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  • 12 Steps Necessary For Combining Multiple Blogs Into A Single Blog

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    March 2nd, 2009HARTreorganization

    Backgrounder – The Battling Series of Blogs

    Back in January 2006 .. I first created a “Battling” series of blogs, each with unique names such as .. http://Battling-Cancer.com .. http://Battling-Obesity.com .. etc. In September 2007, sparked by the enormous recurring domain registration renewals, I created a brand new umbrella domain, and transfered these unique domain blogs to newly created subdomain blogs. I did document my experience into two semi-related posts that may interest you … here and there.

    So, after my “reorganization #1” the blogs, the new “Battling Series” of blogs looked like this .. http://cancer.BattlingForHealth.com .. and http://obesity.BattlingForHealth.com. Today, March 1, 2009, is my “reorganization #2” where I combined those 14 subdomain blogs back into the root domain – Battling For Health.

    Here are the 12 steps that I have done during the past 10 days to complete this project. I hope it offers help and insights to future readers who may decide to undertake a similar project.

    Step 1: Decide Your Objection And Make A Plan Of Action

    I’ve decided that for BOTH http://BattlingForHealth.com and http://AndYouWill.com series of blogs, I will move all the individual subdomain blogs into one mega blog for each niche. In 2009 I want to try to leverage the strength of these two larger and populated domain blogs and build toward a greater success and expansion of my HART-Empire Network. I don’t think I could do this keeping the status quo with 28 smaller and not fully populated subdomain blogs. One on hand – it’s true … there really is a benefit of having many sites because it’s easier to make $40 a month on 50 blogs than it is to make $2,000 on 1 blog. I’ve proven that.

    But there comes a point after the development that you begin to see opportunities and the possibility of moving away from that $50 per month to $2,000 per month. It takes leverage and momentum. I really think that our “Battling Series” of blogs is gaining momentum and having all the topics in one major blog can provide leverage in its growth. For instance, rather than having 14 writers each covering 14 different topics .. I hope to have between 5-7 writers covering all 14 topics. There won’t be a just few popular blogs in the group posting at once a day and a few dead blogs not posting at all .. there will now be one blog with multiple postings on multiple topics per day. Content is good .. and I think more content is better. Having better content on a variety of health topics is one of my supplementary objectives for future growth and sustainability.

    So my objective was to combine all the health blogs into one “Battling For Health” blog on March 1, 2009 .. and then combine all the do-it-yourself and self-improvement blogs into one combined “And You Will” blog by April 1, 2009. I still consider this in line with my original vision of my HART-Empire Network but just with a different means to the way.

    Step 2: Do A Feasibility Test And Review Your Objective

    I really liked our current network wide template and considered modifying it for these future mega blogs, but this template is lacking widgets. It got me to think that I should either find a template with widgets, or make these widgetable with dynamic sidebars. Since I’m an accountant – I decided to find a new template!

    I selected the Lifestyle Theme by Brian Gardner and just provided you with the affiliate link. Technically, although these “Revolution Two” themes (now Studiopress) are free … it’s definitely worth it and would recommend you purchase the support package. Everything you need is in the forum to help make your template a success, and a great bunch of contributor moderators who help answer any questions you may have. I purchased the single theme package, because at this time I did not think I will need other themes. Although I am building a new template, I still want some similarity among some of my sites visually.

    I immediately started to practice with the template, importing sample data, playing with the templates, reading the forum .. and see what can be done with these templates. Because of my impulsive behavior, I actually destroyed my data twice before rebuilding a third time to what it is today at http://BattlingForHealth.com.

    For the first time, prior to the conversion, I was using the FeedWordpress plugin to aggregage all the posts from the individual blogs into this one main ‘Portal’ blog (as I called it). I didn’t do anything with all of those imported posts, which were linking back directly to the old blogs. So, when I imported the sample database .. I know had two files of same title but, the “real” content had a “dash-2” (url/content-2/) in the URL!

    I destroyed the second time, after seeing the raw data of 14 blogs combined into 1 blog and give me ideas to test it in action, so I can make modifications to the template to make reader navigation better or provide more goodies that I would like to have in a blog. Also, my intention was to recreate this blog with the content as close to the cutoff date as possible, so I don’t leave behind straggling comments and posts in the older blogs.

    Step 3: First Backup And Then Export As Much Information As Possible

    My first objective – to be safer than sorry – was to make a complete backup of every blog’s MySQL database and all of the files on the server. If anything would go wrong, I could always delete everything and restore the files and put back the database and nobody would know the difference.

    Next, I upgraded all of the blogs to the latest version that the new blog is on – being wordpress version 2.7.1. I wanted to be sure that I was exporting the right data with the right format and information that it would be needing to import into the new blog.

    Finally .. I used the built-in export feature of wordpress to export the information:

    . from Dashboard
    .. Tools
    … Export
    …. Restrict Author (I left it as “All Authors”)
    ….. Click “Download Export File”
    …… SAVE AS FILE on computer, and added the blogname before the default .. so it looked like.. battling-cancer-wordpress-yyyy-mm-dd.xml format

    That was pretty much it on this task.

