I’ve personally become very critical of Google of late. While they offer some great and innovative services, they also lead the way in profiteering from mass data. The kind of data that you only become a small piece of, but hands a paying entity (not just commercial) information about you that you’d otherwise not openly present to them. While I’m content with people being able to read what I want them to be able to access on the front pages of my blog, I’m damned if I need others knowing about the small things that I’m doing while I’m trying to make important life decisions – things that I need good information about, and less direct influential targeting.
There’s some great hardware out there that has become cheap thanks to Google’s Android operating system, but I have refused to shift my stuff over to such a system. It isn’t just about data security and the invasiveness of the people involved with Android, it is about the attitudes of the people that use and sell the hardware. As such I’m generally ‘de-googling’. However I keep bumping up against odd attitudes:
“Privacy is over-rated”
“They just want your meta-data”
“You have complete ‘Freedom'(TM) on the system”
“If you have nothing to hide, why should it matter”?
Not so long ago I wrote about my motivations for moving my blog over to WordPress. You can read that HERE if you have the time, but in short it was about decaying and unstable services, instability and extended privacy breeches from unexpected fronts.
However, since moving my blog to WordPress, I have become even further critical of Google’s structure – namely the fact that they have a ‘walled garden’ that is within their own search engine that you aren’t exactly made aware of. In short – Google has become so large that they use the tools on their own site to ensure that content largely generated outside of Google or by non-paying advertisers, is essentially de-prioritised.
How hard was it to move my blog?
In short:- it was damn easy to move it over, but hard to move it over in the eyes of the internet.
Blogger allows you to create an XML of your entire blog. When you have started your own WordPress blog, you simply create this XML file and load it into WordPress’s tools. It will then re-construct your blog on their platform – photographs, comments and all. All under your new site format.
So all I had to do was re-design my site, then simply transfer the content over. Getting the banner graphic to display properly on my new site was harder than transferring the content. There was one problem though – all my Blogger tags were transported over as ‘Categories’. But WordPress has a function to turn all categories on your site to just tags.
I chose WordPress for the flexibility of the platform. There are other platforms you could use that are easier to operate, but as I had used WordPress before, I was eager to get back to some of the the more advanced functions that it had. Specifically the flexibility to size graphics to more than just three pre-set sizes. Blogger has always been terrible with graphics. A scanned full-length page of type would be shrunk down on a page so that it didn’t format ‘too large’ in Blogger’s eyes. Hence why I had to split my typecasts in half to display them on a page properly – as it wanted to format the width in comparison to the height.
Something that does take a little bit of thought though, is WordPress’s themes. These are heavily CSS constructed themes – unlike the bolt-on shuffle-around structure of Blogger’s. If you host your own page this gives you an incredible amount of power. However if you use WordPress.com’s tools, you have to pay for that power. The prices are reasonable, and you can still do a lot with only the basic (free) tools. It just takes a bit more imagination. However if you are used to Blogger’s toolbox (settings) layout, you’ll probably struggle a bit at first with setting up on WordPress.
Blogger allows you to re-direct your RSS feed to your new blog. What this means is that anyone who previously was able to access your blog via an RSS link (like the Typosphere blog-roll for example) you can simply tell Blogger to send any new RSS enquires of Blogger blog, to your new blog. This redirection can be done with other blogging services and isn’t exclusive to WordPress.
That said, it is better to tell everyone to re-link to your new blog instead of linking via the old RSS re-direction. And there’s a good reason for this – and it is all about ‘Google’.
Were there any problems with Google?
My blogger page hit 200,000 visits about a week ago. This was is despite the RSS redirection to my new blog, which currently only sees between a quarter to a half the traffic that my previous blog did. That said, my new blog’s stats largely shows just ‘real’ hits now – not just the garbage hits that Google is happy to display to puff up my ego. Hits like ‘Your photo was viewed on the Google image search page, but not clicked’ kind of hits that cause other larger blog sites to sky-rocket in hit statistics
Google search issues.
When you shift across to WordPress or another service outside of Google, you become a second-class google citizen. Whereas previously my blogs would be instantly indexed on Google, they now take weeks to be indexed – if at all. Even to get Google to index my pages took a lot of work. I had to acknowledge ownership of my the site via Google Webmaster tools by adding meta-data to my site, then suggest the page for indexing. I also had to provide Google a ‘site map’ of my page so that they would ‘crawl’ it.
