WordPress Migration

Making the Move from WordPress.com to Self-Hosted WordPress

Recently, many WordPress.com users were surprised to learn that content from their sites may be made available to “search engines, artificial intelligence (AI) products and market intelligence providers”, as investigative website 404 Media reported:

This is notable because of the fervor and confusion that has arisen this week after we broke the news that Automattic, which owns WordPress.com and Tumblr, was preparing to send user data to OpenAI and Midjourney. Since then, there has been much discussion about which WordPress blogs would be included, which would not, whether data was already sent, and whether people who opt out would have their data redacted retroactively. 

If your website is currently hosted by WordPress.com, you may by considering moving it to a self-hosted WordPress site (a.k.a. WordPress.org). In addition to their privacy concerns, many website owners reach a point where they want more control, flexibility, and ownership over their online presence. If you’re considering this move, let’s explore the basics of what you need to know about migrating from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.

Understanding the Difference Between WordPress.com and Self-Hosted WordPress

Although they share a common name, the biggest difference between these two options comes down to flexibility, control and ownership. 

Using WordPress.com is like renting an apartment, where the building maintenance is all taken care of. Your site resides on WordPress.com servers, and they handle everything from security to updates to backups. You can put your own furniture in the apartment but the lease prevents you from making changes to the building itself and limits the amount of interior decorating you can do. And in some cases, it might allow the building management to share your mail with others (unless you tell them not to).

Self-hosted WordPress, on the other hand, is like owning a house, where you have complete control over everything from the window frames to the kitchen appliances to the paint job. In website terms, you choose your domain registrar and hosting provider, manage security measures, and have the freedom to customize your site to your heart’s content.

Benefits of Self-Hosting

So, why would you want to make the switch, given the additional work that it may require? Here are a few compelling reasons:

  • Design Freedom: Self-hosted WordPress gives you access to thousands of free and premium themes, allowing you to create a website that truly reflects your brand and vision.
  • Plugin Power: Plugins are like apps for your website, adding features and functionality to suit your specific needs. Whether you need a contact form, an online store, or a members-only area, there’s likely a plugin for that (and tens of thousands more!). In contrast, WordPress.com restricts plugins for free plans, limiting your ability to customize your visitor’s experience.
  • Monetization: Self-hosted WordPress gives you complete control over how you monetize your site. You can display ads, sell products or services, or offer paid memberships – the possibilities are endless (as long as they comply with your hosting provider’s terms).
  • Data Ownership: Your website’s content is yours! With self-hosted WordPress, you have complete control over your data and backups. This means peace of mind knowing your hard work is securely stored where you want it.

Prerequisites for Self-Hosting

Before making the switch to self-hosted WordPress, there are a few things you’ll need:

  • Domain Name: If you haven’t already, you’ll need to register a domain name for your website. This is your online address (e.g., yourwebsite.com) and is required for all websites. If you registered a domain name with WordPress.com, it can be transferred to the domain registrar of your choice. [Note: if you are keeping the same domain name that was used on WordPress.com, you may want to build your self-hosted site on a “staging” domain (e.g. staging.yourwebsite.com), so that it can be switched over all at once, with little downtime.]
  • Hosting Provider: This is where your website “lives”. You will rent space from a hosting provider to store your website’s files and make them accessible on the internet. Look for a provider that offers reliable uptime, excellent customer support, and scalable hosting plans.
  • WordPress Installation: Once you have a domain and hosting in place, you’ll need to install WordPress on your hosting server. Most hosting providers offer one-click WordPress installations, making this process simple.

Making the Move: The Migration Process

After installing WordPress at your hosting provider, you’ll have a new, empty website ready to be populated with your content. Here’s a simplified overview of the migration process:

  • Export Your WordPress.com Site: On your WordPress.com dashboard, select Tools > Export > Export All. This will create a file containing all your content, which you will later import into your self-hosted WordPress site. Save this file in a place where you can find it later.
  • Import Your Content: Navigate to your self-hosted WordPress dashboard and select Tools > Import and click on the “Install Now” link below WordPress. Follow the prompts to upload and import the file you exported from WordPress.com.
  • Customize and Test: With your content imported, it’s time to customize your site’s design (theme), add any necessary plugins, and test everything to ensure it’s functioning correctly. [Note: many WordPress.com themes have an equivalent in the theme repository on WordPress.org. Installing the same theme can save you a lot of customization time and effort. Access this repository on your self-hosted site by selecting Appearance > Themes.]
  • Redirect Your Domain: When everything is done and tested, update your domain settings to point to your new self-hosted WordPress site. This involves changing your domain’s DNS records to reflect your new hosting provider. [Note: if you used a staging domain, you will copy the site files to your primary domain first.]

When To Call For Help

While migrating from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress is entirely feasible as a DIY project, you may find yourself in need of professional assistance along the way. Whether it’s technical support with your hosting provider, assistance with theme customization, or guidance on optimizing your site for performance and SEO, Webdancers is available to help. We also offer our own Hosting and Support Service.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about any aspect of the migration process, don’t hesitate to contact us to save you time, frustration, and ensure a smooth transition to your new self-hosted WordPress site.

In Conclusion

Making the switch from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress is a significant step toward gaining more control and flexibility over your online presence. By understanding the differences between the two platforms, recognizing the benefits of self-hosting, and following a structured migration process, you can successfully transition to a self-hosted WordPress site with confidence.

Remember that while the migration process may require some effort, the rewards of owning and managing your website on your terms are well worth it in the end. So, if you’re ready to take your online presence to the next level, don’t hesitate to embark on this exciting journey toward self-hosted WordPress ownership!

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