How to move from a WordPress.com to Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

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wp-migration-0-smIf you’ve started building your platform on WordPress.com and you’re ready to take the next step and move to a self-hosted WordPress.org site, you’re doing the right thing.

There is so much more flexibility when you control all the various aspects of your platform. The theming options are amazing! Studiopress, WooThemes, Theme Forest – and so many more. With a self-hosted WordPress blog you have full control over your theme, you can do whatever you want to do!

And there is so much you can do to extend the functionality of your site using plugins, both from the WordPress community and premium options – there really are few limits to what you can achieve with a self-hosted WordPress site.

This post will show you exactly what you need to do to move your site from WordPress.com to a WordPress.org self-hosted blog. It may seem a bit daunting, but it’s really not too bad. You just have to follow a few basic steps. 

Here are the basics for what you need to do to get your site moved.

What You Need To Get Started

In order to get started with your move from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog, you’re going to need a few things. 

First thing you need is your domain name. There are all kinds of places to register your domain, so the specific place to do it is up to you. I’ve covered several options for registering your domain name in this post on how to start your own website

Next, you need a great web hosting company. Since WordPress.com isn’t going to host your website any longer, you need to get set up with your own host and in that same article there several options to choose from which will provide you with great hosting.

If your domain name registrar is different than your hosting provider, you’ll need to set your DNS at your domain name registrar to point to your hosting service. Each hosting service’s DNS requirements are different, so make sure that you check in with them so you know what you need how those settings need to be set in order to get your domain correctly pointed to your hosting service.

Or, if you prefer, you can have all this done for you by ordering a WordPress installation from my service called WPLaunch. Those kits cover your domain name, and hosting service, along with a bunch of other great stuff that you will need for your new website. Using WPLaunch eliminates all the hassle of getting started with WordPress and gets your self-hosted WordPress site up and running quickly. 

Step 1

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in your WordPress.com account go to your dashboard and then hover over the sidebar link named “Tools”. There will be a couple options. The one you want to pay attention to is called “export”. Click on the export link.

Step 2

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It should already be selected for you, but you want to make sure you’ve got the selection set for “All content”. Click that radio button to indicate that’s what you want if any of the other options are selected, then click the button, “Download Export File”.

Step 3

This will create a file named something like “YOURUSERNAME.wordpress.xml” Make sure to store and save that file in to a place where you know where to find it.

Step 4

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Go to your new self-hosted WordPress domain name and log in. It will be something like “http://YOURDOMAINNAME.com/wp-admin”

Step 5

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Once you’ve logged in there, go to the “Tools” menu option in the sidebar again and this time you want to select “Import”.

Step 6

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It’s likely that it will give you a bunch of options from which to choose, so choose the one that’s called “WordPress” which should be the last one on that list.

Step 7

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WordPress is going to ask you to install the “WordPress Importer” plugin. Go ahead and click on the “Install Now” button on the bottom right part of the page.

Step 8

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The next screen asks you to activate your plugin and run the import function, so click on the link “Activate Plugin & Run Importer”. 

Step 9

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That will bring you to a dialog screen that asks you to upload your file. There is a button that says “choose file” and by default is set to “no file chosen.” Click the “choose file” button and navigate to the folder where your download file resides. Remember – it’s called YOURUSERNAME.wordpress.xml

Step 10

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After you’ve selected your file by clicking “open” in the dialog window, the file will now be added to place that previously said “no file chosen” and you will see a button now that says “Upload file and import”. Click that button and it will run your import from the xml file that came from your old WordPress.com site. It may ask you to match up authors with users as it reads the file, so just make sure you select the ones you want there, and let the importer run. 

Step 11

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Before you hit submit, there is a checkbox below where you set your author info under the “Import attachments” heading that reads “Download and import file attachments”. If you want to import any associated attachments that were on your content from your wordpress.com site, select that box. That means images, photos, etc. that you have in your posts from the old site. If you don’t have anything like that then you can skip that. I usually check it just to be sure.

Step 12

Click on the “Submit” button once you’re ready, and WordPress will off to the races bringing in everything from your old site – users, posts, pages, etc. When it’s complete it will say “All done. Have fun!” with the “have fun!” part linking back to your dashboard. You’ll also see all the data that was imported listed. At this point your import is complete.

Step 13

Just to make sure, go to your “posts” link in your sidebar and check and make sure you have everything there – old and new.

Step 14

Do the same thing for your pages – check the “pages” link in your sidebar and make sure any and all pages are there too. Same goes for any users that you brought in. You’ll want to look for your images, check your links, and make sure they’re correct, etc.

A couple things to watch out for

If you have a lot of content coming in from your old site it may take a long time to import the file. Don’t get impatient with the script – let it run. If there is a problem it will fail and you can attempt again to import your content.

Sometimes your web host will have limitations on the max file size that you can submit to import content from. If your .xml file is bigger than that size, it will fail and should throw an error pretty quickly saying something like “your file size exceeds the maximum file size allowed” or something like that. Generally speaking, the max file size for uploads is usually around 2 MB. If your export file is bigger than that, get with your host to increase the php_value upload_max_filesize setting in your .htaccess file.

Also – similar to the maximum file size warning, your host may not allow the import function to run all the way through due to the time a script is allowed to run, so you will want to increase your php_value max_execution_time as well. Increasing that limit will allow for more time to allow your script to finish its work.

If your file isn’t too big then you shouldn’t have to worry about those things at all. 

Make sure to tell your visitors where your new blog is 

Don’t expect that they’ll know, and don’t expect them to guess. Tell your visitors where your new blog address is by creating a post or do something creative. For instance, create a notification in your header on wordpress.com site that tells everyone on every post and page where your new blog is located.

If you’ve got sufficient traffic and/or page authority then you may want to consider using a premium solution to carry your blog’s traffic over to your new domain. There is a premium upgrade available to WordPress.com called Offsite Redirect that you may want to take a look at if you have enough page rank and SEO juice for your existing site to justify the small fee. Otherwise, you can leave your WordPress.com site up for a while, say, six months to a year, with your creative solution in place to tell your visitors where they can find you.

If you really want to get things done right, then I would suggest you go in and update all your old posts that contain internal links (links to other posts or pages in your WordPress.com site) and point them to the new location for that post at your new domain instead of leaving them pointing to old posts on your old WordPress.com domain name.

(SEO juice and site authority are yet more reasons why it’s so important to start by building on your own domain.)

Does any of this sound confusing or overwhelming? No problem! Let me know what your question is in the comments below, or sign up for hosting with Orracle Hosting and we’ll be happy to assist you with your move. We can handle your whole setup by using WPLaunch too – we do it for our clients all the time.

image by Paul Lewin