Whenever I read articles and listened to social media friends give talks about self hosted blogs, I heard the same thing over and over again. Self hosted is the way to go, self hosted is the ONLY way to go, self hosted is worth it…. Bottom line, self hosted seemed pretty awesome. But there was one catch, I was scared it was over my head. I am not a web designer nor do I know very much coding or techie talk when it comes to websites. I am a completely self taught gal who learned off of her WordPress.com blog she has had for several years. I skirted moving to self hosted for FOREVER as I was literally terrified that something would go wrong and I would lose all my years of work in one fail swoop. Last summer, I finally talked myself into purchasing a new domain as I wanted to re-brand myself after getting married. Afterall, JLD is no longer. I was becoming a Rohrich and that doesn’t fit! I have owned a domain over at BlueHost.com for nearly 4 or 5 months and yet my blog still sat over at WordPress.com.
Two weeks ago I had finally had it… Late that Friday night, I decided to move it. WordPress.com offers you the option of having a Guided Transfer, but it comes with a price. I was totally willing to pay the money, but I wanted to move it over the weekend and the gurus over at WordPress.com only work during the week. So I figured what the heck, I’d give it a go and transfer it myself. The worst case scenario…? I would fail, delete everything on the new site and wait for a Guided Transfer the next week.
Before taking the plunge, I googled a couple different articles, made sure I read through WordPress.com’s support page on moving your blog, AND contacted a social media friend who had JUST moved her blog to self hosted as well. After reading through several articles, I was feeling fairly confident that I could do this. They all made it seem like it was actually pretty easy. So I took the leap. I figured I’d write down a few things on my transfer as I’ve had quite a few people asking questions about how it went, how it works, and how I did it.
What is Self Hosted?
Self hosted is kind of hard to explain. In the most simple of terms, you own your own domain and you are hosting your own site. I am still using WordPress software to run my site, but WordPress.com no longer HOSTS my site. Instead my site is hosted through BlueHost. Why did I chose BlueHost? Well that’s kind of like saying why do you choose Verizon or AT&T? Bluehost is one of many “hosting sites” much like GoDaddy, Dreamhost, etc. All have their pros and cons and everyone has different failures and successes with each company. WordPress.com recommended BlueHost and I had a few friends who have said their support is great when you need help.
With my WordPress.com blog, I was paying to simply own the domain name. I had also added on some other customizations which were adding up every year. Switching over to BlueHost meant that I have to pay BlueHost to HOST my site as well as pay for my domain name. The cost over several years isn’t very much for the freedom you will be given through going self hosted. Transferring to self hosted allowed me more freedom in what are called plugins (not available on WordPress.com), it will allow me to gain compensation from my site if I choose to do so, it gives me unlimited ability to edit and customize my site however I’d like, and it also gave me my own email through the server (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org). If I could have self hosted from the beginning, I would have. But this whole adventure in blogging has been a learning process. I wouldn’t have the skills I have today if I hadn’t started with my wordpress.com blog. I learned to bypass a lot of the restrictions through customizing my blog on WordPress.com.
For more information about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, check out this infographic.
How Did I Transfer My Site?
So what did I need to do first before transferring my blog?
- I made sure I found a hosting company that uses WordPress.org software. Since my blog was already hosted through WordPress.com I didn’t want to switch platforms.
- I purchased my domain from Bluehost and also paid them a hosting fee.
- I made sure WordPress.org was loaded onto my new site.
- Since my theme wasn’t going to transfer very well, I already found a theme I liked over at ThemeForest.net. The theme I am running is called Cassia but there are so many great ones to choose from.
Once I got all those steps done, it was time for the actual transfer.
First you must Export your Data from WordPress.com.
- Go to your WordPress.com site Dashboard. Click on Export under Tools menu.
- Choose the Export (Free) Option.
- Select “All Content” and press the Download Export File button. An XML file will be downloaded in your computer. This file contains all of your posts, pages, images, comments, custom fields, categories, tags, navigation menus and other information.
