January 13, 2014

Things I Learned When Changing the Name of My Blog

The number one thing I learned when I changed my blog's name is that it is better to make this decision as early on in your blogging career as you can.

That would be ideal. However, if you decide you really want to do it at any point, here is what I learned when I did it at three and a half years in.

1. I will mention doing things 'ahead of time' so I want to touch on what I mean by that.

For me, the inspiration to change the name of my blog hit and I wanted very badly to JUST DO IT. When I'm excited about something I get very antsy. I took a breath, and Googled "changing the name of your blog" and read some advice on the subject, all of which told me to warn my readers first. It makes sense. As it turns out, it was really fun getting people excited about the change along with me.

I posted about my plan to make the change. Then I gave everyone a clue as to what the name would be and asked them to throw out guesses (which I apparently made way too easy). A week later, I made the change and posted about the big reveal.

Lesson: Don't be impulsive, Plan and plot the change, pacing not only yourself, but your readers too.

2. You absolutely want to set your old URL to redirect to your new one. (If you also change your URL) You have put links to your site all over the place through blog hops, social media, applying for brand opportunities, on Pinterest.... If someone clicks on an old link and it goes nowhere? Oh how sad!

For me, this was kind of complicated because I had purchased my first URL through Blogger (Google) and when I renewed it the next year, Google did it through eNom. It took some hunting around to figure this out, and then I had to contact eNom for help with setting up the redirect. The complications of this were compounded by ME purchasing my NEW URL from GoDaddy. However, eNom were awesome about helping me.

Lesson: You should be in control of your URL(s) at all times.

3. Still on the subject of your URL(s), in hindsight, I wish I had decided to change mine more than two months before my old one was set to expire. Due to some still unknown to me problem with Google, I wasn't able to renew the old one for another year like I had wanted to.

However, thankfully, I had worked hard on updating my URL everywhere I came across a place to do so, including updating Pins when I noticed them being re-pinned a lot.

Lesson: Think ahead. And again, control of your URL(s).

4. Figure out what size you want/need your header to be and make it IN THAT SIZE. Don't make it in one size and expect it to look good if you resize later. I made this mistake and didn't notice at first that by the time I got my header sized correctly, it was also blurry. I had to make a brand new one.

In Blogger, you can go into your Template settings and see what your blog width is set at (and change it if you wish). I don't know if this is the case on other blogging platforms. Knowing your width can help you narrow down how wide your header should be. As long as you're close, you can do a LITTLE resizing without ruining the quality of your image.

Obviously, this is a tip for DIY blog designers. My header dimensions are 1140x321, and I used PicMonkey with some free clip art I found to make it.

Lesson: You probably won't get your header just right on the first try. Be patient.

5. Somehow, the HTML code for a new blog button became a challenge. I made a new image, uploaded it to Photobucket, grabbed the direct link and copied it into the code I had for my old button, and it didn't work. I still have no idea why, but I found this site which is a Grab My Button Code Generator.

Lesson: Even if something should be a no-brainer, it might not be. Because technology.

6. Beyond your blog, there is social media. If you're like me and a bit anal about all your social media images matching, make them (or have them ready) before you officially make the changes to your blog. I was able to find the exact sizes for the various social media cover images (not profile photos):
  • Facebook: 851x315
  • Twitter: 1252x626
  • Google+: it was 2120x1192, and you can still get away with this because it's still a 16:9 ratio, but it appears smaller now. Minimum image SIZE is currently 480x270.
  • YouTube: 2560x423 (total size), 1546x423 (always visible)
I made all my new images ahead of time so that once the change was official, I simply went to each of my social media channels and uploaded my new images, easy-peasy. No delay or confusion for your followers. It's all streamlined and changed at once.

Lesson: Trust me, it is a big relief when it all flows nicely.

7. If you have greater than 200 likes on your current Facebook page, chances are Facebook won't want to let you change the name of that page and you will need to start from scratch if you want your blog and Facebook page names to match. I mean, why wouldn't you? This is a big bummer, but still doable.

After you mourn the loss of your current page, set up a new page and start bugging suggesting to your current Facebook following to like the new page. I explained the situation and I had many go right away to my new page. My old Facebook is actually still up, three months after the fact, because I was involved in a long campaign when I made the changes. I will unpublish it after I get paid for that.

I made the change in October but continued to share my new blog posts, with my new Facebook page tagged, to my old page through the end of the year.

Don't forget to plug your new Facebook link into your follow buttons widget/gadget in your sidebar. I decided to go one step further in advertising my new page by installing a widget that pops up in the middle of the screen after a reader has been here for 30 seconds, suggesting that they like my Facebook page. I found this at TheBlogWidgets.com. I'm happy to report that likes on my Dancing in the Rain page have surpassed my old page likes!

Lesson: There are things about Facebook that suck, but it's still worth it to go through the effort because interactions there can be pretty great.

8. One word: Pinterest. You have been going through the extra step of including a pinnable image in every post. Pinterest is the hottest thing since sliced bread, so people are re-pinning your posts. There's nothing you can do about the fact that your previous images have your old blog name or URL watermarked on them, but you can go in and edit pins with the updated URL. I'm not doing this for every single pin; just the ones that are getting attention. It takes two seconds. Again, nobody likes a dead link. And remember, if you have your old URL set to redirect, this won't be an issue for you at all.

Lesson: There may be some uber tedious things you'll want to do. Do them as you can and it shouldn't be overwhelming.

There are some other miscellaneous things like updating whatever commenting system you use, as well as making sure you're using the correct URL when commenting on other blogs (auto fill will have your old one at the ready). Check to see if there's anything you should update with your social shares plug-in. Updating profiles on sites that deal with blogger opportunities is important....

I think that's about it!

Have you ever gone through "The Change", the blog name change, that is?

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