If you’ve been blogging with WordPress.com, you’ll know what a great platform it is. You’ll also know it has limitations. Do you want to install plugins and customize your theme? Do you want to start monetizing your blog more effectively and be in full control of all the features of your blog? In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to migrate a blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. I’ll show you how to export all of your WordPress.com content, including images, to your WordPress.org site. But transferring your content is only half of the story. I’ll also show you how to keep all of the search engine rankings you’ve worked hard for and redirect your readers to your new site.
How to Migrate a Blog from WordPress.com to Self-Hosted
Migrating a site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is not difficult, but there are lots of steps and it’s important to do them in the right order. If you follow the nine steps below, you’ll be blogging on your new self-hosted site in no time. Click on step one and scroll down to begin.
- 1. Export Your Data from WordPress.com
- 2. Set Up Your New Self-Hosted WordPress Site
- 3. Change Your Name Servers
- 4. Import Your Content into Your Self-Hosted WordPress Site
- 5. Import Your Blogroll Links
- 6. Redirect Visitors and Preserve Your SEO
- 7. Update Internal URLs
- 8. Set Your WordPress.com Blog to Private
- 9. Finish Setting Up Your Self-Hosted WordPress Site
1. Export Your Data from WordPress.com
Sign in to your WordPress.com account and navigate to your Dashboard.
If your WordPress.com blog is set to private, you will need to set it to public before you begin the export process. This is so the media files can be imported properly to your new self-hosted blog. As soon as you have completed the import into your new site and have confirmed your media has been successfully imported, you can make your WordPress.com blog private again if you like. Go to Settings > General, tick Public, and then save settings.
To begin the export process, click on Settings > Export, and then click Export All and your download will begin.
When the export is complete, you’ll receive a success message. Click Download and save the zip file (which contains your XML file) somewhere safe on your computer. This file contains all the posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags from your WordPress.com blog. It also contains links to your images which will allow them to be transferred to your new self-hosted blog.
2. Set Up Your New Self-Hosted WordPress Site
Once you’ve exported your WordPress.com data, the next step is to set up your self-hosted WordPress.org blog. I’ve written a step-by-step tutorial for setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog with Bluehost, a WordPress-approved web host that allows you to get blogging for only $3.45 per month. If you’ve been blogging for a while and know about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, I recommend you jump in at step 3: Registering for a Bluehost Web Hosting Account. If you’re still feeling your way around WordPress.com, then go ahead and start from the beginning: Start Blogging Today with This WordPress Tutorial.
During the Bluehost registration process, when asked, “Do you have a domain or want to register a new one,” select I have a domain name, and enter the domain that you registered at WordPress.com. When you have finished the Bluehost registration process, you will need to change your name servers on your WordPress.com account. I’ll show you how later in this guide.
Now, go follow the ‘Start Blogging Today’ tutorial up to step 4 to set up your self-hosted WordPress blog. Beginners should start at step 1, confident bloggers, and those with a custom WordPress.com domain name, can jump to step 3.
- Start Blogging Today with This WordPress Tutorial
- Choosing the Right Domain Name for Your Blog
- Registering for a Bluehost Web Hosting Account
- How to Install WordPress on Your Domain
Got your self-hosted blog all set up? Great, but before we move on to the next step, you should change the structure of your permalinks on your new self-hosted blog so they match with the WordPress.com structure. This will make sure your permalinks transfer okay. Go to Settings > Permalinks, select Day and name, and then save changes.
Now, if when you registered with Bluehost you entered a domain name you purchased from WordPress.com, proceed to step 3 to change your name servers. If you registered a new domain with Bluehost, you can skip this step and move on to step 4.
3. Change Your Name Servers
Sign in to your WordPress.com account and navigate to Domains. Click the domain you wish to manage.
Click on Name Servers and DNS.
By default, your name servers are set to use WordPress.com name servers. To change your name servers, turn off the default by clicking the slider to the left.
Replace the WordPress.com name servers with your new host’s name servers. You will find your new name servers on the email you received from your web host on completion of your registration. For Bluehost customers, they are ns1.BlueHost.com and ns2.BlueHost.com. Enter both of them and then click Save Custom Name Servers to save your changes.
The changes can take up to 72 hours to become active but should take only a few minutes.
4. Import Your Content into Your Self-Hosted WordPress Site
To import your WordPress.com content to your new, self-hosted blog, sign in to your new self-hosted blog, and click on Tools > Import on your dashboard.
Click on WordPress and you’ll be prompted to install the WordPress Importer plugin. Ignore the warning that says the plugin has not been updated recently. This is a safe plugin.
Install, activate and run the plugin (for a guide to installing plugins see, Installing WordPress Plugins). On the next screen, upload the unzipped XML file you downloaded at the beginning of this guide and then click Upload file and import.
After the import, you’ll be asked if you want to import the author from WordPress.com, create a new user, or assign posts to a current user. You’ll also have the option of importing your old attachments. Tick this box to make sure all your images are imported. Click submit and your import is complete.
6. Redirect Visitors and Preserve Your SEO
If you have been blogging for some time, and have built up a loyal readership and lots of backlinks, then it makes sense to bring all that good stuff with you to your new site. This can be easily done with WordPress’s paid Site Redirect feature.
The Site Redirect feature can be difficult to find in the WordPress.com dashboard, so make sure you are logged in to your WordPress.com account and click this link to go directly to it: select site to redirect. The Site Redirect feature is currently priced at $13 USD per year which is very good value if you’ve built up a lot of backlinks and readers. Simply select the site you want to redirect, enter your new self-hosted domain, and then click Go. On the next screen you’ll be asked for your credit card details or you can pay with PayPal.
7. Update Internal URLs
If you are changing domains, another thing you need to do is update your internal links. Interlinking your posts is good for SEO, so there should be a lot of these! There is a fantastic plugin called Velvet Blues Update URLs that makes this potentially major job a breeze. It’s basically a find and replace tool for URLs.
Install and activate the Velvet Blues Plugin. Go to Tools > Update URLs. On the settings screen, type in your old website URL and your new website URL.
Choose which URLs you want to updated and click Update URLs NOW.
8. Set Your WordPress.com Blog to Private
The final step is to set your WordPress.com blog to private. In your WordPress.com dashboard, go to Settings and scroll down to privacy. Select Private and save settings.
Why not just delete your old WordPress.com blog? If you are using the Site-Redirect feature, you should not delete your WordPress.com blog because your redirects will not work. Also, some of your images may still be hosted on WordPress.com, even after migration.
9. Finish Setting Up Your Self-Hosted WordPress Site
Phew! Now that you’ve finished your migration, I suggest you return to step five of my WordPress tutorial and continue through the rest of the steps and learn how to optimize the WordPress settings, install some important plugins, install a theme, learn a little about search engine optimization, and secure your blog.
- Optimizing the WordPress Settings
- Installing WordPress Plugins
- Install These WordPress Plugins Now!
- Choosing and Installing a WordPress Theme
- SEO Optimize Your WordPress Blog Posts
- Improving Your WordPress Blog Security