Next head over to your new site to import the data.
- On the Dashboard of your new site, click on Import under the Tools menu.
- Click on WordPress and install the WordPress Importer plugin.
- Activate and run the importer plugin. Upload your WordPress.com XML file that you downloaded from your WordPress.com site.
- Be sure your XML file is under 2 MB. If your file size is larger than 2MB, then you have two options. One is to ask your web hosting company (in my case, Bluehost) to increase that limit temporarily, so you can get on with the transfer. The other option would be to split your file by using WXR file splitter.
It’s literally as simple as that. The transfer page looked like it had quit a few times but low and behold if I clicked into my media, there were all my photos being transferred.
The last step is to re-direct readers to your new site.
Unless you are using the same domain name, when your new site is up and live, it will not automatically re-direct your readers to your new site. You have to do that manually. You redirect readers to your new site by using what is called 301 redirect. There are a few WordPress.org plugins that do this for you OR WordPress.com does offer a paid upgrade to do it. Through WordPress.com, you can purchase an Offsite Redirect for $13/year through your Dashboard by going to Store. This upgrade will not only automatically redirect readers to your new site, it will also update all your internal links. Once your readers know about your new site and the re-direct is no longer needed, you can stop paying the per-year fee but that is up to you for how long you choose to pay.
The one issue I ran into (and it really isn’t an issue at all) is that my subscribers didn’t transfer from my WordPress.com blog to the new site. When you transfer the site yourself, you actually have to contact WordPress.com to move your subscribers for you. You also have to download and activate the Jetpack plugin. One part of the Jetpack plugin gives you the same subscribe function that you had at WordPress.com. After I installed and activated Jetpack, I simply sent an email to WordPress.com Support to transfer my subscribers. The next day my subscribers were transferred.
And that was it! From there I had to design and code the rest of the site how I wanted it. I was amazed at the overwhelming amount of plugins available for self hosted WordPress.org. Both my Pinterest and Instagram widgets on the right side are run through a plug-in. I also added a SEO plugin that has been a learning process but is awesome. Plugins are basically like “add ons” for your blog and the different kinds are endless.You have to be careful using plugins though, because the more you use, the more it can slow down your site load time. I will share with you a few of my favorites.
My Favorite Plug-Ins So Far…
This plugin rips apart my posts to ensure that I am using Search Engine Optimization correctly. It is AMAZING how much I was not utilizing SEO prior to this thing analyzing my posts, images, headers, and titles for my “target keyword”. It’s been a learning experience but this plugin helps with making me better at using and utilizing SEO.
It took some searching around to find a plugin for my Instagram and Pinterest that visually I liked. Most of them were cluttered or junky. Not the simplistic style I was looking for. Alpine PhotoTile was the ticket and the customizations you can make through it are awesome! When I am tired of my current design, I can create another one that will look different but still be clean and functional.
Not sure if you are an avid Mashable reader, but I am. And I LOVE their scrolling/floating bar with social media share buttons. Especially when a post is really long, I hate having to scroll to the top or the bottom to share it on my social media feeds. With DiggDigg plugin, your site can have that same floating share bar. It’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
If you share recipes, this recipe plugin is one of the prettier ones I came across. There are others but I didn’t really like how they worked. This plugin allows for lots of different customizations even down to colors. It then embeds the recipe into your post and makes an easy printable for your readers. The only catch is that the Recipe Card plugin is not read by SEO so be sure to use your keyword(s) throughout your post.
It’s as simple as that.
Honestly, I thought it was going to be much more complex and way above my head. The transfer was the easy part and it only took maybe an hour (if that). To move everything over from my old site to my new site. All the images transferred without a problem, my posts, my categories… Nothing was left behind with the exception of my subscribers but those have also since transferred.
I am loving my new home here at Prairie Californian. I look forward to changing this site in the future and all the customization and freedom that being self hosted gives me. If you have ANY questions about making a transfer or self hosted, please let me know!
Have you made the move? How did it go? What are your must have plugins?