Moving my blog from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site using WordPress.org software was far easier than I ever imagined. The process is not nearly as terrifying, complex, or time consuming as some would lead you to believe if you are prepared.
In this article, I will share the resources I used to ensure a smooth transition and special tips and alerts to make your blog move easier too.
Here’s a brief explanation of WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org from the Automattic team:
“WordPress.com is a hosting platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online. You don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. WordPress.com has hundreds of themes, and includes the functionality of many plugins, but you can’t upload your own plugins or themes.
WordPress.org offers free software that you can install on a web server. You can upload and install themes and plugins, run ads, and edit the database.”
In short, WordPress.org offers far more freedom, but requires taking more responsibility. Want to know more? Read the complete explanation.
Guided Transfer: For the Technophobic
If all things technical make your knees knock, the best choice for you might be a Guided Transfer. For $129, a WordPress.com Happiness Engineer will install WordPress software at one of their recommended hosts, transfer your blog, and provide additional support for a two-week period.
Resources for Transferring Your Blog to Self Hosting
If you prefer to make the move on your own, unless you are a tech whiz, you will most likely want to have a technically inclined friend willing and available to offer support as needed.
Your first three action steps for setting up your new “empty” site include:
- Purchasing a Domain Name (or Redirecting Your Name Servers if you already own your domain name);
- Finding a Web Host;
- Downloading and Installing WordPress software.
These are the steps that must be taken before you can export your blog from WordPress.com and import your blog contents into WordPress.org software on your self-hosted site.
Read these articles and watch the recommended video before you start the process. They will take you step-by-step through the process so you can avoid any pitfalls.
- Setting Up a Self Hosted WordPress.org Install
- How to Transfer Your Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.Org (video)
- Moving a Blog – WordPress.com Support
- 70+ Resources on How to Start a WordPress Blog
Special Blog Set Up Tips and Alerts
Once you’ve followed the links, you will have a good overview of how to transfer your blog and, I hope, will feel more confident about the process.
But, don’t dive yet! Following are some steps I recommend considering before you leap into exporting your blog or as soon as your import is complete. By thinking it through ahead of time, you will be able to get the features you want in place quickly rather than ending up without a subscription service, for example, and not knowing where to get one or how to set it up.
What theme would you like use on your new blog? Decide in advance so you can install it before or immediately after the transfer.
Unlike WordPress.com, your new WordPress.org blog will appear with only two theme options: Twenty-Eleven and Twenty-Ten. You will have to “install” any other theme you would like to use.
Many, but not all, of the free WordPress.com themes are also available for your self-hosted blog and there are more than 1,500 other free themes to choose from.
Check the theme directory at WordPress.org to see if your current theme is available or browse the expanded selection of options available to you there.
You might feel like a kid in a candy store – especially if you are a theme junkie like me – with hundreds of new theme options. You could easily waste hours or even days previewing the multitude of themes. Sooner or later, however, you will discover that most free themes are not well-constructed. Some of your best bets are the themes you liked on WordPress.com, if available, those listed as popular on the sidebar at the WordPress.org theme directory, or themes you’ve admired as you’ve traveled the blogosphere.
Now that you are self-hosted, you also have the option to purchase a WordPress theme. Paid themes typically offer more options and flexibility than a free theme. Some of the most popular theme makers include DIY Themes (Thesis), Studio Press (Genesis), Woo Themes, and Elegant Themes.
Once you’ve decided on a theme, with rare exceptions like Thesis, you can install it with a few clicks on your dashboard:
- Appearance > Themes > Install.
Search for the theme by name, click the install now button after it appears in the window, and then activate. The second way to install a theme is to download the zip file at WordPress.org and then upload it here:
- Appearance > Themes > Upload.
Understandably, you don’t want to lose a single treasured reader. And, you’ll want to set up your subscription service for new subscribers to sign on first thing on your self-hosted blog.
Happily, the staff at WordPress.com will transfer your current subscribers from your WordPress.com blog to your new self-hosted site if you install the Jetpack Plugin by WordPress.com first. The Jetpack Plugin offers several handy features – mostly free and some paid – that you’re already accustomed to as a WordPress.com blogger. Free features include subscriptions, social media sharing, wordpress.com stats, spelling and grammar, a contact form, among others.
Installing the Jetpack plugin was one of the first steps I took after exporting my blog to the new site.
Install the Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin here:
- Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search for Jetpack by WordPress.com and follow the installation instructions.
Once the Jetpack plugin is installed, transfer your subscribers from your WordPress.com site to your new self-hosted blog.
Three words of warning.
1. More than 100 of my subscribers vanished into thin air during the transfer never to be recovered again. While the staff was very concerned, they weren’t able to correct the problem. This was probably a rare anomaly; after all life happens.
2. Don’t count on your subscribers subscribing to your new blog in hordes if you opt out of the subscription transfer. Experience consistently indicates that only a small percentage of subscribers will sign on to your new blog even after being requested to do so through a special bells and whistles blog announcement or two. People are busy, they may miss the announcement, or actually want a divorce.
3. The WordPress.com (Jetpack enabled) subscription service does not allow you to download a file of your email subscribers. Because of this, I chose the free Feedburner email subscription service for my new subscribers. So I currently have:
- the Jetpack plugin subscription service for sending new posts to my old subscribers;
- the free Feedburner service in my blog sidebar for signing up new email (and RSS) subscribers.
This is important should you ever wish to use your subscription list for sending communications other than blog posts to your subscribers. This could be anything from a free newsletter to an announcement about a paid e-course. Setting up Feedburner was one of my first steps.
“Plugins” are software components that add specific abilities to your blog. Some function like the widgets you are accustomed to using on WordPress.com and others offer additional features like data base back-up, a contact form, social media icons, comment luv, SEO support and much more. You can read about the most important plugins in the articles linked to above.
There are thousands of plug-ins. Like themes, you could go wild. But here’s the cautionary point. Plugins increase the loading time of your blog so the fewer the better. Also, plugins sometimes conflict with one another and then cause mysterious problems on your blog. For example, a spam plugin I tried blocked comments all together! A recently installed plugin is a hot suspect when you suddenly experience glitches on your blog.
Even with excellent preparation, I ran into a few minor hitches but nothing major. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the Google Analytics plugin until I finally realized that I had to set up a Google Analytics account first. I couldn’t figure out how to set up a plugin or two so I just opted for another choice.
Moments of frustration and confusion are bound to happen. Breathe, try again, do a web search for the problem, or ask a techie friend. You’ll sort it out in time!
After a few hours of advance preparation, it only took an hour or two to set up my new site, export my blog, and set up the most important features and plugins.
I haven’t had a single regret or a significant problem since moving my blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org a few months ago. My traffic did not diminish significantly and my Google Page Rank did not dive to zero. I assume this is due to owning my own domain name for more than a year and having a good network in the blogosphere.
I’m grateful for the fantastic support I received as a WordPress.com blogger and consider WordPress.com an excellent blogging platform. But, I’m far happier now to have full control over my blog and not be subject to the limitations and policies that come along with any hosted format.