Overhauling the FHF Blog

Genealogy Blog Party Overhaul Blog

Go big or go home. Or is it go crazy? Whichever it is, I had the crazy idea of overhauling the Family History Fanatics Blog. The timing coincides with the Genealogy Blog Party January Theme of Tuning Up our blogs.

We migrated Family History Fanatics from the Blogger platform to WordPress and selected a self-hosted site. In so doing, we had to process over 1,000 posts from 2009 to the present, with an increase of posting frequency happening in the past two years.

Transferring a Blogger Site To WordPress Is Not for The Faint of Heart

One would think that migration should be easy. You download your site from Blogger. You use the Blogger Import Widget on WordPress and away you go. You have to reset a Permalink to maintain your SEO, but other than that, there’s no problems.

Oh, ho, ho! Yeah. No.

First, the 1,000+ blog posts created a file size so large that the Import Widget wouldn’t process it. I used some tools to decrease the file size to no avail.

Eventually, I had to create a dummy website on Blogger. Delete posts until the file size was small enough to transfer to WordPress and then upload. It was insanely time consuming, especially since at one point, I could only transfer 50 posts at a time.

Secondly, of the 1,000 blog posts about 95% of the images did not move over with the posts during the transfer process. This one issue made me want to give up and stick with Blogger.

Thankfully, I have two teenage boys. I played the “I gave birth to you” card and they migrated the photos one by one.

Third, finding a theme was more difficult that I imagined.

I wanted a theme that would make it easy to navigate around the content based on your interests. Thus, you should easily be able to find the blog posts I’ve written about writing family history, brick wall genealogy, or beginning the research process. I also wanted a place for fun items, blog posts for LDS audiences or those with kids in the home.

New Front Page of FHF

I finally found a theme but the process wasn’t easy, or straight forward. And to be honest, I’m still not in LOVE, LOVE with the result.

Overwhelmed by Plugins

WordPress operates very differently than Blogger. WordPress has an overwhelming number of plugins that are necessary to manage your site.

Analytics

Blogger had a simple, yet handle statistics page, but to review your site’s statistics, you need something like MonsterInsights – analytics. I’m still not understanding the analytics that I enjoyed on Blogger (simple though they were). I might just go off the blog platform and focus on Google Analytics directly. We’ll see.

Site Features

WordPress does have cool plugins that accomplish some of the things I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t on Blogger.

To add easy social share buttons on the blog, I explored Social Sharing Plugin – Kiwi. The free version has several options that I used for awhile. However, I switched to something more simplified for now. We’ll see what I like as time goes by.

Cookie Notice – Thanks to changes internationally, we now have to add annoying ‘opt in‘ for cookie notices. Can I say that I DISLIKE these with a passion? They bug me as much as Ads that I can’t bypass to access a site. I don’t mind pop-ups to sign up for newsletters, but the cookie pop-ups drive me crazy. However, WordPress has made this easier than Blogger did and for that I’m grateful.

You Might Also Like Widget

I like to have “you might also like” suggestions after a blog posts as it can pull up similar posts without the blogger (meaning, me) having to do the heavy lifting to make this happen. That’s where a Widget After Content plugin came in handy. I had one on Blogger, but the one I’m using seems to pull up better related content.

This one is a vanity item. Have you noticed the little icons on the browser tab that may be personalized for the company? Well, Favicon by RealFaviconGenerator is a plugin that simplifies the creation of those cool graphics.

Back End Plugins

There are some plugins that readers won’t see that should improve the blog experience.

The first is called Enhanced Media Library. This is supposed to make finding my photos easier, but we have to tag all of them. This process is a pain, but it has become another task for those teenage boys (I played the “you like to eat and live indoor” card on this one). I do like that this library seems to manage ALT text tags easier.

Speed. I feel the need for speed. And so does everyone online. With so many plugins, WordPress sites can become sluggish. That’s were something like Cloudflare comes in handy (or at least that’s what I’m told). There are more tweaks that I have to implement beyond just installing a plugin, but at least there is something.

SEO. Not CEO, but Search Engine Optimization. It’s a crazy word for average readers but it’s a big deal for bloggers. Most blog authors want to reach the maximum amount of readers as possible. To do that, we have to tweak titles, descriptions, and more so that search engines (*cough* Google *cough) will likely rank our posts where you can access them. That’s where a plugin such as Yoast SEO comes in handy.

I’m still working to improve the SEO of my site one post at a time.

