How to Move Your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted Environment

Article written by:
  • WordPress
  • Nov 21, 2017

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.

As far as hosting capabilities go, Bluehost is definitely ahead of Namecheap. But when it comes to domain registration itself, feel free to go for the cheapest offer you can find.

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.

To start the site export utility, go to ‘Tools’ > ‘Export’. 
Here, you can choose the free method or have a WordPress specialist assist you for a price. If you have the budget, you can choose the paid method and skip the rest of this guide. Otherwise, click ‘Start Export’ under the free section to proceed.
In the next page, you have the option to back up your entire site or just specific information, like posts, pages, and media. Since you want a total move to a self-hosted environment, choose ‘All content’ and then click ‘Download Export File’ to begin the download.
Depending on the size of your WordPress.com site and the speed of your internet connection, the download should complete from within a few seconds to several minutes. Afterwards, look for the XML file in the download folder and move it to a more secure location.
Once you have your website’s XML file ready, log in to your WordPress.org dashboard. Typically, the admin panel should be accessible by adding ‘/wp-admin’ to your self-hosted domain. For example, if you recently registered and hosted a domain called “www.mywpsite.com” and integrated WordPress via one-click installation, then your admin panel should be accessible by going to “www.mywpsite.com/wp-admin”. 
Use the credentials you’ve acquired upon installing WordPress to log in. Once you’re in the dashboard, proceed to ‘Tools’ > ‘Import’. This will bring up a list of all external blogging platforms that are currently supported by WordPress.
Look for WordPress and click ‘Install Now’. After a few seconds, this should change into “Run Importer”, which signifies that the utility is now ready for your XML file. Go ahead and click this button to continue. In the “Import WordPress” page, click the ‘Choose File’ button and navigate to the folder where you kept your XML file. After which, click ‘Upload file and import’.
Take note that there is an upload limit for each import. If your XML file exceeds this, you can either contact your web host to increase this for you or use a tool like WordPress WXR File Splitter. This will enable you to chunk your large XML file into smaller pieces.In the next page, you can reassign the author of the imported content to an existing user. Alternatively, you can create a brand-new username. Either way, click ‘Submit’ to finalize the import.

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.

To start, go to ‘Appearance’ > ‘Themes’ from your WordPress.org dashboard. Click the ‘Add New’ button to start browsing for new themes.
The best thing about WordPress is the plethora of beautiful themes that can give your site a professional look in an instant. In the default repository, you can easily use the search function to look for a particular style you have in mind — be it an online portfolio, industry news site, or a photography blog.

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.

Your OPML file should look like this.

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.

Some examples are Link Manager and Simple Links. Both automatically integrate link management in your dashboard after installation.
Finally, go to ‘Tools’ > ‘Import’, look for “Blogroll”, and click ‘Install Now’. Proceed with the importer utility and upload the OPML file you’ve saved earlier.

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.

To get started, log in to your WordPress.com control panel and go to ‘Settings’. Under “Site Address”, click the ‘Redirect’ link.
In the “Enter a domain” field, insert the domain you registered and click ‘Go’.

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.

Another way to move your subscribers is to export a CSV file from your WordPress.com dashboard. Simply go to ‘People’ > ‘Email Followers’ and click ‘Download Data as CSV’.

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.

Planning to move your site to a self-hosted environment?  For the latest list of the best hosting companies for WordPress, you can refer to this guide. You can also check out our big list of web hosting companies!

Article by Christopher Jan Benitez

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.

Get connected: