This post is a little out of the ordinary for me but hopefully any of you with a blog will find it helpful (and inspiring!).
As you may or may not be aware, I recently took the plunge and transported my blog from a wordpress.com hosted site, to a spot at a self-hosted wordpress.org.
You are probably thinking, so what, they sound the same…
Well, they are and they aren’t.
I’ll always have a soft spot for my wordpress.com site – it’s perfect for beginners and has a wide variety of free and premium theme templates. You can upgrade your site to customize it and the free stats feedback is pretty great.
But, it does have its limitations. For example, you can’t attempt to earn a profit with your blog. Now, I’m not pretending I’m some big shot who sees this as a viable option for myself. BUT, one day I might. Google AdSense and Google Analytics just don’t work with WordPress.com, plain and simple. So if this is something you might want…then you need to migrate.
Working in the legal world, I was highly aware that I could not be using my blog as a promotion tool or money maker, and I was a little paranoid that if I was looking for sponsors then one day my page might just be deleted and all my hard work gone.
I had been getting quite a good amount of views per day, but I knew that in terms of the content I hoped to have one day, what I currently had was quite minimal. So – perfect timing! (Plus I had a few free nights at home alone)
Anyway, now my blog looks and feels exactly how I want (with maybe a few minor tweaks to come) and I couldn’t be happier. Plus, I can proudly say that I have learned an incredible amount about web design.
Now, this is something you are going to want to sit down and be able to focus on. So plan your time accordingly. I did it over the span of about 3 nights – some of you might be thinking…what took you so long?! Well, this post is not for you. It is for those absolute beginners with no coding experience, no knowledge of the inner workings of the internet, and no clue what “self-hosted’ means. I had to learn the absolute basics behind every step before I could begin to even attempt it.
I’m going to try and make things as simple as possible, but if you have any questions please shoot me a comment below and I will try and explain things more clearly.
Here we go!
Step One: Although your blog will be on a WordPress theme with a similar admin dashboard, you need a site that will actually host it and do all those server updates, security measures, and backups. There are quite a few companies out there and I decided to choose between Bluehost and Dreamhost. Do a bit of research based on what you want (basic, high speed, features, tech support, etc) and choose what is right for you.
I ended up going with Bluehost because it was the best price. NOTE: Do not pay full price for hosting – you can easily Google promotions and end up paying a fraction of the price. I think I paid $2 a month for a ridiculous amount of space, my own e-mail accounts, etc. I’m really happy with Bluehost and the tech support is out of this world. Seriously. You just click on chat, write up your question, and they have support staff there to help you out. This was clutch during my transition (because yes, at one point I thought I lost it all..surprise surprise right?).
Step Two: Once you have picked your host, set up a site. If you already own a domain name, plug it in here. I made up a new domain name, thinking my site would be immediately active (and wasn’t sure just yet whether that was a good thing). That gave me a big headache later when I wanted to use the domain I had already purchased for my WordPress.com site. (Don’t worry, if you’ve already made this mistake like me, I’ll tell you how to fix it later on).
Step Three: Once you are all logged in, head on over to the control panel. There will be a WordPress option – click on it, and then install and download the “program” onto your host. (Just click install and it will do the rest).
Step Four: Set up your new WordPress site with the domain you want – it will be the same as the domain provided by BlueHost. You will need to make a username and password. If you have a WordPress.com site, just use the same username/password – it makes things much easier.
Step Five: Go to your original account at WordPress.com. Click on tools (left sidebar) and then export. You will want to export all material (images, text, links, etc). It will be downloaded in the form of a big Zip file onto your computer.
Step Six: Now, go to back to bluehost – click on control panel, and then click on WordPress. At the bottom of the page you will see your new site. Click on the admin option. It will take you to a dashboard that looks almost exactly like WordPress.com. The first thing on your dashboard will be Jetpack. Install this – it is KEY. Make sure you turn on “subscriptions” and any other features that deal with syncing it to a WordPress.com account. This will help you link accounts and move followers, etc (I’ll write more on that below).