    Step 4: Import As Much Information As You Can

    To import your .xml file it’s pretty easy. WordPress imports all of the posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags from your .xml export file.

    . from Dashboard
    .. Tools
    … Import (WordPress)

    There were a few things that I discovered during the first two “draft” creations of this merger process. Firstly, although you can edit the usernames … DON’T. When I first started, my username was created as it was publicly known .. HART (1-800-HART) except a derivative of that without the brackets, so my username had become …
    HART 1-800-HART

    When I switched to just HART .. all the author tags throughout the template and database just did not work. I ended up just leaving it as is. Because I was under various names throughout the 14 blogs with identical or similar usernames, I did route all posts by my author to an existing author I created on the first import – and continued with that. I don’t need 14 different usernames for me!

    WordPress 2.7.1 import worked great for me. When it asks you if you want to import all the attachments – SAY YES! Back in the early versions, I would have had to copy all the image files from the old domain/subdomain into the same locations of the new domain.

    WordPress 2.7 did not import the blogrolls however with all of the other data. There are currently two ways to import the blogrolls of each file. The first is easy … just go visit the following URL … http://[yourdomain.com]/wp-links-opml.php and then SAVE AS or SAVE PAGE AS some file like, blogroll.battlingcancerblog.xml. You can then import these links via the TOOLS / IMPORT / BLOGROLL function directly in wordpress.

    I tried that the first time before I deleted the database and didn’t like it. Some of the 14 blogs were organized very differently from the others. Some had link categories like “Canada, United States, United Kingdom”; others had link categories like “Sites, Blogs, Associations”; and some blogs were quite descriptive and well categorized. I chose to just put two firefox window browsers stretched so they fit side by side and CTRL-C / CTRL-V (copy/paste) all the blogrolls from the 14 blogs in categories that mimicked the wordpress blog categories.

    Step 5: Massage The Imported Data To Suit Your Objectives

    This was a challenge during the first run. Each blog has a gabillion categories and a gajillion wordpress tags, and when put together it just did not make sense. I chose to go publicly with 15 new categories .. one for each of the blog categories of the old “Battling” series of blogs (addiction, depression, diabetes, etc) plus one for announcements. There are a few more categories, but they are private ones, out of view and not ON the template, but USED by the template. For instance, the featured category for the image show.

    There is an option at the bottom of the category dashboard in wordpress, that allows you to convert your categories to tags. I can see some ways that might benefit some blogs, but it didn’t benefit me. I chose NOT to do that. Instead, I went straight into my wordpress SETTINGS / WRITING options, and individually set the default post category to that I was working on. For instance, I created the categories .. and imported all of the battling obesity information and categories. I want all the obesity posts to have one single category – the “OBESITY” category. So, I went into my option and set this option as my default category. I then went into the POSTS / CATEGORIES menu and bulk deleted all categories that were NOT my 15 core categories. Even today, I have decided to leave them in Capital Letters so it was easier to read. When you delete a category in wordpress, you do not delete the post .. the category just automatically defaults to the default category you select in the settings. It probably took me about 5 minutes for each blog to do this task.

    Step 6: Massage The MySQL Database To Compensate Changed URLs

    I have a policy that I like to link to at least one post in my archives or in another HART-Empire Network blog .. in every post in every blog! This way, google alerts will notify me everytime it is seen out in the blogosphere, and cheaper than hiring a copyright watcher service or using copyscape all of the time. When you import transactions into the wordpress originally created from another domain, I’m not really sure if wordpress automatically renames the new URL according to the blog setup and permalinks. I am 100% sure that it does not rename any URL’s manually entered in each post to accomplish the linking to the archives and other blogs.

    Because I do this on all blogs, I decided to do this LAST – instead of one at a time after each import … so I can change all instances throughout the new blog’s MySQL database at once.

    Here’s how to do this:

    * Go into your cPanel of your new blog, and run phpMyAdmin.
    * Select your new MySQL database
    * On the left side you should see all of the tables, and the right side other stuff
    * On the left side click the wp_posts table (or ???_posts) depending what you called ???_ in your wp-config.php file ..
    * On the right side click the top menu “SQL”
    * In the white box – replace what is there with the following (example what I did)

    UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = REPLACE (
    guid,
    ‘http://obesity.battlingforhealth.com’,
    ‘http://battlingforhealth.com’);

    * I repeated for all domains .. (replacing obesity subdomain with addiction, cancer, and other subdomains). This changes the reference of links and drops the subdomain in the URL in all posts.
    * Then again, in the white box – replace with the following

    UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE (
    post_content,
    ‘http://cancer.battlingforhealth.com’,
    ‘http://battlingforhealth.com’);

    * Repeat for all domains as above.