Build That Wall

Additionally, security is a huge issue on WordPress, something that isn’t mentioned as a benefit on Blogger (or at least for small sites). There were few decisions to consider with Blogger about preventing spam, cyber hacks, and the like. On WordPress, you need a plethora of plugins to protect your site). Here are just some of the plugins I had to analyze and consider, just to get the site going:

  • AntiSpam
  • Anti-Virus, Firewall, and Malware
  • Hide Login
  • Site Backup (Restore site if you have an attack)

The Biggest Trials of the Transfer – I Chose The Wrong Theme Creator

One of the biggest trials, which goes back to why I’m not 100% in Love, Love with our theme is that it isn’t working the way I want it to.

First, my theme didn’t come with a pop-up sign-up form. Thus, I’ve had to attempt to add one through a combination of plugins and code from my mailing list provider. Let’s just say the sign-up for the mailing list is not popping up.

Right now, the trouble might be on the mail provider end, but it could be in the code. My hair is coming out in globs over this. However, it might not be an issue. The mailing list is still increasing, but I think it might have more to do from YouTube promotion of our mailing list than the blog sign-up forms (which is on the side, or the bottom, depending on where I’ve moved it for now).

Second, my theme doesn’t have the functionality that it was advertised as having. I wanted to have header that had the title of my site and the menu stick after you begin scrolling down the page. That way you can quickly navitage anywhere you want. This isn’t a big deal on mobile, most of y’all read my content on a desktop and it is a big deal.

Additionally, the sidebar should also have this sticky feature as you scroll through the content so you don’t have a blank white field after you reach the end of the information in the sidebar. I’ve attempted to add Sticky widgets but the problem is in the Pop=up Sign=up Not working

Some of the things I like about this theme didn’t work when I installed the theme. I tried a variety of combinations and attempted to review the theme’s documentation. The support material leaves much to be desired.

The theme provider is at the root of most of my issues. Not only is the support material seriously lacking, but the responsiveness of the designers is almost non-existent. I paid for their theme thinking that support came with the ability to customize the templates. Apparently not and for that, I am greatly disappointed. I’m on the fence whether I like the theme enough to keep it.

Final Analysis

In time I think this transfer will pay off. My fear of the high learning curve is justified. For those considering a transfer, the questions you have to ask are these:

  • are you prepared to cobble together free services or are you willing to shell out a lot of money for the plugins you want?
  • are you prepared to reserve themes and the designer’s ratings?
  • are you prepared to invest a lot of time or hire someone to migrate your site?
  • what’s the ultimate end goal for switching from Blogger to WordPress?

The best advantage of the transfer is that I’m separating my personal research and my business content.

Of the 1,000 posts I transferred, about 300-400 are only valuable to my family members. So, I created a blog called Geiszler Genealogy for that content. I don’t plan on updating this site, but rather have it there for those who are researching my various family lines. Additionally, it’s there for any crazy genealogy cases that I need to document to help others keep the research straight.

The remaining content will be on this blog. I have also realized that quite a few posts are dated or just poorly written. As such, I have deleted many posts. I had to add redirects to prevent search engines for getting mad at me, but I think this will improve the overall management of the content on this blog.

In short, I’m down to 650 (out of 1,000) posts that are still relevant. I’m going to follow my friend Lisa’s advice and share this content on Pinterest to help folks find the oldies but goodies. I need to do more cool things to help the content resurface, but I want a milkshake or a brownie to reward myself for overhauling my blog.

Thanks to Elizabeth O’Neal for the motivation to write this blog post. If you want to read more posts about others who have revamped or tweaked their sites, check this out.

Family History Fanatics

Family History Fanatics

Andy, Devon Noel, and Caleb Lee are the Family History Fanatics who have been excited about genealogy for over 40 years, collectively. We have a top rated YouTube channel in the genealogy niche and continue to grow every day. Andy and Devon travel to conferences to teach in person, join webinars that others put on, and host and promote their own virtual genealogy conferences. We also have published seven books on genealogy, DNA, and memory keeping. In short, we're everywhere you want to learn, Blog, Video, Print, and Conferences! Support us by visiting FamilyHistoryFanatics.com to learn more.

5 thoughts on “Overhauling the FHF Blog

  1. Wow, what a saga of migration. Having teens around to add a helping hand is definitely a major asset in such a massive project! Your experience and frustration only confirm my decision to stay with Blogger for now.

  2. You really jumped in with the blog tune up! There are lots of plug ins out there, but I try to keep mine to the bare minimum I need. Migrating from one platform to another is a journey I am glad I am not making. Your site looks great.

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