Step Seven: After you have installed Jetpack on your WordPress.org site, click on Appearances and then download whichever theme template you want to use. (I am using Sketch and I love it)
Step Eight: Once your theme is installed, click on Tools (left sidebar), import, and then upload the Zip file you downloaded earlier (step 5). If an error pops up that an author could not be attributed, select an author from the drop down menu and then resume importing.
Step Nine: At this point, all of your material should be seamlessly uploaded into your new site. I would double check that the images are all working – but the tags, categories, titles, feature images, and content should all be there. I did notice that clicking on the pages left a lot of broken images, but once I clicked “edit’ and “update” on those pages, everything was back to normal.
Take a moment to breathe – you’ve done the majority of the work! If you want to play around with plugins and widgets, do so now.
PS – The plugins are a lifesaver. There is one for everything!
Step Ten: Go back to your WordPress.com account. Find where it says “My Sites”. This will take you to the home page and it will display both of your accounts (WP.com and WP.org) side by side. Click on the little settings wheel in the corner of the box with your WordPress.org site. Then, go to settings, and manage subscriptions. Click the box to transfer the followers from your WordPress.com site. This will transfer all your subscribers over so they don’t lose you (and you them!).
Step Eleven: Go back into your WordPress.com site and find “Manage Domains”. If you own the domain of your old site, click the option to unlock it. You will be given an access code.
Step Twelve: Return to your self-hosted site (again, my directions will be tailored to BlueHost) and find “Transfer domains”. This is where you will type in the domain that you already own. Copy the access code you obtained (from Step 11) into where it says EPG. You will then receive an email with another code, which you will type into the next open spot under EPG. Your domain will begin transferring. This should happen fairly quickly. Note: At this time head back to your WordPress.com site, manage domains, and check if you need to click to accept the transfer. If so, do that.
Step Thirteen: Now – troubleshooting. If at this point you were like me, and had two domains, here is what you do. Once you have transferred your original domain, “park” it. This means that although your domain works, it just redirects to your primary domain. You can’t actually edit the content on the parked domain. If you want your “parked” domain to become your primary domain, hit the chat button and a tech support agent will make the change for you.
THIS is where I thought I lost everything and had a minor freakout. BUT, like I said..the tech support agents are Gods. The first thing to do is not screw around. Stop trying to figure it out and ask for help. You can waste a lot of time figuring out what everyone means are various internet forums, and in the end, there is no point risking.
There is some sort of process you need to do that requires moving content in different folders…but instead, just click chat, tell them you lost it all…and then tech support will move the content over and fix it all. It may not be as pretty (you might need to re-install your theme)…but who cares.
Step Fourteen: If you would like to set up google analytics do so now. There is a plugin that will put it into your WordPress.org dashboard if you don’t want to do it the old-school html code way. Another tool to set up is google webmaster – which you can link to your google analytics account. This will help Google find your content much faster (and hopefully help your site pop up on more searches).
To put google webmaster into your site, click the verify by html/meta tag option, copy the code, and insert it under Tools on your WordPress.org sidebar.
For google analytics, you can copy the code and insert it into the “Header” – Which can be done through Appearances, Editor, Header. I believe you insert it directly above where it says “.head” (top of page).
Step Fifteen: Redirecting. You can add a redirecting plugin (Redirector) to your WordPress.org site which will allow you to insert your previous domains (and the .wordpress.com domain). There are a bunch of ways to redirect all your content and the random links you have posted around the web, but I haven’t figured that out. The easiest way is likely to purchase the “Redirect” package under Manage Domains on your WordPress.com site. I, however, was too cheap to pay the $13 fee.
Step Sixteen: Return to your WordPress.com site and make the ___.wordpress.com your primary domain. Then, to avoid angering the google gods, go to Settings, Reading, and click make your blog private. You can also just delete your blog, but I kept mine to use as a backup.
All done! It is a big process but it is so rewarding when you have successfully accomplished it on your own. I made almost every mistake possible, so if you are at any point stumped and need rescuing, comment below and I’ll try to respond as fast as possible.