SO this is a little departure from my normal cakes, clothes and cats!! I don’t normally do technical posts (and I am certainly not a technical expert!) but I consulted lots of guides and how to’s as I transferred my blog from being hosted on wordpress.com, to being self-hosted at wordpress.org.
What I noticed during this process, is that none of the articles I consulted, such as this one and this one, mentioned all of the steps that I needed to complete, or answered all of my questions. Which led to a lot of me saying “Huh?”. So I decided to contribute my own take on the process, and hopefully help all those other non-technical people out there!
This guide will mainly help people transferring from wordpress.com – wordpress.org – if you’re using another platform to begin with, you’ll probably want to consult another guide.
A little background first – why would you – or I – want to go self-hosted? After all, wordpress.com is –
- very easy to use – great for beginners
- wordpress support teams are there to help you if you need it
But it has some issues too, and when you’ve been blogging for a while, you may find that you want to be fully in control of your blog and your content. For instance, on wordpress.com
- adverts are placed on your blog, which you cannot control and which may be spammy
- you have limited access to analytics information – once self-hosted, you’ll be able to access more detailed google analytics stats (however, you will lose all your historical stats information from your wordpress.com blog – it will still be accessible to you, but it won’t be reflected in your new blogs stat history)
- you have to pay for upgrades for more space, a custom design, a bespoke url… and many more things – in fact, the cost can add up to a lot more than hosting costs
- you’re unable to make money from placing adverts on your blog or joining affiliate schemes
- you have limited control over the look and feel of your blog, whereas on a self-hosted blog, there’s thousands of themes available to choose from – and you can edit the css on your blog to completely customise your theme to your own specifications
So overall, going self-hosted gives you much more freedom and control over your blog, but there is one word of caution – you’ll be much more accountable for anything that goes wrong on your blog, so you could do with having some technical troubleshooting skills, or a technical friend to help.
Let’s do it
Okay, we’re doing it! Here are the steps you’ll need to follow in order –
1. Get a domain and host
You’ll need someone to host your new blog – someone who, ideally, offers unlimited space, has a great record on availability, and who is recommended by WordPress. I did a bit of research and went with Bluehost after reading about them here and here.
They also secured the domain kerrycooks.com for me for no extra cost, but if you have already secured your own domain name, you can transfer one over to them. I opted for a 36 month hosting programme (as the longest is the cheapest) at $3.95 a month through the affiliate link here. Be aware that you have to pay the full hosting fee up front, as well as VAT, which is not included in the monthly price. So $142 for 3 years became $170 with tax added.
2. Install wordpress
Once you’ve secured a domain and host, you’ll be able to install wordpress with your host. Bluehost offers a one click install of wordpress, but it can be more difficult with other hosts – see this guide for more info. You’ll need to set up a new logon for wordpress.org.
Once you’ve installed wordpress, your new blog will look just like your original blog when you first started it – with the generic wordpress theme, default post and comment. Don’t panic – the next step is to transfer your existing blogs posts and content.
3. Transfer your blog
Logging into your old wordpress.com account, you’ll see an area in the dashboard marked Tools – Export. At this stage you could choose a guided transfer where wordpress experts will transfer your blog over to its new home. This could be worth doing if you’re really not confident about the process, but it costs $129. I wasn’t particularly confident but I ploughed on regardless and it all worked out fine in the end!
If you’re going it alone, click on ‘export’ and then on the next page, choose to export all content – this should be all your posts, images, pages, comments and so on. Click to download and save your file. You can’t transfer widgets so you’ll have to add most of these back in.
Next, you’ll want to upload your file to your wordpress on your new wordpress.org account. Go to tools – import to do this.
Note – if your blog has been going for a while, your xml file may be very big. The biggest file I could upload at one time on Bluehost was 10mb, but my file was 15mb, so I downloaded a file splitter to split the file into two 7.5mb files which I then uploaded. When you upload, tick the box to upload image attachments – if you don’t, images will be missing from your posts.
Once you’ve done this, you should see all your blog content on your new blog (although it still won’t look how you’re used to it looking – that’s the next step). Go through your archives and check that all your posts have transferred across successfully. I identified a missing chunk of posts, so I went back to the export tool on my old blog and exported the posts only from March – Nov 2011 which were the missing ones, and imported these to my new blog.
I also noticed that none of my page structure had transferred across, so I went back to export again and exported just pages – when I imported these a second time it worked fine.
4. Look and feel
Time to give your new blog a personality! This is where you choose a theme for your new blog, and re-implement any widgets that you were using in a left or right hand nav or footer.
I chose to remain with the chateau theme because I really like it, but there are thousands of free and paid for themes that you can choose from, or if you’d prefer, you can work with a designer to make your blog look exactly how you’d like.
You can add the widgets back in in exactly the same way as you added them on wordpress.com. You can also use plugins to adapt the look and feel of your theme – I have already installed a recipe plugin that helps me to publish professional looking, print ready recipes (which hopefully you like!) and will be looking at what other themes would help my blog work better too.
5. Update urls
One thing to note is that any internal links on your old blog will still link to your old url, so on your new blog (kerrycooks.com) you may have posts linking to other posts on kerrycooks.wordpress.com. I downloaded a plugin to fix this issue and followed this how-to guide.
6. Transfer subscribers
At this point, your new blog is starting to take shape, but all the people who (hopefully) were following your old blog need to be moved across to follow your new blog ideally. If you contact wordpress on their forums, one of their engineers will move your subscribers over for you – currently, they do this for free.
Breathe a sigh of relief, you’re almost there! The only thing is, lots of traffic is still going to your old blog. You could do blog posts redirecting them to the new blog, but I preferred to capture everyone with a 301 url redirect. WordPress charges $13 a year for this, and it automatically whisks anyone trying to visit your old blog off to your new url. Find it in your wordpress.com account, in the dashboard under upgrades.
Now that you’re new blog is up, running and being admired by the world, its time to change all the references to your blog url out in the world.
For example, here are some that I updated
- Twitter bio
- Pinterest bio, and verified my blog on Pinterest
- Foodies 100 account
- My disquis/open ID accounts for commenting on other blogs
Hopefully, your transfer will go without a hitch, but you may face some issues along the way. There were several stages at which I was confused, which is why I’ve written this guide including some of the steps that the guides I was using left out! I also had a technical problem that my theme was causing – there was an error in the CSS which meant readers were unable to leave comments. My advice if you do come up against anything inexplicable is to research research research (google) – there’s bound to be someone else with advice on a similar problem. The wordpress support forums can also be a good resource, although not in my case – I finally turned to a very talented friend who spotted the problem and fixed it for me!
I really hope this guide will be helpful to you if you’re thinking about going self-hosted!