and the rest was fine – I sat down to google a bit and see what information I could find online.
And that’s when I thought I was the lucky one and the crisis wasn’t as big as I thought it was. On one of the GoDaddy forums, I found harrowed people talking about their blogs crashing altogether once the transfer was complete! I realised I could have been one of them but thankfully wasn’t. If you read up online before hand, you’ll have a better prepared for what is to come.
And also, you might want to reconsider the move at this point! I’m just saying!
Talk to people who’ve done it before. This is one of the best ways to learn more about the process. You can go to Facebook Groups on blogging or other online forums. Ask about their experiences. How did they go about it. What are the lessons they learnt. And probe people who say it was so easy! (To me, that’s still a a rumour!)
LESSON 4: FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON
This is going to be tricky! I went with the person who revamped my blog earlier and that worked out fine since we had worked together before. But there are a few things that come to my mind in hindsight:
Try and find a domain that does all the tech support for you. I know there are a lot of options out there. And if you dig deeper into a few of them, you’ll know the kind of support you can get.
If you are looking for an individual expert – consider past experience, extent of expertise and knowledge in moving blogs and handling tech problems. Keep in mind the tech support your domain already has in its package. That’s the best support since they know how to sort issues.
I was surprised to realise that all the people who work with me – from my intern to the developer – work remotely. But there were times that a non-technical person like me wished that my web guy and I could sit across the table and hammer out details. As someone who doesn’t understand tech well, all I wanted to do was be able to move my finger across the screen and tell him what to move and where to put it. So if you think this factor is important to you, you may want to look for a local resource.
LESSON 5: WATCH THE FINANCES
Moving blogs can be expensive. Although the expenses seem restricted to buying a domain and getting someone to do the transfer, that is far from the truth. There are many other things that pile on in the total bill. For me, there were a few last minute purchases like the SSL certificate which was key to running my site securely. Plus there were some designing costs for the header.
LESSON 6: FIND THE RIGHT CUSTOMER SUPPORT
You will need a lo-hot of technical support. From the people at the domain you are moving from (WordPress), from the people at the domain you are moving to (Godaddy etc), from your email provider – if you have a third domain for it. And the quickness of their response and alacrity to help will be key in how quickly you move forward.
It was a happy co-incidence when I ran into a WordPress customer support person a few days after I had finished moving. I got to talking to him and he explained how these support people worked from home (and he lived not so far from me!) and were available in different shifts in all time zones. Had I known this when I was grappling with tech issues, I would have banked on their 24/7expertise and calmly let them do it.
LESSON 7: ENLIST FRIENDS TO GIVE YOU FEEDBACK
Even when the blog was under construction, I got friends to log in and check if links were working, the photos looked good and the service pages read well. In fact, I had my intern check every single CTA on the blog to ensure it led to the page intended. It’s just better to be safe than sorry! This helped ensure that we were doing things right and if not, fix them before the blog went live.
OTHER IMPORTANT POINTS
New things I learnt (people in the know might go “Duh!”) that I want to put this in the post since my aim in writing this is to help and enlighten other people like me.
Brace yourself for a technical roller coaster: I wanted to add this in the lessons but I think I’ve made myself quite clear in that area. I still wanted to spell it out – expect quite a few curve balls, difficult decisions and frustrating moments – especially if you aren’t tech savvy. But as someone who did see light at the end of the tunnel, stick with it and ensure the final outcome is to your liking.
SSL certificate: This was a curve ball we didn’t expect. The url of your old blog has to match with the new one. http// is not a secure url. https// is. And to turn your site into a secure one – so that the readers don’t see “Not secure” before the url, you need an SSL certificate. It’s a paid thing unless your domain provides it in the package.
Move your followers: Once you move to the new domain, you need to move your subscribers too. That’s one of the things that doesn’t happen along with your other content. You can follow simple instructions on Google to do it.
2 dashboards: You’ll see 2 dashboards and need to switch between the WordPress blog – which I no longer use and the new blog. So don’t be confused.
Install Jetpack: Jetpack needs to be installed afresh on the new blog since that’s a WordPress plug in. I lost about a 4 days of stats during the transfer process. I don’t know about you but numbers are important for me.
Test, test, test: Apart from keeping a check at the construction stage, I did the same once the site went live and I posted the first test post. I checked up with friends who are subscribers – both email and WordPress to ensure the posts were being delivered after the followers were transferred to the new blog.
There are niggling concerns on the blog but nothing major. It’s like once you move into a new house, it’s perfect. But then you look at an empty wall afresh and say – Hey! We should put a painting there! Or let’s change some furniture and add new images to old posts – if you know what I mean!
I hope this post will help others who are considering moving their blogs. If you have any questions for me, I’ll be happy to answer them.