Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Renaming Your Blog - Planning The Change Properly

Your blog depends upon traffic for its success.

Anything that affects the traffic to your blog, such as a change in the URL, affects the success of your blog. If you republish your blog to a different BlogSpot URL, as with migration to a custom domain, you will not lose any content. Both comments, posts, the template, and all custom settings, will stay with the blog. And if you plan the republishing effort, you can minimise the loss of traffic.

Properly planning the migration, to a different BlogSpot URL, will require different techniques than a simple custom domain republishing.

With a custom domain republishing, the old (BlogSpot) URL is redirected to the new (domain) URL, using a "301 Moved Permanently" instruction. A "301 Moved Permanently" redirect simply repoints each individual URL in the blog to the new URL. And, unlike a custom domain renaming, you cannot choose an available URL, before you begin.

This post (using the domain URL) is "blogging.nitecruzr.net/2010/03/renaming-your-blog-planning-change.html". I can, alternately, advertise it as "bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/2010/03/renaming-your-blog-planning-change.html". That's the "301 Moved Permanently" redirection, in action. All traffic is forwarded, automatically.

Blogger won't provide a "301 Moved Permanently" for a BlogSpot rename, as this would encourage spammers to move their splogs around, endlessly. The best that you can do is to use a stub blog, with proper planning.

As with a custom domain migration, you'll want to consider the traffic to the blog, in categories.
  • Blog Feeds - Automated processes, that help your readers track changes to your blog, using a newsfeed reader.
  • Following - The two way community process, that lets you see who your readers are.
  • Google Webmaster Tools - Key diagnostic and management utilities, that - among other things - enable indexing of the blog by the search engines.
  • Search engines - Robotic processes which methodically surf your blog, and provide dynamic indexing to people who search for information.
  • Viewers - People who read your content from their browser.


Blog Feeds are the easiest and cleanest category to redirect. Even though Blogger won't provide a "301 Moved Permenantly" for the blog URL, they will provide this for the feed URL, using a blog post feed redirect URL. With the post feed enabled for both the live blog (under the new URL), and the stub blog (under the old URL), set the Post Feed Redirect URL for the stub blog to the exact value of the feed URL for the live blog. Your Followers and subscribers, using the old URL, will continue to see newsfeeds for your live blog, while using the old URL.

Following, with the renaming done correctly, is easy to redirect. Your Followers, as mentioned above, can view the blog feed using the old URL, with no problem. With the blog renamed simply using Settings - Publishing, your Followers will continue to be associated with the blog, with no further action by you.

Google Webmaster Tools are a vital part of the migration, and should be handled immediately after you re publish the blog, and then immediately after you setup the stub blog. You'll have several challenges here.
  1. The "robots.txt" file for the blog, as renamed, may contain the old URL.
  2. The new URL for the blog won't exist in Google Webmaster Tools, so you have to add that. When you verify blog ownership, you'll have to remove the GWT verification tags for the blog, that were used under the old URL.
  3. You'll have to setup sitemaps for all posts in the blog, under the new URL, to complement / replace those under the old URL before the blog was re published.


The search engines will be the most frustrating part of any blog rename. Without any possibility of a "301 Moved Permanently" redirect, or anything remotely similar, any SERP hits will land the prospective viewer on a 404 display. Your best bet here is to manage the other categories aggressively, and hope that the search engines re index your blog promptly under the new URL.

Your viewers will have to be redirected using the stub post in the stub blog, published under the old URL. Your viewers looking for the main page of the blog will see the stub post, with no problem. Your viewers clicking on a direct link to a single post, an archive or label search, or possibly a SERP hit, will get a 404 display.
Page not found
Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog The Real Blogger Status does not exist.

Go to blog homepage

The "Go to blog homepage" link will, hopefully, display the stub post - and they can follow the link to the new URL. That's a start, and it's all thanks to the Blogger custom 404 display.

OK, it's time for a checklist.
  1. Is this blog published to a Google custom domain? If so, read about specific issues related to custom domain URL changes.
  2. Re publish the blog, under the new URL.
  3. Enable the feeds, and verify feed URLs.
  4. Setup Google Webmaster Tools for the blog, under the new URL. Look in the Sitemap list for the blog. Any sitemaps in there right now will likely point to the old URL, so these need to be removed. Then, add sitemaps for all posts.
  5. Setup a stub blog, under the old URL.
  6. Set the Post Feed Redirect URL, to point to the feed for the new URL.
  7. Check Google Webmaster Tools for the blog, under the old URL. Look in the Sitemap list for the blog. You'll probably have to re add all sitemaps for the blog, to enable the search engines to index the blog, starting from the old URL, through the redirected feed.
  8. Are you using a FeedBurner (or another custom feed)? If so, update FeedBurner, then check the Post Feed Redirect URL setting.
  9. Check and update all Google Webmaster Tools settings, between the old and new URLs. Think carefully about each setting, and decide whether it should apply to the blog under the old URL, under the new URL, or both.
  10. Are you using Mail-to-Blogger to publish to the blog? If so, check your Mail-to-Blogger addresses.

