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How to Migrate from WordPress.com to Self-Hosted WordPress – A Step-by-Step Guide!

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WordPress.com is a great way to start a blog or website with ease. You do not have to worry about web hosting, security, or other things that come associated with hosting your own WordPress site. However, at times, you might need to migrate from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress website.

The reasons for such a migration from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress installation can vary. With that said, how can you migrate from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress? This guide will offer a step-by-step explanation of how to do it.

But first, let us discuss when and why you would need to migrate from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.

Why Should You Migrate from WordPress.com and When?

The reasons for deciding to migrate from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress can be plenty. Consider the following examples:

  • You have outgrown the WordPress.com atmosphere and you need additional services and features. For example, you are in need of custom SSL certificates that can only be installed on a self-hosted WordPress setup.
  • Alternatively, you may want to make use of advanced features such as custom Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plugins, security plugins and measures, editing and workflow methodology, user analytics plugins, etc. None of these special plugins (or any such WordPress plugin for that matter) can be installed on WordPress.com.
  • You are trying to run a multi-author blog or magazine. In this case, WordPress.com will require you to ask all your writers and authors to sign up for an account. This does not seem as professional as having them sign up for an account on your site.
  • You are wanting to sell products on your site by means of WooCommerce or any other eCommerce plugin. Technically, WordPress.com can still be used for very basic level of eCommerce, however you will be severely limited in terms of features. Plus, PCI compliance and other security measures will require you to have your own self-hosted website.
  • You want to be in control of your own data. With WordPress.com your blog or site is at the mercy of WordPress.com and it can be deleted without warning if you violate their terms of use. On a self-hosted WordPress website, you get to decide what you wish to post and when. Plus, you can also keep backups of your data in any manner you deem fit, such that even if something goes wrong, you remain in control of your content.

Naturally, it is obvious that migrating from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress website or blog is a very good idea for most cases. It will give you more freedom, more customization and management measures, and so on.

But what if you do not really need that migration at all? In some cases, WordPress.com might just be ideal for your requirements.

Why and When Should You Not Migrate Away from WordPress.com?

In certain cases, migrating away from WordPress.com may not be recommended. For example, here are some scenarios wherein you will be better off staying with WordPress.com as compared to going the self-hosted route:

  • You just need a simple blog and website and do not want to worry about special features and plugins like custom SEO metadata, security and database optimization measures, etc.
  • You cannot or do not wish to manage a web hosting account all by yourself. Even at the very minimum, you will still need to ensure your cPanel password is secure, your WordPress website is fully optimized for better performance, you have a security strategy in place to prevent malicious code injections, etc.
  • You do not wish to deal with manual updates for plugins, themes, WordPress core files, etc. WordPress.com handles all updates for you but for self-hosted WordPress installations, you need to manually ensure everything is updated and in good health. Plus, you cannot ignore updates as they come with security patches and out of date plugins or themes can put your website at risk.
  • You just prefer the simplicity that WordPress.com has to offer. You like the fact that everything just works out of the box and there are no custom extensions or code to deal with.
  • Your website or blog depends on the WordPress.com community for its readership. While your WordPress.com readers can still follow your blog even if it is self-hosted, you may not be featured anymore on the WordPress.com reading recommendations list. If the bulk of your traffic comes from such community-driven recommendations, migrating away from WordPress.com can affect your traffic stats in a negative manner.

Now that you have compared both the pros and cons of migrating from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress setup, and if you still wish to go ahead with it, here is how to do it. Let us take a look at it in the form of a step-by-step guide.

Migrating from WordPress.com to Self-Hosted WordPress — Step-by-Step Guide

First, you need to setup your self-hosted WordPress blog. This means you will need to purchase a web hosting package for it too. There are many good web hosting providers out there and you can take a pick based on your requirements. If you need advice, read some web hosting reviews to better assess the providers in question.

Once you have decided on a web host, you can install WordPress on your hosting account. If you are using a custom domain on WordPress.com you may wish to signup using the same domain name too. At this point, do not change nameservers straightaway. Also, bear in mind that every decent web hosting provider should allow you to install WordPress within minutes using one-click installation methods such as Softaculous. If yours does not, change your hosting provider.

Now, login to your WordPress.com blog and head to the admin panel. In the Tools menu, you will find an Export option.

WordPress.com Export

You will find two options: Export and Guided Transfer. If you can spend the requisite amount for guided transfer method, you can get everything done for $129. There will be no effort required on your part. However, this option requires you to purchase hosting from one of WordPress.com preferred partners — the first name is BlueHost (EIG host), and that will tell you a lot about the quality of such “partners”. Therefore, it is better to avoid burning $129 for this Guided Transfer to such an unreliable hosting service provider.

The Export option is what you need. Once you click Start Export, you can selectively choose what all you need to download. Generally, All Content is what you will prefer, but for special cases, you may choose to download only posts, pages, and so on.

The downloaded export file will be an XML file. Do not attempt to open or edit it as it may corrupt the data.

Now, head on to your self-hosted WordPress installation. Make sure that you have changed nameservers (if using a custom domain) to point to the new self-hosted WordPress installation.

At this point, be sure NOT to delete your WordPress.com blog. This is especially vital if you have images and other media on your WordPress.com site. Your export file does not contain any images — instead, it only references to the said images and they will be downloaded on the fly when you begin the import.

Now, in your self-hosted WordPress website, head to the Tools menu again. But this time, select Import. You will find a list of “importers”. You need to install the last option: WordPress importer.

WordPress Importer

Once installed, you simply need to run the importer. You will be asked to upload the XML file that you had downloaded from the WordPress.com blog earlier.

Run the WordPress importer

Once you upload the file, depending on the number of posts and pages that you have, it might take a while for the upload to complete. You must be mindful not to close the page until everything is done uploading, nor make any major changes to your site in the interim. Furthermore, if there are any errors, those will be displayed live on the same page during the import process.

Once it is all done, you are good to go. You have successfully migrated your website from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress!

Steps After the Migration

Now that your migration is complete, you can now begin working on your new WordPress website.

But first, be sure to check all multimedia elements have been downloaded properly. Simply head to the Media menu on self-hosted WordPress site and verify that all the uploaded images and videos are there. Then, visit your website’s front-end and see if everything looks in order. Sometimes, you may see that the images have been imported properly, but the thumbnails are broken on the front-end. The cure is simple: just use Regenerate Thumbnails plugin to rebuild all your image thumbnails.

Thereafter, now that you have successfully completed the migration from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress, you are free to delete the old WordPress.com website.

Next, you need to ensure your self-hosted site is in good health. Spend some time to undertake a few maintenance tips and tricks for WordPress optimization.

Beyond that, you can also make sure your WordPress site is secured and fully hardened. Unlike WordPress.com where security meant a strong password, for self-hosted WordPress setups you also need to harden your database, install a security plugin, run malware scans, and more. Some useful ideas can be found here.

Conclusion

Once you have migrated and secured your website, you should not be facing any further problems. Self-hosted WordPress is a fully open source software that can be customized to suit your needs in any manner that you deem fit. Unlike WordPress.com, you do not have to be bound by limits and restrictions here. As long as you keep everything updated and optimize your site regularly, you will have zero troubles. You can experiment with newer content strategies, SEO methods, additional plugins, special custom themes, and more!

Have you ever migrated a website or blog from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress installation? If yes, how was your experience? Share your views and thoughts in the comments below!

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