All of the things needed are automatically created by WordPress, and their website says that they submit it all for you. But it wasn’t until I started making my own contributions via Webmaster tools that Google actually looked at my page. I promptly returned to other search sites an logged myself into their own tools to undertake the same process.
I’ve written about the ‘Oz Typewriter effect‘ in the past – where the sheer size of Rob Messenger’s blog creates a specific gravity that pulls search terms and indexes them higher, thus pulling more search queries. This isn’t about the content and the activity of Rob’s blog, but rather the number of posts he has written which has caused his site is viewed higher. In two years Rob’s blog only provided 189 click-throughs to my own site from his, while Cheryl’s Strike-thru blog has provided nearly 20 times more. This is a result of his site grabbing largely casual readers that aren’t sure what they are looking for, due to the gravity of the size of his site.
The problem is that Google favours the information on its large blogger sites above others. Vaguely relevant information that is on Oz Typewriter is often given precedence above other blogs of the typosphere that may address the subject more directly, simply because of the size of the ‘gravity’ of Rob’s blog. With Google’s lack of attention to pages outside of Google, it doesn’t take much to surmise how you have to work harder at getting even a small representation on google. While my entire blog has been re-constructed over on WordPress, the content still largely doesn’t appear – or is ranked far lower than my Blogger blog’s postings. If I were to search for an entry on my blog specifically by googling the title – I largely get other blogger blogs that may be vaguely relevant to the search by Keyword, before I will see my own blog listed.
Google and RSS.
It isn’t until you see how google stuffs up RSS outside of its own servers that you start to realise exactly how much of a second-class citizen you are. The Typosphere’s blog-roll works by linking to your blog with RSS feeds. RSS can take up to 15 minutes to update across the internet, however since changing my blog to WordPress, it has gone from sometimes 15 minutes to frequently 4 hours. As a minimum you should expect 40 minutes for your blog to display. In the meantime you can see blogs from Blogger displaying within minutes of their posting.
Then there’s the redirection.
Has anyone noticed that I now have two listings often updating on the typosphere blogroll? The second is from my old blog. If I were to write an entry on my old blog, which I quite probably will sometime in the future — specifically type-ins etc., it would display my blogger post happily on in the blog-roll. But currently it just echoes my new blog, as it is setup as a redirection. However, both entries don’t display my new blog at the same time on the blog-roll when the RSS actually does update. That’s because the RSS redirection – which happens go through google – often takes two or more days. If you don’t look at the typosphere page until a few days after I have written a blog, you’ll see two identical entries of mine sitting side by side.
If the typosphere page Admin hadn’t added my new blog’s RSS, my blog entries would disappear into the near impossible to read nether-regions of the page. Similarly, my site doesn’t update for days on other people’s blogs who have been kind enough to add my blog previously. This includes people that follow my blog through Google’s Blogger ‘reading list’. In contrast, I can add blogger pages to the main page of my WordPress account, and those pages are updated instantly. Flipboard, an RSS reader that I use on my iPad, also instantly displays my blog – and all others.
What this boils down to is – are site clicks important to you? As my site is a hobby site and a communication hub with like-minded people I have met online, I’m not so inclined to chase clicks. This is why I’ve never displayed a hit-count on my site – and never will. I’m not here to boast about my ‘readership’.
Bing’s webmaster tools informs me that there were 99,780 searches for ‘Typewriter’ last month. Google doesn’t have a similarly function keyword frequency display, but does allow you to see what areas search for a particular term the most. Currently the Philippines sit on the top of the list for people googling ‘Typewriter’ — as is shown in the graphic below.
There’s clearly a lot of interest. It is a community I find interesting and engaging. So while google represents itself as a portal to the world community, I’m naturally very interested in how Google represents me in it. Maybe I’m just being a bit precious about how my page is viewed. After all, in the first two months of operation my original Blogger blog typically received fewer readers a day than my new one does now. That said; transitioning to WordPress has been worth it, and I feel will continue to be worth it in the long-run. For those contemplating the move – just be prepared for a bit more work when you set your WordPress blog up – and be mindful that Google’s services will see you as largely second-rate unless you pay them. However using WordPress has opened me up to a very different community, many of which I have now started introducing to other members of the typosphere – and increasing the typewriter love. There’s a whole other world outside of the Google walled garden, and I’ve enjoyed finding that out by de-googling.
I’m still working on getting an active ‘Blog-roll’ working for my site instead of the current typosphere list. But the existing widgets are a bit… hit and miss, function wise, at the moment.