Moving your blog is like riding a motorcycle: if you know what you are doing, and you are very careful, and you take every precaution: it is dangerous as hell.
That said, it can be done, and without losing your following, subscribers or mind.
Here are 10 absolutely essential things to keep in mind….
1. 301’s are your friend
Try this: enter http://silverlight.net/blogs/jesseliberty into your browser. What you will should find is that you come to my new site, and hey! presto! your browser changes the url to http://jesseliberty.com That is because there is a 301 (permanently moved) redirecting the old address to the new.
2. Respect Permalinks
You absolutely positively must not break permalinks. That means that if you publish a page with the url http://oops.this.isnt.what.i.wanted you have to assume someone (or some-many) have linked to it (even if you don’t have a pingback!) and thus, if you are going to change the url to http://this.is.what.i.had.in.mind then you had better arrange for the former to forward effortlessly to the latter.
As you probably know, this site is on WordPress, famous for plug-ins that do the work you would otherwise program. One that I find indispensible (one of many!) is Redirections which lets me set up 301s with a minimum of fuss. Not only does this save hassles for your users, but it can save you serous money. One potentially significant cost in a hosted environment is cpu usage, and having redirections in place (rather than serving up 404s to repeated attempts to reach the unreachable) is to set up good 301s.
3. Fools Rush In…
Take your time. Do not rush this. Do not do this just before you go on vacation.
Switching your blog is effortless and quick, if you have no subscribers and no one knows your blog exists. If you have subscribers whom you value, however, then it is going to take some time.
How much time? I can tell you exactly: the amount of time you will wish you had spent after you screw it up royally by not spending enough time (plus a constant).
4. Find An Expert Besides You
Are you going to WordPress? Find someone who has been on WordPress for a while. You don’t have to suss everything out yourself just because you’re a geek.
5 Get Your Feedburner, Analytics, etc. Right Before You Go Live
There are a number of embedded bits of script that are working just fine in your old blog. Make sure they are working equally well in the new before you take the wrapping paper off and throw away the receipt.
6. Run In Parallel
Run the new site silently in parallel for a good while before switching over. Then run the old site, in case some of the nifty 301s aren’t really working. Take down your old site in pieces if you can, and by all means keep a back door open so that you can go get files that somehow didn’t make it over.
7. Trust No One
The new host, on the other hand, promises to make hourly backups of your entire site. You can trust them with your life. Right.
Make your own backups. They won’t be insulted. Did I mention make your own backups? Ok, just make your own backups. Oh, and don’t forget, backing up the database or the files is not enough, you need both in many blog systems.
And set your backup options carefully. I love Austin Matzko’s Database Backup Plugin, but one of the choices he offers is Twice A Month. Ouch.
(Another option he offers is to have the backup stored on the same host as the blog. Hello?)
8. Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants
So you are a coder, why not roll your own blog? Not an entirely crazy idea unless you happen to have a job and/or a family and/or a life. Okay, you aren’t likely to have a life, but it is still a crazy idea. If you feel an overwhelming need to create your own blog so that it does precisely what you want, why not start with a working blog and create themes, widgets and replace each plank in the ship one by one, rather than sitting in dry-dock for the rest of your life.
9. Yoast or Toast
Learn who Yoast is and follow his blog and his tweets, and if you can, just follow him around. He is the king of SEO, unless you don’t know what SEO is and don’t care about being found in search engines, in which case, never mind. (yes, yes, that isn’t his name, but go argue with the wisdom of crowds).
10. Just Do It
I let people talk me out of moving my blog for two years. Now that it’s done (twice actually, but the second move was almost invisible), I can’t imagine what I was so afraid of. Well, yes I can, but it was worth every drop of sweat.