Migrating from wordpress.com to .org – diversion strategy

Firstly, I’m going to talk about things in this post for which I am no means an expert and very much a beginner, so please don’t take any of this as gospel.

One of the biggest problems with the move from my wordpress.com hosted blog to hosting on my own site is managing to redirect people to the new blog, and generating new traffic to the hosted site.

Redirecting traffic

The old blog was obviously picked up by Google, other search engines, blog directories like Technorati, and other people’s blogrolls. Thus, any redirection strategy would have to:

  • Attract new visitors to the new blog location
  • Get people searching for popular post topics to go to the new site
  • Try and get people to comment on the new site rather than the old

These aims can be achieved by:

  • Making it obvious that the old blog is dead
  • Getting the new blog to appear in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS)
  • Getting the old blog to disappear from SERPS!
  • Getting blog directories and blogrolls updated

The most obvious thing to do first was to add a post to the old blog which pointed people to the new one, making it clear that they needed to update bookmarks and feeds. I also pared down the template to remove categories, archives, calendar etc. In fact, all that is left is the blogroll. I also:

  • Added a text widget to the sidebar with a link to the new blog which would appear on every page of the blog
  • Changed the title of the blog to make it a bit more obvious what was going on

I considered disabling comments on each post and perhaps even adding a redirect comment to each post, but this appeared too much work to be worthwhile. So far I’ve only had one new comment on any of the old posts (but also no new comments on their equivalents on the new blog)

I’ll cover adding the new blog to search engines later on. However, getting the old one removed is a difficult thing for a wordpress.com hosted blog as you have little control over it. On a normal web site you could add an .htaccess file to the root directory with a 301 redirect. Not so when you don’t have sufficient access to do so! There is an option in the dashboard under Options -> Privacy to restrict access to the site to search engines and remove it from WordPress’ own listings. I suspect this does a similar job to a robots.txt. A robots.txt is the traditional way to restrict search engine spiders from indexing your site. Google also have a tool for removing specific URLs, but this is not meant for removing an entire blog for instance.

I then updated any links I have to my blog on other site profiles, created a new Technorati blog profile and fired off emails to a couple of specific IBMer blog rolls.

The final step was of course to get people’s blogrolls updated. One or two picked up on the change by themselves, but a quick email around the rest sorted out the majority of the rest. What you can’t help are links from comments you’ve made on other people’s blogs.

Up until today I’ve not seen traffic to the old site decrease at all. However it looks like my most popular post on the BT Homehub which normally attracted 60 or so views/day has disappeared from Google, and as such it has not received a single hit so far today. Thus it looks like things are beginning to disappear.

Eventually once the new blog is indexed and appearing in SERPS and I’m happy traffic to the old one has reduced to a trickle, it will be time to hit the delete button.

Attracting traffic

This is a whole different kettle of fish in the self-hosting world compared to wordpress.com. When I created the original blog it appeared on Google and co. in a couple of days. Not so now! As hinted at above, I am a complete beginner in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so use these comments as hints about what to go and research more thoroughly!

To begin with I set up an index.html (more on that in a separate post) linking to the blog, then went to Google and added the URL. This then led me to find the Google webmaster tools. This led me to research the whole area of robots.txt, sitemaps and the pro’s and cons of www versus non-www, and all sorts of issues around how search engines look out for duplicate content and the effect it can have on your results. The last item is especially relevant to blogs as the same content often appears on different distinct URLs (archives, categories, posts)

Along the way, I found and installed a couple of useful WordPress plugins:

  • DupPrevent – Allows you to configure areas of your blog which won’t be visible to spiders to avoid a duplicate entry penalty.
  • Google sitemaps plugin – Generates a sitemap from your blog content. Highly customizable and can include non-blog URLs.

The most disappointing aspect of my research however is the fact that it can take four weeks or so for new sites to appear in search engine results.

8 thoughts on “Migrating from wordpress.com to .org – diversion strategy

  1. Pingback: Drive Through… » New site and blog appear in Google and other search engines.

  2. Pingback: Naquada

  3. have you also looked at the book ‘Search Engine Visibility’ by Shari Thurow, I used it on my own site and saw quite a big jump in traffic. Since then I regularly appear in the first few hits on google for certain terms.. so a little tweaking goes a long way..!

  4. Hi naquada,

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll take a look. However did you find that it contained anything you couldn’t otherwise find with a few hours of searching/reading the web?

  5. Wouldn’t a lot of the move be entirely transparent if you managed to preserve your URLs?

    If on wordpress.com your url was

    http://arsenalist.com/2007/05/18/don-nelson-is-a-crazy-coach/

    and the url didn’t change when you went to a hosted site, wouldn’t that make life a whole lot easier? Your users wouldn’t notice a difference.

    I think by default wordpress goes to something like http://arsenalist.com/?p=388 but i believe that can be fixed as it is on this blog

  6. Yes, if you are using your own domain on wordpress.com, and that is what Google has indexed, then you should be fine. Seen as a search for site:arsenalist.wordpress.com doesn’t return any pages whereas site:arsenalist.com does then you should be fine.

    You are right that you’ll have to modify the permalink structure, but this is easy to do under Options | Permalinks and the option that wordpress.com uses (Date and name based) is there.

    I think that’s enough advice for a Gooner to be going on with 😉

  7. I just made the jump to WP2.2 from MT.. seemed pretty painless, especially with the WP2.2 import of MT exports(!) although I’ve lost some external links, my permalinks were PaddedPostID_PostTitle, closest I coudl get on WP was UnpaddedPostID-PostTitle, but I thought what the heck and ended up with the standard archive format (year,month,date,posttitle) it’s more compatible, plus I put some redirects with permanent markers into my .htaccess for the more popular links.. hopefully google will pick up the new sitemap, and I redirected the index.rdf i think most people used to the WP installs /feed/ folder.. hopefully that should mean it’s a bit less painful for the (Few) subscribers… personally I much more love wordpress than MT.. never thought I’d say that but hey!!!

  8. Nice article, well written, I really like the way this site looks, I wish other autohors took the time you are to help fix there site and make it look good. Keep up the great writing!

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