WordPress is the most popular content management system and website builder in the world right now. It is free and resourceful, both being key reasons for its unprecedented and unmatched popularity. However, the open source software does have its share of limitations. The footer credit on every page is a demerit, especially if you are running a professional or business website. While you may ignore this perennial annoyance, you cannot help but operate without Google AdSense. Modifying the website and adding new features would be limited to what WordPress allows. Third party themes and features are not always compatible with WordPress.com websites. Most of these issues can be addressed if you switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. This is one of the first tips you should make note of while moving your site from WordPress.com to a self hosted WordPress site.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
WordPress.com and WordPress.org may sound similar and may even lead you to believe that they are two different sites for the same platform. In reality, the latter is substantially more resourceful than the former. WordPress.com is a website that you cannot own and your site on the platform is similar to renting an apartment in a high rise tower. You will have your own little space but within the larger space and you cannot play by your own rules. There are stringent rules you must adhere to. These do not apply to WordPress.org. This is simply because you would be downloading and using the open source and free content management system including its website builder and control panel among other features without using the domain of the site. You will have your own website.
Prerequisites to Moving your WordPress.com Site to Self Hosted WordPress Site
There are a few simple resources you need to migrate your site from WordPress.com to your own domain. The first requisite is the domain of course. You need to buy a domain name and have it registered. There will be upfront charges and yearly fees. You are essentially leasing a domain name. Then you would need a webhost. The Blog Starter has a complete guide to creating a website with WordPress.org. You cannot move a WordPress site from its official platform to a self hosted platform unless you have set up the hosting account, have the site hosted or prepared and the server that would effectively launch the site. Choose a domain name and find a webhost. You may not need a website designer or hosting expert as there are many turnkey solutions. Since you have been managing your own WordPress.com site, in all likelihood, you are aware of the nitty-gritty and those will come handy while moving your present site to a self hosted site.
Stepwise Guide to Moving your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted WordPress Site
Exporting the WordPress Site
You need to export the website or blog you have on WordPress. Go to your WordPress.com site, log in to the account and check out the front page for a menu that says ‘My Site’. This will be at the top left corner. Look down the ‘My Site’ menu and you will find an option of ‘Settings’. Click on it and you would get to a page of options where the one to the extreme right will be ‘Export’. There will be a button that says ‘Export All’. Click on this blue button and you would get to export all your content, effectively the entire blog or website.
The WordPress.com feature of exporting will essentially generate a file that contains every piece of content and general features of the site or blog you have been operating. The file may take a while to be generated. The actual duration will depend on the size of your blog or site. Once the file is generated, you will be greeted with an ‘Export Successful’ message and there will be a download option. Click on the button and download the export file. Save it on your desktop or laptop. This file is everything as it contains all your pages, posts, site settings and widgets among other important details.
Setting up the Self Hosted Site
There is no standard setup for self hosted sites. The exact procedure depends on the type of website or blog you have and the one you wish to develop, the webhost you have and how the hosting platform carries out or facilitates the setup process. Most webhosts and website building tools or control panels will allow you to import a WordPress.com site. All you need to do is access the control panel, get to the website builder tool or an import function if it is available outright and then upload the file you had downloaded from WordPress.com. The file will import all the details of your blog or website, including its settings and contents. You will have a basic blog or site up on your self-hosted site. This will be offline of course and you would have to work on various settings to make it more appropriate on the new platform.
Most webhosts have WordPress already installed in their systems so the control panel will have a prevailing option to host or migrate a WordPress site. In case your webhost does not have the tool already, you can install WordPress and then import the file. If a webhost does not have WordPress installed already, it is likely to have a one click install option.
Importing the File and Setting up the Self Hosted Site
You can access the WordPress dashboard from your self-hosted site. This is usually www.websitename.com/wp-admin. The website name will be the domain you have chosen and the extension of .com may be anything else, .co or .org, .net or .biz among others. Use your login id to sign into your account. You will have this access information in your emails as well. You can use the WordPress section of your self-hosted site to import the file, instead of using the available control panel or content management system made available by your webhost.
Once you are at your dashboard, you should look for the menu of ‘Tools’. It should be almost at the bottom of the main menu. In the ‘Tools’ section, you will find the option to ‘Import’. You may or may not need a special plug-in to facilitate the upload of the exported file. This special plug-in is only needed for this purpose. You can uninstall and delete it later. You should have an importing or importer tool in the Import section. The special plug-in is actually to get this importer function in some cases. You should run the importer function and then choose the appropriate file when prompted. Click on the button for uploading file and import. The importer will offer you some choices. Keep things simple, choose one user and then import all the files. You can always customize the site and assign different sections of the sites to different users in due course of time.
There will be some optional checkboxes during the import. Options such as ‘download and import file attachments’ are important as you would want the images and any form of multimedia that you had exported and downloaded from your existing WordPress.com site to be seamlessly imported onto the new self hosted site. Tick all such checkboxes that are necessary to import all the files you need. Look for the button to submit, click it and wait for the process to complete on its own. There is nothing else you need to do at this stage.
Set up a Swanky New Self Hosted WordPress Site
The first step now would be to check every post and all the important data that should have been imported perfectly. Explore the new site, check out how it looks and navigates. If the import was perfect, then all your files and data should be on the new site. There may be some formatting issues because you are no longer on WordPress.com but onto a new self hosted platform. The features of the new platform will influence how your site operates, looks or feels and how everything is set up. There will be some anomalies. Some features will not function. Some plug-ins may not be compatible. Some pages may look odd. Some contents may be missing if the supportive plug-ins, widgets and other functions of features are not available.
You will need to explore the whole site and make a note of all the hiccups and problems. You must address all these issues one by one, starting with the most comprehensive ones. The comprehensive problems are those that have a blanket or far-reaching impact. For instance, turning on certain features or downloading and installing some plug-ins or tools can fix many pages. These are your priorities. Minor glitches here and there or page specific problems can be addressed later. Your self-hosting platform will have certain features, functions and tools of their own. Make the most of these resources to set up a swanky new WordPress site. Don’t forget to let your readers or audience know that you have moved to a new site. Redirect the old site to the new one. WordPress.com has a feature that facilitates this.