And if possible, read about the details involved in the rename process before you rename the existing blog. This last caution especially applies to changing one non BlogSpot URL to another non BlogSpot URL.

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18 comments:

Dudel said...

If I was going to change my blog URL I'd simply make a new blog. Name that blog with the proper URL I wanted then import my template, blog posts etc etc etc.

Then on the original blog post a post that said "We have moved" and link the new blog. That seems, to me, a lot simpler than doing all the above. I'd keep both blogs active, as well. Blogger has no limit to how many blogs, if I recall correctly.

Only problem I see with my manner of doing things would be an issue with search engines and possibly duplicate content.. though I am unsure. OH and anything you've linked to the blog (feeds etc) you'd have to make again.

Chuck said...

Dudel,

Were it not for the Followers, who stay with the blog, I'd agree with you. In major blog reworks, that's a so much more scriptable change technique. But Followers are associated by BlogID, not by URL. As soon as you setup a new blog, you get a new BlogID, and your Followers never transfer.

Dudel said...

Point but...

You can update the old blog directing followers to the new one... provided you don't have 1000+ followers it shouldn't be to difficult (and most Bloggers do not have 100+ let alone 1000+). You'd have to keep both blogs active for awhile but, in retrospective, I'd find that a lot easier than what else would happen.

Not to mention sites/locations that already link to your blog. You, yourself, said that they'd get a "Blog not found" page via blogger and that's not good for anyone.

Just me?

Chuck said...

I'm unsure what you are suggesting, Dudel.
1. If the new URL doesn't have content, nobody is going to Follow, subscribe to, or even view the new URL.
2. If you publish content to both blogs, you're going to get search engine duplicate content penalties.
3. Without content and traffic, the search engines won't index the new URL.
You're going to have to move to the new URL some day, if you want to change URLs. Better that you get it done, quickly, so you can work on getting search engine reputation for the new URL sooner. MHO, anyway.

Dudel said...

1) The new URL is where you'd post your primary content. The old URL would get a post every so often saying "Hey we moved, remember?"

2) You wont publish the same content to both blogs. The content from the original blog gets moved over. The old blog gets deleted eventually, but during a transition period of either a few months or a year... you leave it active. (Only old posts would be similar).

3) You're posting to both blogs, the second less often. The second simply getting "Look over here.. the site moved." The new/primary is where your normal blogging would go.

The only problem I see is followers as well as duplicate issues within search engines. The former isn't a problem as people who still wish to actually read your content will "move" to the new blog. The latter will be fixed after that transitional time and the old blog is, indeed, 100% removed (or at least skimmed down do nothing more than a "WE MOVED" tag/post/etc).

Chuck said...

Dudel,

I think that what you're suggesting is a bit more complex than most bloggers will put up with. Plus, the duplicated content (old posts or new) will be a problem with the search engines, and your Followers will have to be persuaded to Follow the blog at the new URL. And Following two blogs with similar feed content won't be too pleasing either - and could be a bit confusing.

Penny said...

I think I understand what Dudel is saying. I have a dream blog that's doing fairly well, given the content, but the URL was too long...If I simply changed the name, the URL would remain the same. So I decided to chuck the faithful blog and create a new one with the shorter URL.

On the original blog I deleted the post and placed a link to the post's new link and a warning that clicking on the link will redirect them to a different blog. In addition on the sidebar where I have all the posts listed by category, the links belonging to the moved posts automatically load to the new site.

The downside, as has been mentioned, is that the followers cannot be redirected, but most of them, I suspect, are merely followers hoping someone will click on their avatar and visit their blog...so I don't really care about the followers. I did lose page ranking, likely because I'm not posting regularly and don't plan to. There are fewer visitors to the original blog, but the good news is that I'm getting visits to the new blog thanks to Google, Bing and YAHOO, and an array of other engines.

Mona at Cabin and Camp said...

Penny, I'm thinking about doing the same thing on another blog. I think your way is possibly the simplest, but could you explain this? I don't understand. (Not your fault--I'm just stupid about this stuff.)

"On the original blog I deleted the post and placed a link to the post's new link and a warning that clicking on the link will redirect them to a different blog. In addition on the sidebar where I have all the posts listed by category, the links belonging to the moved posts automatically load to the new site."


Thanks.

Penny said...

