September 20, 2013

The last couple weeks have been quite the experience for me! Who knew changing over your website would be such a huge undertaking? Probably only all of you who have ever gone through it! Seriously though, I have learned a lot through this process.

As many of you know, I started my blog on a site. Like a lot of new bloggers, I didn't know where I was going to go with this and I wasn't prepared to put any money into it if I was going to fall flat on my face. The crazy thing is that I didn't fall flat on my face. In fact, I started doing really well. But I was doing all of it on the free site.

This meant that I didn't have the ability to use Google Authorship or Google Analytics. I also couldn't embed posts or edit my theme settings. The URL also looked less professional - and it was a lot longer to write out and harder for people to remember.

Well, after 8 months, I realized that the longer I waited, the more it was going to hurt to change over. My blog had started generating significant traffic, readership and comments. It was time for me to go "pro". It was time to legitimately establish myself and my site in the blogging world.

After deciding how to proceed with hosting and transferring my blog, I don't really know what I was expecting. I knew it was going to be time consuming. I knew it was going to make me want to pull my hair out. I knew it would be hard to start over. But it was all that and more. But in some ways it was less.

I have to give a huge shoutout to Mallie at the Media Barista for her help and support. Her company is hosting my site and she did all the work of transferring my blog to my new domain. She also did all the basic set up and back ups for me. And she set up my new email account for me. Yes, I have a "real" email account now!

But, what I didn't know was that the widgets I had spent hours formatting and setting up didn't transfer over. I had to start from scratch with all of them. And I had no idea there were so many plugins and widgets out there! Call me naive, but holy cow there are a lot to choose from! And then to figure out how to activate all of them, how to adjust the settings, where to place them, and then to test them to see if they actually worked. OMG I spent hours working on these! If you ever want to pull out all of your hair, play with widgets for a few hours!

If you are going through this experience, I highly recommend you check out this Google+ post that Mike Allton  (blogger extraordinaire) shared! I wish I had found it earlier because it gave me a ton of the plugins that I was looking for and they were all PERFECT!

So after a couple weeks, I finally had the new site looking the way I wanted it to. Phew!

Oh, but how little I realized I still had to do! First, I had to log in to my Triberr account (and other similar sites) which had my old site RSS feed listed. I had to change all of those to my new site's RSS feed.

I also had to communicate with all of my old blog's subscribers and let them know that they would have to find me on the new site. If you're a blogger, you know the value of having someone sign up for your blog. Most people don't sign up all willy-nilly. And they certainly don't like having to re-subscribe because you were lazy the first time around. Even though I know this, I'm learning this lesson again, the hard way. Fortunately, a lot of my readers are re-subscribing to the new site. And for those of you that have, THANK YOU! I want you to know how much this means to me.

But I've also lost a lot of my SEO credibility. My old blog had posts that had been shared hundreds of time. Now, those same posts on the new site, have no social validation at all. Even if they have dozens of comments, they have no social shares. My backlinks are all tied to my old site, not to my new one so now I have to work to rebuild that credibility as well. While my old site's posts, especially about Instagram, ranked quite high in search results, my new posts barely even come up anywhere. It's going to take me a long time to re-establish that online credibility with this new site.

And, while I'm super excited to have an actual SEO plugin to manage my blog posts for better SEO rankings, I now have to go through all of my old posts and actually format the SEO settings. And, no this still isn't done!

I want to be clear, I am not writing these things to complain. I was well aware of what I was doing the longer I kept my site running. I am writing this because I wanted to share my learning experiences with you. If you are someone who is currently using the free site for your blog, I really want you to think about that. If you have any plans of ever taking it to a permanent, self-hosted site, do it now. Don't wait! And don't worry about the cost. I am literally running my site for less than $100 a year. If you plan on taking your blog seriously, you can easily justify that cost.

So, now after three weeks, I feel like I'm regaining control. I am looking forward to the future and all that is ahead for me. I feel like I have so much still to accomplish and I know that this was just the next step on this journey.

I want to thank all of you who have supported me and who continue to follow my blog. You are such a valuable part of my journey and I honestly wouldn't be doing this without you and your support.

If you haven't yet subscribed for email updates, I invite you to sign up. This way you won't miss any of my new blog posts! I promise not to use your email for anything other than blog updates and I will never share your email address with any other companies or parties. I have made the sign up process as simple as possible. Just scroll up to the top of this page and in the right side bar there's a box where you can enter your email address. Fill that in and click "Subscribe." You will receive a verification email and once you click on the link in that email, you'll be all signed up!

Thanks again for hanging out with me on this journey!

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  1. The timing of this post was great for me Jenn! I’m updating my website currently, and I’m trying to find the best plug-ins. I’m going to check out the post you refer to above now. I had just posted this question on my FB page, and when I went back to my Newsfeed I found your link! Thanks! 🙂

    1. That’s perfect timing Amy! We must be on the same wave length today 🙂
      I hope you find that list helpful. It honestly saved me hours (maybe even days) of researching and testing. Every one of the plugins that I added from that list were exactly what I wanted and did exactly what I expected. To be fair, I didn’t install all of them, but I did use a lot of them.
      And, by the way, the guy who wrote the original list is a big WP guy and loves talking widgets so if you have any questions, reach out to him on G+ and I’m sure he’d be willing to help.
      Best of luck on your website update!!

  2. Good for you, Jen. I am sure you are going to be so much happier. No one can take your content, either.
    I switched from 2 freebie hosts to the one my son has worked with for years. (different from yours.) I immediately saw 1,000 % increase in views.
    It is work to make a change, but well worth it in the long run. the best to you and welcome to our home.

  3. I didn’t know about the old site but I am gladto have found the new one! Congrats and keep up the good work. I am going to pretend I know what selfhosting means..;)

    1. lol! Thanks Julia. I’m so glad that you found this site as well and I’m enjoying getting to know you.
      When I say “self-hosted”, I mean that I “own” my website domain/URL and have it “hosted” through a secure service. My old site was free on which allowed me to get started with blogging. But the concern using that site is that at any time, WordPress could shut down their site and I would lose my blog and everything on it (unlikely, but possible). Now that I own my URL, I am hosting on another service, ensuring that I never lose my site. It’s like comparing owning a home to renting a home… I hope that makes more sense.

  4. Hi Jenn,

    Oh man. I know what you mean. I moved multiple domains to domains, from free blogs to self hosting etc. The pain … is insane. However, for starters, it sounds very ‘scary’ but after sometime doing, it felt more ‘relax’ and everything tend to be much easier.

    Personally, this is one experience every blogger or writer should try. Not bad and it is very fun especially when you learn new things (in this case, moving from free blog to self hosted blog).

    Thanks for sharing and have a great day ahead!

    1. Thanks Reginald. I do have to admit that I have learned a LOT that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise by going through this process. And, honestly, if I’d had to set all this up right out of the gate, I don’t know if I would have done it all… so, for me, it all worked out for the best! No pain, no gain, right? 😉

  5. Thank you I am going thru the same process now designing concepts first and then working out how to build the blog add this is the most important part.. Thanks will let you know how i go ..

    1. Thanks for sharing Dan! You have some great tips and resources in your post. I’m already using a few of those but there are a few more I need to look into. Thanks again 🙂

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