How to Move to a Self-Hosted WordPress Site

I have a few blogs that I’ve been working on recently and I decided I wanted to try a self-hosted option for my writing blog. There were a few reasons for this:

  1. I wanted a domain. Yes, those are also available through WordPress.com, but it was initially my primary reason for wanting to pursue a paid hosting plan.
  2. I wanted to make sure I would have a lot of options for customizing my website. You have to pay for the Business plan to install plugins if you stick with WordPress.com and it’s a lot cheaper to just get a self-hosted option which allows you to install them too. With all the free plugins available to self-hosted websites, there are many forms of customization and functionality easily available to you.
  3. I may want to monetize one day. I don’t expect to get rich or anything. But everything I’ve read says that you have many more options with a self-hosted site.

A few reasons I was wavering:

  1. I was worried about losing my likes, comments and followers. I didn’t have many to begin with but I wanted to keep what I had.
  2. It’s more work. Even though I went with hosting that provides a one-click WordPress install, there is still a lot of stuff you have to set up yourself which is all taken care of for you on WordPress.com.

Bluehost

After doing a lot of research I decided to go with Bluehost. They currently offer a plan where you can pay $2.95 a month for 3 years (I believe it went up to $3.95 for 2 and $4.95 for 1) which will then go up to $8 on renewal. This includes free domain name registration, 50gb of space and an SSL (Let’s Encrypt, which is free anyway). Even after adding domain privacy for $.99 a month, this was a really good deal compared to many of the other options out there.

The only downside to Bluehost I have seen is that some people feel it is slow. I don’t plan on ever having a lot of images or anything on my website and it probably won’t get very big anyway so I am not too worried about that. And everywhere I look they are recommended. They have an option to upgrade too if my site gets big enough and I like knowing that’s available.

Moving Your Content

So after you have purchased hosting and a domain name and installed WordPress, you will want to move all your content from your WordPress.com blog over to your new site. This is really easy to do. I followed the guide here and had no problems.

My comments were moved as well, but not my likes or my followers. My likes apparently cannot be moved so all my posts look even sadder than before since now no one likes them. But there was something I could do about my six followers.

Keeping Your Followers

You need to install the Jetpack plugin to integrate certain WordPress.com features. It was already installed on my site and I just had to activate it. This lets you do a lot of useful things, such as displaying your website on the WordPress.com reader (to varying degrees, it’s better with the paid version). It also lets you migrate your followers to your new site. I followed this guide and it was easy. My followers were moved in minutes but if you actually have a decent amount then it could take a while. You will be emailed once the migration process begins and when it ends.

You’ll then probably want to make sure you have a way for WordPress.com users to follow your blog, just as they can do here. To make this possible I added a Follow button using this guide.

Domain and SSL Issues

Initially I thought I had a problem, because my domain worked, but all of my content took me to the temporary hosting domain. That was last night when I created the website. But this morning it was all working fine so it’s just something that takes time.

My domain was still resolving when I went to bed so the SSL wasn’t working, but this morning I checked and it said it was active. But when I viewed my website it was showing as not secure. After some research I found that I could go to the secure or ‘https’ version of my website directly, but if I did not specifically write that in the address bar I’d end up at the unsecured site. Not good.

So, of course there was a guide for that. By following along I was able to make sure anyone going to my site will end up on the secured version.

Google Analytics

I had a message at the top of my screen telling me to set up Google Analytics so I went and did that. This is a way you can see who is visiting your website, how they got there, their location and age if available, etc. You can also see how your Google Ad campaigns are doing if you are running them. I’m not even going to try and monetize at the moment and I don’t know how useful this is to me but I used this guide to set it up anyway, since it’s free. You just need a Google account.

SEO

I’ve been reading a lot about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since I began blogging. I’m definitely not an expert but I’ve come to learn a few things. One of which was that a site is going to rank better with a custom domain, leading me to consider starting this whole process to begin with.

I already knew about Google Search Console, which lets you view search traffic and any possible SEO problems with your pages. So I knew I wanted to use that. I installed the Yoast SEO plugin which I had already read about as being useful before this. I used this guide and once again… yes, it was easy.

Conclusion

There are many guides out there about this, but I didn’t find all the information I needed together so I’m hoping linking everything I used here is helpful to someone.

In case it wasn’t obvious, everything I mentioned here is free, aside from the hosting itself of course. Many of the plugins I’m using have paid options, but they aren’t really necessary for the small blog I’m currently running. If you would like to check it out, you can find it here. It’s mostly about writing but also will have some other stuff like gaming and music. I’m still setting up a few things but it is functional now. At least, I’m 99.9% sure it is so if you see a problem please let me know!