Hi everyone! So yesterday I posted about my decision to migrate the blog to WordPress and some of the basics of that process. Today I thought I would share more about setting up my WordPress site and getting started once I moved my content, as well as my impressions now that I having been living with the new site for a few weeks.
So to catch up from yesterday, I now had my WordPress account, my custom domain, and my design, and all my content had been migrated over from Blogger. I wish I could say that everything was perfect that point, but there were still quite a few things to tackle.
First off, for some weird reason, every post, post title, and comment migrated with a weird < symbol in front of it. I have no idea why or whether this happens to everyone, but to be honest, at that point I was too exhausted to try to figure it out. Since I knew I had other adjustments to make to the posts, I figured I’d fix them as I went. I have slowly been making progress cleaning this up, but as of now, there are still about 1/3 of my posts that have these weird marks and I didn’t even attept to tackle the old comments.
Also, where Blogger uses “labels” to create keywords for a post, WordPress gives you two options – categories and tags. When you migrate your content over, WP makes everything a category and if you want it to be a tag instead, you need to change it. Now I started doing this manually for a LONG time before I wised up and realized there is a plugin that will automatically convert categories to tags and vice versa (either as a group or selectively). Hurray! So that was a quick fix once I figured that out.
As I mentioned yesterday, my old blogspot internal links didn’t end up working correctly. They all go to my main home page, rather than to a specific post. So I also have been updating all these links as I go along to send folks to the correct post. I also ended up with some duplicate posts and I am sure some missing posts, but I am still in the process of getting those cleaned up. But for the most part, virtually everything migrated over successfully, even if some of it was a bit messy.
I am now about a month in to using WordPress and so far I am really enjoying it. There are some things that have taken some getting used to, but for the most part I agree with others that it is really easy to use and just incredibly full featured (note I am using wp.org and I am not sure all the functionality is the same for those using wp.com. Also, some of these features might be available in Blogger but I never found them). Here are a few things that I have found I really like:
- Tags and Categories – I like having two different ways to sort/identify my posts. I use my categories for major things, like rating, reviewer, genre. Then I use tags for all those smaller keywords that help fine tune what the post is about. WordPress also makes it really easy to link to categories and tags from within a post. For example, if I am talking about a series, I can easily link to the tag for that series and readers can click to see all the relevant reviews or posts. It is also really easy to set up pages in the top menu that pull from those categories, allowing readers to see my reviews by genre, by rating, etc.
- Better Menus – WordPress lets you have submenus to your pages across the top menu bar which I really like. It allows you to give a lot more information and have a lot more design flexibility.
- Customizable – This is my favorite thing about WordPress. There is so much ability to customize your site, your Dashboard, your posts, etc. Most of this is due to plugins, which I will talk about in a bit. Some of the things you can do are also available in Blogger, but WP gives you more opportunity to adapt them to your own needs.
- Easy to Import Content – Many of my posts come from my other reviewers or from guest posts by authors. WP works a lot better when you need to paste in content from outside rather than crafting it within WP itself. Blogger always added tons of junk code if I tried to paste anywhere but the HTML editor, but then I’d lose all the formatting. So I am finding WP a big time saver.
There are a ton of other smaller things that I am forgetting about. Like being able to easily reply to someone’s comment from right in my Dashboard. So overall, I am finding WP very full featured and easy to use.
On the downside, I have found sometimes the customizability can be a bit of a liability. There are lots of things in Blogger you can just turn of and on really easily, but in WP it requires finding a plugin and setting it up. You can get exactly what you want, but it is more complicated to get it. I found that when looking for post “share” icons. In Blogger you just click if you want them and they show up, whereas in WP I had to hunt for a plugin I liked and install them. Other small things, like Blogger automatically tracks your page hits and for WP I had to find a plugin. I also think the post scheduling feature in Blogger is much easier to use.
Ok, so what are they? Basically plugins are little programs that you install to allow you to customize your site , add features, or easily accomplish tasks. They are really the foundation of WP from a user’s perspective as they allow you to adapt your site in infinite ways and really get WP working for you exactly like you want. I looked around a lot for recommendations on plugins and there were not many places I could find suggestions specifically relevant to book bloggers. But I did get great advice from Jane at Dear Author and from Lori at Pure Imagination (Lori also has a great explanation of what a plugin actually is). Their posts were a huge help and many of the plugins listed here were results of their recommendations, so a big thanks to them.
Basically, you can browse/search the lists of thousands of plugins and choose the ones you want. You then install them into WP and adjust the settings if needed.
First off, there are some must haves I think for any blogger.
- Spam Filter – I use Akismet. That seems to be the go to spam filter. I am not sure if it is the move to WP, better visibility, or what, but i get a LOT more spam now. You definitely want a good spam filter.
- Backup Plugin – Most hosts provide some sort of limited backup, but nothing I would be comfortable with given the hours I spend creating my blog. After doing some research I found that there are two types of things you need to back up. First, your actual content files with your posts and comments. You will also want to back up your design and widgets, etc. Many backup plugins to do one or the other but not both. So look carefully. I am using Online Backup for WordPress.
- Link Checker – This will warn you when one of your links is broken. Lots of times I link to other sites and for whatever reason they move the content. Or maybe something gets messed up with my own links. This will warn you when your links are no longer working.
- Easy Content Template – I LOVE this one. Basically, you create a blank template for posts you do a lot (like reviews, Coming This Week, etc). You set up the formatting, the headers, the placeholders for text, add images, etc. Then you save it as a template. When you are ready to create a new post, you just load up the template and add your details. This is a HUGE timesaver and makes it really easy to have consistent looking posts. My favorite plug in by far.
- AddQuicktag – This is very similar to the content template but for smaller pieces of code. Basically rather than a template for the whole post, it allows you to easily insert content you use often. I use this for my contest rules. Once I set it up, I just click a button and they automatically insert into the post. This is a big timesaver over copying and pasting them from one post to another each time. This would also be great if you insert a bio or some other boilerplate info at the end of all your posts. The options for this are really endless and super convenient.
- Simple Breaks – For some reason, WP makes it tricky to add spacing after your text. It shows up, but as soon as you save it is gone. This allows you to insert a line break or a horizontal rule that will stay and is a big help in formatting.
- Advanced Spoiler – Helps you set up a spoiler tag in your content
- Count Per Day – Shows site statistics in your Dashboard for how many hits your posts get, what pages people enter into, etc. Blogger seems to do this automatically but for WP I had to load a plugin.
- Social Media Links – I looked long and hard to find something that I liked here and ended up with Shareaholics SexyBookmarks. This allows users to share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, or tons of other places and you can easily customize which links to add.
- Subscribe to Comments – Allows users to subscribe to the comments of a post (with or without commenting themselves).
- All in One Webmaster – This combines several statistic tracking tools and puts them into one plugin.
- WPTouch – Configures your site for mobile use.