Behind a blog launch
A couple months ago, Elizabeth approached me about working with Kim and her folks on moving their archives or columns into a blog format. They also wanted to use blog technology going forward and were curious what the best way to do this was.
1) What blog platform to use?
The first big decision was what blog platform to use. The companyh wanted a blog hosted on their actual servers so TypePad was out. They wanted full control over templates so Blogger was out. And they wanted to conserve costs so Movable Type was out. We went with WordPress. Also, I know WordPress best out of these four systems well and felt I could easily shoehorn their existing structure into the WordPress taxonomy.
2) Multiple blogs or multiple categories?
The Compass Life Designs site featured expert coaches in multiple topics so the first question to decide was would we have a separate blog for each topic area or one overall blog, moving the topics into the blog’s categories. The latter was chosen because it made administrating the site easier, plus when readers search the blog they can search across all topics and not be limited to just one topic area.
3) Existing design or new templates?
To speed up the migration to a blog platform, the existing templates and design were preserved. Further, having Jason, the designer and webhost, focus on the graphic design and another person (me) focus on getting that design to work in the constraints of WordPress allowed us to move faster as well.
4) Import new content or start afresh?
Compass had a backlog of hundreds of columns in their topic areas. We decided to import back to Fall of 2006 forwards. This way, visitors to the new blogs would not see an ’empty room’ but a full archive of dozens or articles among several categories. Since the original column pages were all hand-coded, a Compass staffer had to manually cut and paste entries into the blog platform. They then backdated each post to the proper date and assigned it to one of our authors. A second-phase will be to follow-up with integrating the rest of the older content into the blog.
5) Should authors post themselves or have an admin do it?
To keep training time down, we decided to create each author/columnist as a user/author in WordPress, but have one person post the content. Several of the columnists are big movers in the coaching world and don’t have the time to learn WordPress and post themselves.
6) Push ezines or feeds?
A big topic of discussion was what to ‘push’. Since most of the Compass audience aren’t early adopters of technology, we decided to make ezine subscriptions to the site the prominent means to capture contact information. To preserve the previous topic area model, a separate feed was created for each category in the blog. This way, readers can subscribe to only the categories they want to read. Eventually we will publish an overall site feed as well.
7) Comments or not?
Comment approval/moderation was turned on for each post so that readers could submit posts but an admin had to approve them before they appeared. Since much of the Compass audience are new to blogs, they might take some orientation time to learn how to use the commenting function correctly. We routed all comments to the blog admin instead of having each author receive their comments in order to keep noise to the authors to a minimum.
My first formal call with Compass was December 11. The WordPress installation was done the next day by the systems guy and I trained the admin on the 15th. Content was loaded in while the graphic designer and I sliced up the templates and brought them into the WordPress theme structure. The first release of templates was around January 3. The next weekend we did some more tweaks. Smartly, we built in several days for any troubleshooting needed (I had some WordPress code that needed to be spanked for misbehaving and then a special dispensation to make it look good in Internet Explorer). The blogs went live on Tuesday January 16, just one month after we started – and that’s including the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
We used the Google Analytics plugin to implement Google’s stats and traffic tracking package. This will make conversion goals and sharing traffic reports much easier than parsing server logs.
10) Going Forward
We didn’t try and do it all at one time. Future phases of the blog’s development will include implementing search, related posts, blogrolls and adverts/offers aligned to a particular post’s content.