Migrating from wordpress.com to .org – feeds and stats

This is probably the most interesting area of the whole move, and the one I’ve spent most time getting right.

One of the things I did like about wordpress.com was the statistics it showed you under the dashboard. They were quite comprehensive and also addictive. The feed stats on the other hand were not so good. I experimented with using FeedBurner, but as you have no control over the default feeds wordpress.com generates all you can do is add a link on the blog pages and hope people use it.

It is quite a shock when the stats tab disappears once you move to a self-hosted wordpress.org blog. As such, the general way people compensate is to use two external pieces of technology to provide much the same (and more) information:

FeedBurner

I’m not going to cover the process of obtaining a FeebBurner feed as that is well known and documented. However it is worth covering what you have to do to the blog to make sure people end up using it.

The first step is to use a plugin. I installed the FeedBurner Feed Replacement plugin. This will substitute the standard wordpress feed for your feedburner one whenever anybody clicks on the feed icon in the browser, or on the feeds under the Meta section.

However, there are still two possible ways that people can get to the original wordpress feeds. Firstly, they can copy and paste the links under the Meta section into their feed reader. The feed links that appear here are controlled by the PHP get_bloginfo() function. To modify what gets displayed, I went into the Theme Editor section under Presentation and edited the Sidebar theme file which originally looked like:


<?php wp_register(); ?>
<?php wp_loginout(); ?>
<a href="feed:<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>" title="<?php _e('Syndicate this site using RSS'); ?>"><?php _e('<abbr title="Really Simple Syndication">RSS</abbr>'); ?></a>
<a href="feed:<?php bloginfo('comments_rss2_url'); ?>" title="<?php _e('The latest comments to all posts in RSS'); ?>"><?php _e('Comments <abbr title="Really Simple Syndication">RSS</abbr>'); ?></a>
<a href="http://validator.w3.org/check/referer" title="<?php _e('This page validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional'); ?>"><?php _e('Valid <abbr title="eXtensible HyperText Markup Language">XHTML</abbr>'); ?></a>
<?php wp_meta(); ?>

The interesting lines here are the ones that contain calls to get_bloginfo such as:

feed:<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>

I simply modified these lines to hardcode in the FeedBurner URLs for my main and comment feeds. However, if you are using widgets, then this does not affect the Meta widget and I’ve not yet tried to work out what needs to happen there.

The final way in which people may get to the original feeds instead of your Feedburner ones is via a feature called feed autodiscovery. This allows people to put in the site hostname (e.g. just http://www.adrianspender.com) into their feed reader and the reader then goes off to discover the correct feed URL. This will return the wordpress feed by default. To modify this, I went into my theme and edited the Header theme file in much the same way as for the Meta section. The difference this time is that there are three hrefs, each for different flavours of RSS and Atom feeds for the main site, not for comments. Simply replace the get_bloginfo() calls as before with your FeedBurner feed URL. I suggest you ensure your FeedBurner feed has the SmartFeed capability enabled.

Google Analytics

Analytics allows you to register your site with Google who will then provide you with very detailed site statistics. In order to do this, each page on the site needs to have a small piece of Javascript inserted into it. This contains your unique site key which is fed back to Google on each page visit.

For a dynamically generated site like a blog, this can be troublesome. However thankfully there are a number of plugins out there to help you. The one I used is called Ultimate Google Analytics. This automatically inserts the tracking Javascript into your blog pages and is configurable in a variety of ways to help you make sense of the stats.

Providing a dashboard stats view

Finally, there is a plugin called WordPress Reports which can collate your GA and FB stats into a single view within the wordpress admin, not too dissimilar to that provided by wordpress.com. It doesn’t look anywhere as good, nor give you as much detail, but may be useful nonetheless.

3 thoughts on “Migrating from wordpress.com to .org – feeds and stats

  1. I have a blog which might be getting a little too big for WordPress.com and am thinking of getting a seperate host. Do you have any idea how this will effect my Google juice? I mean right now I think my posts are found pretty quickly by Google and rated for their merit. Would this go down if I migrate to my own host?

    Any ideas/thoughts on search engines and how they find/interpret wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org blogs?

    Thanks.

  2. Hi arsenalist,

    I covered this subject in this entry but basically there are no short cuts to get google and the other search engines to update to reflect your new hosted site. However, the advantage is that you can have a lot more control over how and when search engines index your hosted site which should help get it above the old wordpress.com one in the page ranking. The tips and tricks on the post I linked to are pretty much all I did and it seemed to work well.

    Good luck!

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