Tips to migrate from an existing WordPress free blog site
A couple of weeks ago I posted about moving my WordPress blog from a free plan on wordpress.org to a paid self-hosted platform. If you’re thinking of doing the same, hopefully this post will help you, as I want to talk about the process I went through to do that, and some of the small hiccups I encountered. If you’re starting to post from WordPress fresh, then some parts on this post will still be useful for you.
Why move from a free to self hosted WordPress site?
Let’s start from the basics first. Why pay when you can get something free. The free WP site wordpress.org is great if you’re blogging for a hobby. You don’t have to worry about doing any updates or backup as they take care of all that. The downside is that you are restricted to what else you can do, and here are some of the cons. First, there are limited themes to choose from (which may be ok if it’s just a hobby for you). Second, WordPress place ads on your free site but you don’t get to share any of the revenue. Thirdly, you can’t install plug-ins, these are clever bits of software that add all sorts of extra functions to your blog. Fourth, you’re dependent on WordPress for all the analytics and you can’t add Google Analytics. And fifth, there are no e-commerce functions or payment gateway in case you want to set up an online shop. My main reason for moving was the third one, to install plug-ins and get more functions.
Choosing a self hosted site
The most obvious choice is to move to one of the three paid plans offered by WordPress.com themselves. The difference between them depends on your budget, your traffic and what you want to do. In addition, there are lots of companies on the market that offer a similar service, just google “wordpress webhosting sites” and you’ll get lots of recommendations, that’s how I found my new hosting site. Most sites will offer different packages, so make sure you check they offer what you want to do. For example, the ease of moving your current WP site over, support, storage space (important if you upload lots of images and video) and e-commerce functions are just some of the things you need to look out for.
Migrating my WordPress blog
As always, you can pretty much find everything in internet nowadays and I found a really good video showing me step by step on how to migrate my blog to the new hosting site. I’m not going to show you all the steps here as they may differ for each hosting site, but as a starting point, you need to go to the WP dashboard of your existing free site and export your blog. That will be saved on your local drive. When you go to you your new hosting site, there should be a step which asks you if you want to import your blog to it. Just select you the exported file and import. I have 200 posts on my blog and this whole export and import stage took about me about 10 minutes.
Just so you know, when you open up your new self hosting site after importing the posts, it won’t look like your previous site at all. I got a bit of a shock as I hadn’t thought about that and and my first reaction was “Oh no! My new blog is all messed up!!” Duh!!! If you plan on keeping your current theme, make a note of the theme name and search for it under ‘Appearance’ in your dashboard and install it. Then you can set it up again like you previously did on the free site (if you still remember how to do it!). However, now that you’re on a paid self hosting site, you may get a lot more theme options than before, so it may be a good idea to give your blog a revamp if you feel like it. I haven’t done it as I felt if was a too much change to do in one go.
When you customise the theme there are certain features that were previously available on WP that aren’t on self hosted sites. For example I couldn’t find the all important Like and Follow widgets. The way to get around this is to install the Jetpack plug-in as it gives you a whole host of features that you will need. Just go to Plug-in on your dashboard, search for Jetpack and install it. Trust me, you will need it.
The other thing that I noticed was that apart from the photos in my very first few old posts, none of the photos in my old media were loaded over to the new one. I don’t understand why a few came over and not the others. But since they were included with the actual posts I figured that wasn’t a massive issue until I came across the problem below,
I like to include a feature image with all my post so people can get a taster of what’s inside. Somehow the featured images didn’t appear on my post after the import and this is where it gets annoying. That’s what my blog look like on the top section of the photo below. Since the photos in the posts aren’t in my media folder now, if I want to add the feature image back to each post I have to find and upload them first. I have over 200 posts, that would be a right pain, so I did it for the last 10 or so post as that’s what people read most. My May 2018 posts now have the image feature but I haven’t got round to keep on doing the earlier ones.
Now you’re all set up on your new site your blog domain name will have changed as well. For example mine was previously livinguktaiwan.wordpress.com now its livinguktaiwan.com. Your followers won’t know about the change and you want to make sure they keep on following you. You could issue a new post on your old blog site and ask them to follow your new site but that may not be very effective. That’s where Jetpack comes in. Go back the WordPress dashboard (for your old site) and under My Sites you should see all your WP accounts. Select your new one.
Then go to Settings, Discussions, scroll down to the bottom and you will see Subcriptions. Click on Migrate followers from another site.
This screen confirms that I am at my new site http://livinguktaiwan.com and I am going to migrate followers from my old site livinguktaiwan.wordpress.com. Click on Migrate and all you existing followers will now be following your new site. And just to be safe, I have written a short post on my old site diverting people to my new site just in case anyone else stumbles onto it.
Testing out the new site
The final step is to test out your new site to make sure everything is working as expected. Luckily I have a WordPress blogger friend willing to help me do that as I am too familiar with my own site. It’s always better to get a fresh pair of eyes to do this. He told me a few things that I wasn’t aware of. For example, he couldn’t post a comment, and that there was no like button for my post!! Two very important functions that you have to have if you want to grow your blog!!
I hope the above has been useful for you if you are planning to migrate from a free WP site to a self hosting one, or am thinking of setting up a new WP site.