Final Issues: Moving Blogger to WordPress with Your Own Domain Name

In parts one and two, we set the custom domain to 301 redirect Blogger post URLs to a new domain name. Then we transferred the files to the new web host and changed the name servers. Up to this stage, the setup is fine; however, there are still a lot of issues that could affect your site ranking and traffic. We will cover them in this final part of our three-part series.

Here is a list of the issues which cause the most concern:

  • Some of the URLs may give a 404 status because of some URL incompatibility issues. 
  • Old links pointing to Blogspot URLs instead of the new one can possibly create canonical issues. 
  • Google webmaster and analytics code needs to be updated.

Let’s start talking about possible solutions for dealing with those last issues.

Correcting the 404 issue using .htaccess

This problem is the result of URL incompatibilities between Blogger custom domain URLs and the WordPress permalink structure. At first it may be hard to notice until you see the difference when you are about to click a link coming from the search result.

To illustrate, say this is the URL currently indexed by Google:

http://www.coolalieninthesky.com/2009/06/this-is-freesuperweapons.html

However, after implementing the WordPress permalink (which will rewrite the URLS), this particular post will become:

http://www.coolalieninthesky.com/2009/06/this-is-a-freesuperweapons.html

This is just an example but it could happen to you; the URL in the Google index may not be absolutely the same as the one generated by WordPress’s permalinks. Another possible scenario is that you use the custom structure: /%postname%/ instead of /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%.html, which will drastically change the URLs after exporting to WordPress from Blogger.

To correct this problem, you need to extract all URLs in the Google index. These URLs are generated by Blogger, but use your custom domain. Of course, extracting URLs one by one from the search results takes a lot of time; however I have written a tutorial on how to save some time in doing this.

The next thing you will do is extract all the URLs used by your WordPress blog. You can use Xenu sleuth to crawl all the URLs in your blog and follow some importing tips to MS Excel.

Once you have data for each set (one indexed by Google and the other used by WordPress), you will need to pair the old and new URLs, as shown in the screen shot below:

 

It is obvious the URLs used by the custom domain and the new WordPress permalink structure are not the same. When the name servers of your domain are changed to point to your new web host, those old custom domain-Blogger URLs will now lead to a 404 header status.

To preserve traffic, rankings and link juices earned, we need to 301 redirect all of those old URLs to the new URLs. To accomplish that, download the .htaccess located at the root directory of your WordPress website to your desktop.

When you open the default .htaccess you’ll see something like this:

# BEGIN WordPress

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

</IfModule>

# END WordPress

To avoid messing things up, we will not disturb the original .htaccess lines used by WordPress. Instead, we will add new lines for 301 redirection. For example, to 301 redirect http://www.php-developer.org/2009/03/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script.html to http://www.php-developer.org/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script-for-oscommerce-websites/ , we will add this line:

redirect 301 /2009/03/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script.html http://www.php-developer.org/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script-for-oscommerce-websites/

The complete 301 redirection commands (for affected URLs in the above screen shot, replace with your URLs) to include the default WordPress .htaccess entries are below:

# BEGIN WordPress

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

</IfModule>

# END WordPress

redirect 301 /2009/03/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script.html http://www.php-developer.org/link-relcanonical-tag-php-script-for-oscommerce-websites/

redirect 301 /2009/04/unique-meta-robots-tag-for-blogger.html http://www.php-developer.org/unique-meta-robots-tag-for-blogger-or-blogspot/

redirect 301 /2009/03/wordpress-sort-search-result-by-title.html http://www.php-developer.org/wordpress-sort-search-result-by-title-plug-in/

redirect 301 /2009/05/how-to-have-static-front-page-in.html http://www.php-developer.org/how-to-have-static-front-page-in-blogger-blogspot/

redirect 301 /2009/04/how-to-make-wordpress-title-tag-seo.html http://www.php-developer.org/how-to-make-wordpress-title-tag-seo-friendly-using-php/

redirect 301 /2009/04/how-to-make-blogger-post-title-unique.html http://www.php-developer.org/how-to-make-blogger-post-title-unique/

redirect 301 /2009/04/new-versus-classic-blogger-templates.html http://www.php-developer.org/new-versus-classic-blogger-templates-the-seo-advantage/

redirect 301 /2009/03/top-advice-to-learn-php-programming-for.html http://www.php-developer.org/top-advice-to-learn-php-programming-for-a-pure-beginner/

redirect 301 /2009/03/backlinkwatch-excel-spreadsheet.html http://www.php-developer.org/backlinkwatch-excel-spreadsheet-analysis/

Save it and overwrite the existing .htaccess in the root directory of your website. To check if those are correctly redirected (using 301 status), use this tool: http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/redirect-check/

For example, if we test: http://www.php-developer.org/2009/04/unique-meta-robots-tag-for-blogger.html , it should give the results below (screen shot):

There are some associated minor side effects when changing the name servers to point to your new web host (that host your new WordPress blog). This is because, even though we completely matured the URLs using 301 redirection (from Blogger post URLs -> Blogger Custom Domain URls -> WordPress permalink URLs), there comes a time when Google indexes an old back link that still points to your old Blogspot address.

As a result, the old Blogspot will again be indexed by Google if you have not deleted it from the dashboard. At first, you may have thought you were losing link juices with this, but you are not. Below I explain the solution to this indexing problem. 

Do not delete your blog in your Google Blogger Dashboard if you have an ample amount of quality links pointing to your previous blogs. There is no way to perfectly 301 redirect Blogspot URLs pointing to another name server (except with their custom domain feature, which 301 redirects old Blogspot URLs to your custom domain, and using Google Blogger name servers).

When the name server change is done, the custom domain feature will be automatically disabled, thus the header status will change from 301 to 200 OK status. When Google crawls a link to your old Blogspot address, it will make the link temporarily rank in search (this means it will reappear again), but the good news is that it will have a link pointing to your new WordPress address.

In this way, it will transfer the link juice earned to your new WordPress address, and you now have two entries in the Google Search result (one for the old Blogspot address and the other for the new WordPress address).

This is not duplicate content since the old content is gone from the Google search result, and the Blogger Temporary redirecting page (a warning that shows the old blog has been moved to a new address) which receives the old back links, has a link pointing to your new WordPress address. See the screen shot below:

The anchor text “Yes” will be pointing to new WordPress blog, so in general you are not losing link juices.

However, if you can contact those webmasters who link to you and ask them to revise their links to point them to your new WordPress blog, it is highly recommended. But this is not strictly required, as this consumes a lot of time and now appears inefficient on your side.

One of the last things that you need to resolve is the Google Webmaster Tools account for your new WordPress blog. This also extends to other Google products, such as Google Analytics or Google AdSense.

According to Google’s technical guidelines, the moment you have transferred your blog to WordPress, you should add the site to Google Webmaster Tools and submit an XML sitemap. To read more details go here, and if you do not have an XML sitemap plug-in, you can install one from WordPress.

The purpose of this is to enable Google to pick up those new URLs as early as possible. Here are some tips: 

  • Add your new WordPress blog to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Do not delete the Google Webmaster Tools account for your old blog (Blogspot), in order to provide data if you need to do some troubleshooting. For example, you’ll need the account to check if there are 404s in your old URL so you can correct them to forward traffic to your correct/new URLs
  • Do not include the redirected URLs in the sitemap; only include the final or destination URLs. This will avoid errors in the sitemap.

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