A good majority of individual bloggers choose to have their websites hosted on WordPress.com, mainly because it is free and easy to setup. This is a good choice for many personal bloggers, low traffic websites and even community based sites.
However, if you’d like to setup a serious business, you will find that WordPress.com doesn’t measure up. For all the premium options like custom domain, extra space, audio/video uploads, and advertisement display, you will have to pay additional amounts. Email hosting will have to be done externally, unlike other hosting services. No affiliate links and no custom plugins are permitted. WordPress.com can shut you down at anytime. The necessity to upgrade and find a host for your WP site will be felt as the business grows.
WordPress.com does not support many professional themes, so your choice of themes is very restricted. The underlying structure of the WordPress themes cannot be changed. There are many restrictions on customization that will limit the growth of your website.
So it may be time to move to a self-hosted website. You can download the free WordPress software to your own server and install it. This is what is referred to as a self-hosted WordPress site.
This can seem a daunting task to most, but this guide will make it easy.
We can break up the entire process into seven steps.
1- Domain Name + Web Hosting
You must first register a good domain name. Next, choose a hosting service. You can take up server space with a hosting service company like SiteGround or InMotion Hosting.
Jerry, here at Web hosting Secret Revealed, has reviewed more than 60 hosting services. Perhaps you can pick one by taking a look at his in-depth reviews. Also note, you may find a few web hosting service happy to lend a hand to export your site’s information to their servers.
2- Install WordPress
Most hosting services have made it easy to install WordPress on your website with just a few clicks. But if you need help, you can take a look at the excellent and yet simple documentation on WordPress.org. It is also advisable to install WordPress in a sub directory for reasons including possible accidental deletions of essential WP core files, and it also reduces possible conflicts.
3- Theme Set-Up
Decide the theme for your website and install it. Check out 50 awesome WordPress themes, all of which are available to you free of cost.
4- Exporting Data from WordPress.com
Login to your WordPress.com account and head for the dashboard. Find Tools in the menu and click on Export. You will be asked to choose between Free and Guided Tour. Pick the Free option.
You will need to specify the content that you want to export. Select all content and click on the Download Export File button.
An XML file will automatically download to your computer. This file will contain all your WordPress site stuff – posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories and tags. Once you have done this, you have completed exporting all your content from WordPress.com
5- Importing Content into Self-Hosted WordPress Site
Now you should sign into your WordPress website with the new host server. In the dashboard, choose the Import option under Tools. Go to Import which can be found under Options and click on WordPress.
At this stage, you will be required to install the WordPress Importer plugin.
After installation of this plugin, activate it and run it.
Recall that an XML file has automatically been downloaded during the export process. The screen will now ask you to upload it. File size for upload is restricted. If your file size happens to exceed the limit, you can ask your host to increase the limit temporarily or you can break up the file using WXR File Splitter.
You will also be offered various options such as assigning content to users or importing attachments. You can choose options by ticking appropriately.
6- Importing Blog Roll Links
This step is necessary only if you have been storing blogrolls and other links using the Links feature in WordPress.com. If you have not been using this feature, you can skip this step and go straight to the Settings step.
OPML format is an XML format that allows import and export of link categories and links. Find your OPML files in WordPress.com and open them. It will open in your browser. Save the opened OPML files in your computer. Next, your WordPress.com links must be imported into your new site.
The new site may not have a Link Manager. So install the Link Manager Plugin and activate it (even though the plugin may not have been updated). A Links icon and option will appear in the menu in your new dashboard. Go to Tools > Import and click on Blogroll.
Install the OPML installer.
Activate the installer. You will be redirected to the importer and here you will upload the XML file that you downloaded into your computer.
WordPress will now import all your links and link categories from the OPML file. After successful importation , you will see the message ‘All Done’.
If you want to keep visitors from your old site, go once again to the dashboard of WordPress.com. Adjust as you wish against Readings option under Settings.
Under Permalinks, choose Day and Name.
Go WordPress.com and click on Stores. Choose Site Redirect upgrade (paid) and install it. Site Redirect offers 301 Permalink which will redirect from the old website automatically. How long the Redirect feature should be maintained depends on how much traffic you had to your website. A year or two may be adequate.
If you are changing domains, then all the URLs should be updated. From the dashboard of your WordPress.com website, select Upgrades Domain. Enter the URL of your new domain and click Add Domain to blog, followed by Map Domain. Then set your new website URL as the primary address. Do not type in www and trailing slash. If you want to carry your subscribers to the new site, you must install JetPack plugin.
I hope this tutorial demystifies any difficulties one might encounter when moving websites from WordPress.com to self hosted domains.