    If you are unfamiliar with MySQL database and think this is wrong (you should always question before following instructions from the internet) .. look at the tables inside the wp_post table using the top menu BROWSE and you’ll see.

    Step 7: Manually Add Stuff That Cannot Be Automatically Imported

    I probably could have put the blogroll information in this section, because this is the time during my reorganization that I actually added all of the blogroll links to the new Battling For Health blog.

    But, in addition to the blogroll .. I had a lot of stuff to consider and take care of – because my old templates were not widgetable. Code for each of the blogs were in the footers for sitemeter statistics, whos amung us links, google analytics, feedburner feedsmith settings, all-in-one-seo settings and options, blog catalog and other directory maintenance requirements, and even google adsense and other monetization.

    I have tried to keep the code “off the template” and strictly using widgets now, because I hope to replicate this template into the http://AndYouWill.com site next month. I have made many template modifications, but nothing will affect the code in the other blog… that was a challenge for me 🙂

    Step 8: Manually Massage Stuff Resulting From The Consolidation Process

    This means “clean-up” time .. and I’m still cleaning up! Each of my 14 blogs had its own About page, its own Subscription page with its own feedburner and RSS feeds, it’s own top post links, contact pages, and more! They were always named the same too, like …/contact/ ..contact-2/ ..contact-3/ etc ..

    I hard coded “staple” pages that I want in the top navigation area, but in the sidebar I have left a widget showing all the existing pages at the current time. This is a work in progress. Besides fixing and massaging the old pages, we will be adding new pages to the lot!

    Step 9: Stop Existing Cron Jobs On The Old Blogs

    In all of the old blogs, I had the WP-DB-BACKUP activated, and was performing an automated backup every day on every blog that would create a backup of the MySQL database and then email it to one of my Gmail accounts. If the file was too big, it just copied it to the server in a ../wp-content/backup-####/ folder. Well, backups on redundant databases that never change only uses up CPU resources and space, and I had to be sure that these “cron jobs” were stopped. This also goes for any feedwordpress or wp-o-matic plugins (if you are using them to retrieve RSS from other sites).

    Once deactivated, each blog was now finished in my mind – and no more posts or any activity should be happening.

    Step 10: Tell Everybody That You Moved!

    Well .. because I was combining 14 blogs into one, I chose to post my “We are moving” post after I exported the database. I didn’t want readers to see 14 instances of the same request to change your bookmarks and RSS feed. I left this up for 1 day before I did the redirect.

    I might have tweeted this a few times after I moved and tell my friends. 🙂

    Step 11: Setup Redirects And Modify The .htaccess File

    This works so people don’t have to change their bookmarks (although I hope they do) and gives a 301 redirect on all the posts. Eventually, the search engines will recognize the new site as the original (*knock on wood* eh?). Honestly .. I don’t know how the mechanics work – but, I know what works for me.

    What I did was rename the existing .htaccess file into something else … and copied a new file over that looked like this (e.g. for addiction blog)

    Options +FollowSymLinks
    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteBase /

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^addiction.battlingforhealth.com\.com$ [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://battlingforhealth.com/$1 [R=301,L]

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.addiction.battlingforhealth.com\.com$ [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://battlingforhealth.com/$1 [R=301,L]

    Then, I would go into the options of the old blog, run permalinks, then hit the top “Visit Site” link to be sure that I was being redirected.

    Feel free to test this out! Actually ….
    http://Battling-Addiction.com >> redirects to >> http://addiction.BattlingForHealth.com >> redirects to http://BattlingForHealth.com !

    Step 12: Step Away From All Of This And Stop Tweaking For Now

    I think it’s perfect one moment, and then I see terrible destructive features the next! That’s the life of a webmaster and blog owner! I thought I left a lot on the table, and there is still much to do. I did want to finish the basic navigation and USAGE stuff and get that working to make an easy transition. But, I’m not going to change my site around because on of the first people suggest that one type of text might be too close to the side border etc. I will listen to everybody’s advice, and then (like Captain Kirk) choose the action which seems to be the most important to follow. Or, I may do nothing.

    I like to tweak because all my sites are dynamic – not static – and always changing .. with new plugins, new content, new links, etc. There will never be a point in time where “it’s all done” because I will always be tweaking. It’s like looking at your statistics. There’s always more statistics. You can go crazy watching statistic and tweaking your blog when instead, you should just be letting the readers create statistics and reading your blog!

    I decided that I wouldn’t look (much) on opening day March 1, 2009 .. although around 10pm I wish I had. It seems that posts without tags in the new wordpress 2.7 seem to break my template and create an error on the single page. I have fixed those posts, and will watch for this in the future.

    The End.

    Disclaimer: This is how I did it for my blogs .. I take no responsibility for what happens with your blogs – however, I hope this little recap and tutorial has helped give you ideas. It is more to document my process for when I do my “AndYouWill” blogs, and future reorganizations – if any 😀

    ? or .. The Beginning
    (of http://BattlingForHealth.com)

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