Just over ten years ago, I wrote my first blog post on currybetdotnet. If you think Christmas Eve was an odd time to launch a new website, you’ve obviously not seen how good I am at pushing a deadline like “by Christmas” to the very last moment. But, over 3,500 entries later, this post means I’m no longer publishing there, and martinbelam.com is my new home on the intertubes.
There were three main problems with the old site…
- I was still using a very brittle old installation of Movable Type.
- Converting all the templates to be responsive was going to take up a lot of time.
- My old warhorse of a server wasn’t configured to scale very well.
It is funny the first time a personal blog post gets so popular it makes your site fall over.
It is less funny when you publish something you’ve spent a long time writing, and a deluge of re-tweets of the link mean that nobody can read it.
None of those problems were insurmountable in themselves, but they represented a right tangle of changing CMS, and preserving content, whilst managing a potentially huge number of re-directs. A significant investment of time and effort.
I work in a lot of organisations that get trapped into a mind-set of “we’ve always done it this way” and “we built this once, so we have to keep it forever.” I asked myself what I’d do if I was advising me as a client.
First off, I’d want to know the objectives of having the website. I teach this in the blogging workshops I run, to make yourself articulate “I want blog X to achieve Y so that Z”. In my case “I want my blog to enhance my professional reputation so that I can build my business.”
This breaks down further to:
- Let people find me to hire my company.
- Let people know when my talks and training are.
- Promote the books I’ve written and edited.
- Have a space to publish my views without having to wait to be commissioned.
None of those objectives are met by carefully migrating over an article from 2003 about seeing some dolphins on the television that then sparked lots of comments from teenagers going “Awww, cute, dolphins! ZOMG!” and trying to preserve the URL.
The old site will live on for now, at the same old URLs. I may migrate over some of the more important articles in the future, but at the moment a couple of key re-directs to the new domain is the extent of my migration plan.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told a big organisation that the quickest path to achieve their immediate goals was to set up WordPress or Tumblr on a new domain, and just start doing the thing they want to do, not spend hours and money on complex migration. Now I can live the dream.
Yes. No doubt about that. But how important is that to my objectives?
The old site got over 100,000 page views a month, but a lot of the long-tail traffic was effectively just costing me money — the site has no advertising and the visit was never going to convert into paid work, a conference ticket or a book sale. Traffic for the sake of traffic to old articles is not one of my goals.
And actually, moving away from a blog that had high PageRank and which had historically allowed “dofollow” comments might give me a brief blessed respite from comment spammers. The currybet.net URL has long been included on a much-traded list of the best blogs to spam.
The Google+ author tags and webmaster tools mean that Google will still know who I am, and I’ve got enough of a web presence elsewhere that I doubt I’ll fall off the face of the internet any time soon.
A clean break.
A fresh start.
Just like every single content website redesign, re-brand and migration I’ve ever worked on over the last fifteen years.
Always completely different.
Always exactly the same.
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