Last week I moved Liliputing from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress installation. I wanted a bit more control over the layout, and more importantly, I needed the hosting space in order to set up the new Liliputing Forums. Setting up a new WordPress blog is incredibly easy. Many web hosts, including my host, GoDaddy, offer 1-click installs of WordPress. But getting all of your old posts and settings to carry over to the new blog is a bit trickier. Here’s how I did it.
Before I had even dreamed of setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog, I had purchased a domain name for Liliputing. So instead of visiting liliputing.blogspot.com, readers could find my web site at liliputing.com. That meant that I could change the host, blog platform, or pretty much anything else and readers would never know the difference.
Importing your blog posts
Honestly, I thought that importing my posts would be the easiest part of this process. WordPress has a button in the Manage section of the control panel that says import. When you click it, you have the option of importing your posts from Blogger or a whole slew of other platforms. But I quickly ran into two problems:
- GoDaddy doesn’t provide you with a secure connection for importing posts from Blogger
- Even if you could import posts directly from Blogger, they would have the incorrect URLs, since WordPress uses a slightly different URL/permalink convention than Blogger
There’s an easy way to get around the first problem. If your new site is hosted by GoDaddy or another web host that blocks imports from Blogger, just go to WordPress.com and create a new, free blog that’s hosted by WordPress. You should be able to import your posts this way, and then go to Manage -> Export in the control panel to save your blog as an XML file on your desktop. You should be able to import this file into your new GoDaddy-hosted blog without any problems.
But fixing the URLs is a bit trickier. And it’s important. Liliputing had about 360 posts when I decided to switch blogging platforms. Other web sites had linked to many of those posts, and each one was indexed by Google. If I wasn’t able to keep the URLs the same, I would lose a lot of traffic. And more importantly, I use Disqus to manage my blog comments. If I couldn’t figure out how to make the new URLs match the old ones, the Disqus software wouldn’t know how to associate the comments readers had previously posted with the appropriate posts. I really didn’t relish the idea of losing my site’s comment history.
Fortunately, it turns out there’s a plugin that allows WordPress to shorten/change URLs to match the Blogger permalink conventions. But you can’t install plugins if your blog is hosted by WordPress, so you’ll need to either setup a temporary self-hosted blog or go ahead and start customizing your permanent blog.
The Maintain Blogger Permalinks plugin is pretty simple to use. You just upload it to your plugin directory, activate it from the plugin menu, and then click the maintain permalinks button from your Manage tab. It will take the existing URLs and change them to look like Blogger.com URLs.
Extra step: Installing WordPress on your desktop
It turns out that this step may have been completely unecessary. But I didn’t want to import my old blog posts into WordPress, flip the switch to activate my new site, and then find out that the URLs were all wrong. So I decided to create a temporary, self-hosted WordPress installation on my desktop first. This way I could import my posts from Blogger, shorten the URLs, export everything, and upload the file to GoDaddy to begin my new life as a WordPress blogger.
In order to install WordPress on my desktop, I first had to install XAMPP, an Apach web server with support for MySQL, PHP, and Perl. XAMPP is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. And it’s free. There are extensive support documents for XAMPP, and Tamba2 has an excellent tutorial for setting up WordPress using XAMPP, so I won’t go into deail here.
One thing I will point out is that once XAMPP is installed, you need to enable SSL or you’ll run into the same error when trying to import your Blogger posts as you do when using GoDaddy. You can enable SSL by editing the php.ini file in the Apache -> Bin folder. You need to remove the semicolon from the front of the line marked extension=php_openssl.dll.
Once WordPress is installed on your desktop and SSL is enabled, you should be able to import your blog from Blogger, install the Maintain Blogger Permalinks plugin, and adjust the URLS, and then export your blog as a file that you can import to real blog hosted on GoDaddy or WordPress. You may need to run the Maintain Blogger Permalinks plugin again at this point. Honestly, I forget because I meant to write this all up last week but I’ve been kind of busy.
Customizing the theme
I also spent a fair bit of time working to make my WordPress theme look as much like my Blogger theme as possible. This is wholly optional. One of the nice things about WordPress is that there are thousands of free templates to choose from, far more than you can easily find for Blogger. Switching blogging platforms may present you with a good opportunity to change your blog template for the better. In my case, I was already using a Blogger template that had originally been converted from a WordPress one. So all I had to do was figure out how to make the same tweaks in WordPress that I had already made in Blogger. For example, I changed the header area, some colors, and customized the location of the metadata like tags and post dates.
In the end, when I flipped the switch, the domain name Liliputing.com became associated with my new WordPress blog instead of my old Blogger account. If I hadn’t pointed out the change to my readers, it’s questionable whether anybody woud have noticed the difference. I’m pretty happy with WordPress so far. There are some things I don’t love. For instance, I found it much easier to upload and manipulate images in Blogger, especially when using Blogger in Draft.But I certainly have much more control over the look of my site now. It’s easier to specify certain content that will appear just on the front page, or just on post pages, for example. And you can create static “pages” in addition to posts. I haven’t really taken advantage of this feature yet, but I expect to soon.
More importantly, there are a ton of plugins available that let you do everything from adding a related posts section to automatically upgrading WordPress when a new version is relased. I’m just starting to play with some of the plugins available, but thanks to the huge third party developer community, WordPress is far easier to customize than Blogger.