If you’re considering WordPress for a site-building project, remember that there are two usable versions you can choose from: WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
The latter option is purely a blogging platform, and is hardly considered by users as a content management system. As a result, niche bloggers and small businesses prefer WordPress.com due to scalability, versatility, and control.
On the bright side, WordPress.com will hold your hand as you go through all the steps of creating a site, from domain registration all the way to content promotions. But since it’s essentially a form of digital sharecropping, it means you are fully depending on another company for your website’s existence. If their service goes down, so does your website.
Sure, WordPress.com offers a great learning experience even for those who’ve been planning to use WordPress.org. This is all thanks to the similar dashboard interface and functionalities. But if you want to gain full control of your website and its continuity, then you need to learn how to move it to a self-hosted environment.
Below are the steps on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
1. Prepare for the Move
If you’re unfamiliar with how self-hosted websites work, it simply means you are completely in charge of your domain and hosting. The first thing you need to do is to have a domain ready.
Today, plenty of companies bundle together domain registration and hosting services. But if you are flexible with the services you choose, then you can save a small amount. For example, domain registration for a .com top-level domain (TLD) costs $11.99 at Bluehost, while the exact same service is being offered at NameCheap for only $10.69.
It’s worth noting that most major hosting companies offer one-click WordPress installation tools. This allows you to quickly integrate WordPress.org on your newly-hosted domain. Alternatively, you can download the CMS from their official website and upload it to your site via FTP.
By default, your web host will assign your email address as your new WordPress.org username. You are free to change this along with your password through your control panel.
Lastly, remember that it may take 24-72 hours for your new domain to propagate. This varies between web hosting companies, and the only way to be sure is to contact them yourself.
2. Export WordPress.com Data
The next step is exporting your WordPress.com site’s data. This can be done via the WordPress dashboard, which is accessible by logging in to your account and clicking ‘WP Admin’ in the main menu.
After the import, you should now be able to find the posts, media, pages, and feedback in their appropriate locations.
For example, imported posts can be found at ‘Posts’ > ‘All Posts’ while pages are at ‘Pages’ > ‘All Pages’. Just remember that their creation dates will remain unchanged. If you moved your content to a preexisting WordPress site, then you may not immediately find the imported files at the top.
3. Set A New Theme
Unfortunately, the import-export method does not include the theme and overall layout. This means the appearance of your imported content will adopt the design of your WordPress.org website. If you’re using a newly-registered domain in your self-hosted environment, you need to build your site from scratch by picking a base theme.
Once you find a theme you like, hover over it with your mouse and click the blue ‘Install’ button to proceed. Go ahead and check the imported posts and pages to see if the theme suits your content.
4. Move Blogroll Links
If you use blogroll links on your sidebar, you can also move it to a self-hosted environment by saving the OPML file. This can be accessed by adding ‘/wp-links-opml.php’ to your WordPress.com site’s URL.
You can save this file directly from your browser using the built-in save feature. Simply press Command + S or Ctrl + S on the keyboard and save the page as an XML file.
The next step is to install a link management plugin to your self-hosted WordPress site. Although you can import your blogroll links without such a plugin, it won’t be possible for you to access them in your dashboard — let alone present them in your WordPress site.
5. Redirect Users to Your New Site
If your WordPress.com website has already amassed a readership, then you need a way to redirect them to your new domain. Unfortunately, the only way to do this with WordPress.com is to pay for the built-in redirect feature.
This will bring you to the checkout page where you can choose to pay via credit card or PayPal. As of 2017, the current cost of site redirects sits at $13 per year. Complete this transaction to continue.
Redirecting your website is done for two reasons: to bring traffic from your WordPress.com blog to your self-hosted site, and to prevent the SEO efforts you’ve done from going to waste.
You may keep the redirect subscription going for as long as you think your WordPress.com address still has SEO value. Some users, however, prefer to keep it only for two years as to allow visitors to memorize their new address.
6. Move Your Subscribers
As a site owner, converting your visitors into email subscribers is a crucial step for brand growth. If you already have an established subscriber base in WordPress.com, then you may be thinking twice about moving to a self-hosted environment. Fortunately, you can also move subscribers with relative ease using the Jetpack plugin.
A straightforward approach is to have the Jetpack plugin installed and then contact the WordPress.com team to perform the steps on your behalf. Alternatively, you can refer to this post for the exact steps on how to do this manually.
Just like your XML file, you need to handle your CSV file with care. Be sure to save it in a secure location after the download. You can then import it directly to any email marketing platform as well as a WordPress-exclusive newsletter plugin.
For example, if you use The Newsletter plugin, you can import your CSV file by going to the ‘Subscribers’ menu and selecting “Import from external sources”.
After selecting your CSV file, click the blue ‘Import’ button at the bottom of the page to complete this step. If successful, your subscribers should now be visible by going to ‘Newsletter’ > ‘Subscribers’ from your WordPress dashboard.
Finally, if you intend to keep your WordPress.com site up and running for an indefinite period of time, be sure to post a formal announcement that you’ll be migrating to a self-hosted site soon. This will encourage new subscribers to sign up there instead — given you have an opt-in strategy in place.
Alternatives: Importing WordPress.com Data via WP All Import
An alternative way of importing XML and CSV files is to use a plugin like WP All Import. Upon installation, launch the plugin by going to ‘All Import’ > ‘New Import’ and then choosing ‘Upload a file’.
In the upload window, navigate to the folder where your XML/CSV files are kept and finish the upload. When done, your imported files should be viewable in the “Manage Imports” section of the plugin.
Christopher Jan Benitez is a professional freelance writer who provides small businesses with content that engages their audience and increases conversion. If you are looking for high-quality articles about anything related to digital marketing, then he's your guy! Feel free to say "hi" to him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.