Leaving Blogger

by Bill Ferris on December 25, 2005 · 0 comments

in Blog Software,Blogging Tools,Case Studies

I started blogging with Blogger almost 5 years ago. Sure, Blogger frustrated me at times but I had developed a certain loyalty. Back in the day, it was one of the most accessible, easy to use, and free offerings available. However, the competition has caught up with Blogger and in many cases surpassed it. When I launched this blog, I chose to try WordPress, and I couldn’t be happier. While there was a slight learning curve for working with the templates, the features, functionality, and ease of installation overwhelmed me. Finally, this week I transferred 4.5 years of my Tiger blog from Blogger to WordPress.

I know many sports bloggers started off using Blogger. Many are still using it. Some have probably considered switching platforms, while for others it may have never crossed their minds. I’m going to do a two part post about my migration from Blogger to WordPress. The first part (this one) will focus on my reasons for switching. Many of the reasons aren’t specific to WordPress, and many of the same principles apply to a variety of blogging software. WordPress just happens to be the one I picked. Part two will cover the steps I took to do it, and will be more specific to WordPress.

Republishing Hell
One of the biggest fundamental differences between Blogger and many other solutions is static versus dynamic pages. Blogger uses static pages. To achieve this they republish pages whenever you post or change your template. Many other services use dynamic pages, where they typically use a programming language (like PHP) to query a database (typically MySQL) to generate the page when it is requested.

In my case I had nearly 1000 pages of content. Every tweak to the template, like changing links in the sidebar or changing Chitika keywords, resulted in the republishing of every one of those pages. For me this meant making all changes off hours. If I tried to republish while the east coast was awake, it would frequently timeout in the process. With dynamicaly created WordPress pages, all I do is save changes to the template. There is no republishing because the next person to request a page will see the changes.

I don’t know if this was the biggest reason for me switching, but it was definitely the one that pushed me over.

This is one area where I’ve always felt that Blogger was very limited. I wanted my readers to be able to find what they wanted easier, and more importantly find things they didn’t even know they wanted. From a revenue standpoint, the more pages readers are looking at, the better your chances of ad clicks. Also, if first time readers stumble upon a wealth of information, they stand a good chance to be returning visitors (or subscribers).

While Blogger offers the ability to show the 10 most recent posts, that is about it. With WordPress users can see the preceding and following posts. There are plug-ins to show related posts. The search capability is excellent without having to use another service.

The biggest difference in terms of navigation though is probably category functionality. Blogger doesn’t allow for categories, while almost every other package does (including WordPress). Now whether or not I’ll go back and categorize all my previous posts is doubtful. However, I will make a point to categorize my post popular posts, and I will be categorizing going forward.

When I started on blogging, Blogger didn’t offer comment functionality. I implemented Dotcomments in 2003. I was happy with dotcomments, except for the fact that the comments existed in pop-ups. I wanted them to be integrated on the page. Blogger later implemented comments, but there was no way to import all the existing comments. Plus, I hated Blogger’s implementation of comments which takes you to a different page to input the comments.

After some searching, I found that someone had written a script to allow for the import of dotcomments. This meant I could retain all the work my readers had put in, and get the type of implementation that I was looking for. Hopefully the results will be a stronger community, and improved search engine results with more content on the page.

There have been occasions where I would have loved to integrate Adsense or Chitika ads into specific posts. Unfortunately Blogger doesn’t allow for javascript inside a post. Essentially you are limited to hardcoding the ads into the template. On the other hand, there are plug-ins that make it easy to include ads within posts.

Control & Ownership
While Blogger publishes all of your pages, it controls your posts in it’s database. The advantage is that you aren’t responsible for backing up that database, plus you have a copy of your posts on static pages. The disadvantage is that you don’t have any control over your data. While I don’t really see Blogger going anywhere – especially with Google behind it – there were no guarantees. By moving the data to a database at my webhost, I gain more control. While the methods probably differ slightly, I can easily export an entire database containing several blogs in a matter of a couple clicks. The trick is actually doing it.

While there were a number of compelling reasons to switch, something had kept me from doing it. First of all, Blogger didn’t inhibit my ability to post content. The result was that I was a little lazy. Also, I was nervous about maintaining all my posts, permalinks, and content in the transition. I have recently achieved a pretty good SERP spot (#3 for detroit tigers), and didn’t want to risk compromising that by having a bunch of broken incoming links – or losing posts altogether.

But as I mentioned earlier, publishing had become so cumbersome I had to make a switch. Now the timing of the switch may seem curious, essentially on the eve of a new version being released. My thought was that I wanted to do the import while the various scripts that had been written still worked. I knew they worked with version 1.5.x, but I didn’t know if they would with version 2.0. As I’ve since learned, I probably would have been better off waiting because the new version is supposed to have improved importing. In any case, the technical steps will be covered in part 2 of this case study.