Switching from Free WordPress to Self-Hosted

Free To Self Hosted
Free To Self Hosted

I finally made the transition to move to a self-hosted site in order to grow traffic on my site and so that more opportunities can become available to me. I will admit that I am happy so far with my decision to switch, but I am not going to tell you a glorious story about how exceptionally easy it was because there was some work that went into it. If you are considering switching, here are some steps that detail the process that I went through in order to switch over to the site that I have now.

  1. The first thing that I had to do was to choose a hosting provider. I chose to go with Bluehost, but I was given suggestions to go with other hosts such as A Small Orange and Hostgator. I chose to go with Blue host because of the great reviews that I had heard about before. Even when searching through WordPress itself, it detailed the switch from free WordPress to Bluehost. I went on the Bluehost site, set up my account, entered in my domain because I already purchased one before, and then Bluehost started its process of setting everything up. It was fairly easy with the process with installing WordPress on Bluehost as there were instructions on how to go through the steps. Of course, I thought that since it was starting off so easy that the entire process was just going to be a few click and then it would be over. I was wrong.
  2. After I installed everything on Bluehost, I needed to have my site moved over to the Bluehost servers. If you create your domain through Bluehost, you most likely will have an easier process on this step, but if you are like me, and had purchased your domain before switching over from free WordPress than you will have to redirect your domain to the Bluehost nameservers. The process of doing this is basically to find the name of the Bluehost server (there’s two: ns1.BlueHost.com & ns2.Bluehost.com). Switching your nameservers is a process that is completed on the same page that you originally purchased your domain on free WordPress – when you find your domain name, click edit and then go to DNS, that’s were you want to change it. At this point, you have to be patient. For some, you can wait only a few hours and then be able to access the wp-admin of your now self-hosted WordPress, but for some you might have to wait a day or two because it can take up to 72 hours to have all servers pointing to the Bluehost name servers, but on average, like mine, it only takes a few hours to fully propagate. I was able to access my wp-admin (which is basically yourdomain.com/wp-admin). Now, you’re in! Now comes the harder parts.
  3. So you’ve switched over, your blog is now self-hosted, but your new blog is now blank and if anyone types in your URL they are seeing a ‘Coming Soon’ page. Of course, you want your blog up and running ASAP because your stats are dropping. The first thing that you probably want to do is bring over all of your posts from free WordPress which you are able to access through your WordPress.com login. Migrating those posts over can be a hassle. What you want to do is go to your Dashboard and then go down to ‘Tools’ and select ‘export’. Most places will say to just export everything, which you can. WordPress will send you a link to download and then on your wordpress.org dashboard you go to tools and import, but like many of the people who try to migrate over, you  may find that the import/export process does not bring over all of your content. I suggest doing all of the work in parts. What I did, I selected my posts first and then selected each posts category and brought everything over in small bunches. (Note: All of your media may not be brought over and placed in your media folder but your pictures will be on the post *see below for issues with that).
  4. Ok, so now all your posts are over but your blog still looks blank because it is running on that generic theme. Now, this is where you might have to spend a little more money in the process of switching over if you don’t have web design skills. If you’re a web designer, feel free to skip this step because you can design the heck out of your site (if you offer low prices, feel free to contact me, every once and while I am looking to redesign for a good cost). But if you are like me and have no web design experience, you will be purchasing a theme. You can purchase designs from other bloggers who do web design, purchase them through the Marketplace, or you can visit Etsy and buy a WordPress theme there. When you purchase the theme, there will be steps to install them and they are pretty easy. Just make sure that you know what you are purchasing. Not all themes come with every element of the design such as social media icons, a banner, etc.
  5. You’ve installed your theme and your posts are now there, but maybe like me, you’ve noticed that your pictures which were once the greatest quality are now blurry. Well, this is the ugly part. You basically have to delete the photos and re-add them in the post. What you have to pay attention to is the fact that you cannot put them in the post and then pull at the edges to create a custom size. When you re-insert make sure that you choose one of the options on sizing that you will see under placement and everything. Some themes have built-in photo restrictions that are determined within the text, so again, if you are not a web designer just go long with all the pre-sets because the moment that you start messing with the script editor, you could cause your blog to break.
  6. After all of the readjustments, I had my blog go live. I was happy. It took me a few days and some great frustrations but I was able to start moving forward with my blog and begin getting my stats back. But then I noticed, my followers were not connected to my new site, they still existed on my free WordPress. Well this process is easy. Make sure that Jetpack is installed on your WordPress and connect it to your free WordPress which it will try to do automatically and then simply contact the WordPress support team and tell them that you would like your followers/subscribers from your free WordPress site brought over to your self-hosted one. Easy, peasy.

There were other modifications that I made to my site to show certain widgets and to have everything listed on my blog the way that I wanted to. And honestly, you probably won’t do the modifications that I did, but if you are looking to add a certain widget or script to your website that you see on mine, feel free to contact me with any questions. I will take my experience to help you get through the process of switching!

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