Hi, Mona...If NiteCruzr doesn't mind, here's my original blog URL:
http://encountersinthedreamdimension.blogspot.com

To add a link to a post:

I use the EDIT HTML MODE window in the editor, but you can use the COMPOSE MODE and type a message for your visitors; highlight the words you want to hyperlink; click on the hyperlink icon; and in the hyperlink box type (or paste) the URL of the post, page or site you want that link to redirect to.

To add a sidebar link that redirects to another blog:

For sidebar links, instead of the pesky Archive Box, I use a LINK LIST gadget to add select links to my popular posts or to favorite websites. Go to Layout and click on ADD A GADGET, choose a LINK LIST gadget, type or paste in a URL of the site you want that link to redirect then click ADD.

At the top of the gadget, you can add a title if you want to add several links of a specific topic or category OR leave it blank like I sometimes do, then SAVE the changes. Reposition the gadget to where you want it in the sidebar(s). You can use several of these gadget.

I always click on the orange SAVE button on the Layout screen, especially if I move any gadgets or make changes to the gadgets or layout--sometimes the changes won't show up on the blog if you don't save the Layout.

Redirecting visitors to posts that have been moved to the new blog is a great way to introduce visitors to the new site and help soften the inconvenience of visitors arriving on the site only to find the post is gone (the majority of my visits are from search engines).

On my blog, as an example to the above, if you click on the words "is moving," that embedded link (is that the right word?) takes you to the new blog's most recent post. Or if you click on the sidebar link "Dark Forms Lying...." you'll see that the link takes you to that specific post on the new blog. You can, of course, link to posts within your current blog or to another blog you want to highlight.

Hope that helps!

And if there is a simpler way...I am open to Nitecruzr enlightening both of us.

Penny AKA Sweet Little Angel

DancingDiva (Ann) said...

Woah! You all are way over my head. I just changed the name of my blog and was going to attempt to change the URL to match it, but I think this is over my technical skill level. I'll find a techie friend and see if she/he can help me out. If not, is it so bad to have a URL that does not match the name of your blog?

FYI:
Old Name: Embrace Your Age Cause You're Livin!
New name: Upside My Head (Pay Attention Now)
URL: http://embraceyouragecauseyoulivin.blogspot.com/

DancingDiva (Ann) said...

Great points. I agree that it really doesn't matter to the user as long as the user experience is not significantly disrupted. Thank you! Unless there is a compelling reason to change the URL I'm leaving it, as it does seems to be the least disruptive thing to do (and in its own way holds the history of the blog). I'll change it if/when I go to a new platform like Tumblr. Thanks again.

Chuck said...

is it so bad to have a URL that does not match the name of your blog?

That's debatable. Some SEO "experts" will give you rules for choosing the right URL, based upon the blog title / content. I personally would like to see things the other way - no "relevant" URLs at all - with blogs indexed dynamically by search engines, and by bloglists and bookmarks.

You are looking at my blog, which is now "blogging.nitecruzr.net". Originally, it was published as "bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com". Would it really matter to you that its title is "The Real Blogger Status", and its name was "bloggerstatusforreal"? If I had left it as a BlogSpot blog, should I have used "the-real-blogger-status", instead of "bloggerstatusforreal"?

The Green Girl said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to thoroughly document this process. I followed your steps and while it was far from elegant, I realized after Googling some search terms from my blog that the hassle was worth the continuity.

Holly-girl said...

I am desperate ... please help! I purchased a custom url for my blogspot blog, but it never went through so I re-purchased it and it's still saying it's not registered with DNS? I thought blogger was supposed to do that automatically? I cannot access the blog at either URL, when it's on the custom domain setting. It said to wait three days & I waited a week with no results. PLEASE, please help me ... I have tried every google forum for this problem to no avail.

Chuck said...

Holly,

You really need to ask this in BHF: Something Is Broken.

Penny said...

Chuck, How come people have to be a TEAM MEMBER in order to comment on your Malware Advisor blog? Could you post the Original article links there so those of us with limited PC memory don't have to load an extra website page to read each and every full article? Informative site, though. I followed. I may be grumpy, but I'm not stoopid. Hahaha.

Chuck said...

Penny,

Malware Advisor is not my blog, that's a friends blog.

FroggieStamps said...

Hi, thank you for all of your information! I didn't find it until after I changed things over unfortunately.

I have a question though. My blog was beecraftee.blogspot.com, but when I bought the blog I also bought the beecraftee.com domain from godaddy. Well, for awhile I just masked the blogspot URL. Now, I have FINALLY figured out how to set that all up properly with godaddy and the DNS and I was so proud, lol. Now I notice that my followers from before my DNS change with godaddy are not getting my feeds (unless they unfollow and then follow again), but my new followers are seeing the feed. Is there a fix for this, or will they all just have to unfollow and then follow again? It's a little difficult because technically my old URL looks like the current since it was masked.
Thank you so much! :)