Have you been blogging on WordPress.com but outgrown the platform and are ready to move your blog to self-hosted WordPress.org?
If you want to step up your blogging game, establish yourself as an authority in your niche, grow your brand, and start making money using your blog, you need a self-hosted blog.
UPDATE: Bluehost has given me a special discount for my readers! You can now get hosted with them for as little as $2.95/month (including a FREE domain name for the first year!)
Migrating your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org might sound complicated. But it really isn’t. And if you follow this tutorial step-by-step, you’ll see just how easy it is.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
To start with, let’s have a look at the main differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
- Free up to 3GB of storage space
- Your domain name is blogname.wordpress.com
- Limited to the free themes in the WordPress repository
- Very limited customization of the look and feel of your blog
- Limited to the built-in plugin-like features
- Blogs come branded with the WordPress hosting label
- You are NOT allowed to sell ads unless you receive 25,000 pageviews/month. But even then you are limited to WordPress.com ads and receive ONLY 50% of the earnings
- You cannot install Google Analytics
- You pay a SMALL monthly web hosting fee (seriously, it’s only $2.95/month!)
- You can register your own custom domain name and look professional (your domain is FREE for the first year when you host your blog on Bluehost)
- You can modify and customize your blog to your heart’s desire
- You can install any free or paid plugin you want
- You can install any premium or free WordPress theme under the sun
- Your blog is 100% yours and you can build your own brand
- You can monetize your blog any way you want and you get to keep 100% of your earnings
- You can install Google Analytics (the industry standard)
Why move to self-hosted WordPress.org instead of just buying a custom domain with WordPress.com?
It’s a no-brainer, really.
If you are on WordPress.com and want to have your own custom domain, you have no other choice but to upgrade to the Personal plan and pay $2.99/month, billed annually.
For this price you still have only basic design customization, cannot install plugins, cannot upload custom themes, cannot integrate Google Analytics, cannot remove the WordPress branding and so on.
The price of total freedom with WordPress.com is a whopping $24.92/month, billed annually.
When you do the math, you end up paying:
- $35.88/year (for the Personal plan – you get a custom domain but still very limited functionality and customization)
- $299.04/year (for the Business plan)
When you move your blog to the self-hosted WordPress.org, you can build your brand from day one and monetize your blog any way you want.
WordPress.org is free. However, you will need a web hosting account to install WordPress.org on. When you purchase your web hosting with Bluehost, you pay as little as $2.95/month (if you opt for the 36-month plan) + you get a FREE domain name for the first year.
I don’t know why would you want to pay MORE for LESS when having a self-hosted blog on Bluehost is SO much cheaper than WordPress.com.
When you move your blog to Bluehost and use the self-hosted WordPress.org, you pay:
- $59.40/year (12-month plan)
- $47.40/year (24-month plan). That’s a grand total of $94.80 for the first 2 years
- $35.40/year (36-month plan). That’s a grand total of $106.20 for the first 3 years
The proof is in the pudding. Bluehost’s optimized hosting for WordPress is clearly the winner.
Why I use and recommend Bluehost
- Bluehost is incredibly easy to set up and use
- You don’t have to be a techie to understand how it works
- Bluehost hosting is cheaper than coffee (starting at only $2.95/month)
- You get a FREE domain name when you purchase a minimum of 12 months of hosting
- WordPress.org comes preinstalled on your hosting account so you can start building your blog right away
Moving your WordPress.com blog to Bluehost is quite simple and you can do it in 3 easy steps:
- Export your old WordPress.com blog
- Set up a Bluehost account
- Import your old blog to your new WordPress.org blog
1 | Export your old WordPress.com blog
Log into your WordPress.com account. Look for the Setting tab in the left sidebar >> General >> scroll down to site tools and click export.
Now click on the export all button. Once the download is complete, a message will appear on the screen announcing you that Your export was successful! A download link has also been sent to your email.
You also have the option to download the .zip file to your computer right from this screen.
Either way, download the file and unzip it. In step 3 you’ll only need the XML file inside.
The XML file should contain all your blog’s content (such as posts, pages, categories, etc.) but themes and plugins cannot be moved, so they won’t be included in this file.
2 | Set up a Bluehost account
At this point, you have to choose which of the following situations applies to you. No need to read everything.
If you don’t have a custom domain name and need to register one
If you’ve been using a free WordPress.com domain (like blogname.wordpress.com), you need to register a new custom domain (like awesomedomainname.com).
Simply follow steps 2 and 3 in my how to start a blog tutorial. There I explain how to set up your Bluehost account and get a free custom domain name.
When you are done, come back to this article and go directly to step 3.
If you’ve already registered a custom domain with WordPress.com
If you’ve already registered a custom domain name through WordPress.com, you can easily move to WordPress.org by purchasing the web hosting.
The first step is to set up a Bluehost account. To do so, simply CLICK HERE to go to Bluehost, then click on the green get started button and select one of the plans (the basic plan is probably all you need for now).
Once you’ve selected a plan, you’ll be taken to a new screen that looks similar to the image below. If you’ve previously registered a domain name with WordPress.com, simply type in your domain name in the I have a domain name box to the right and click next.
Then proceed with setting up your account (introduce your payment details and select the package information). This should be pretty straightforward. But if you need help, read the part where I talk about how to create your account & how to create a password in my how to start a blog tutorial.
Out of all the extras, I recommend you get the domain privacy protection. This way, your name, address, phone number and email won’t be made public in the WHOIS database.
You are almost done! One last thing you need to do is change the nameservers to point to Bluehost.
Here you will fall into one of the following categories:
a) You purchased your custom domain with WordPress.com in the last 2 months
In this case, you won’t be able to transfer your domain to Bluehost until 60 days have passed.
So you’ll have to change your domain’s nameservers instead.
Go to your old WordPress.com account and click on the domains tab in the left sidebar.
Select your custom domain.
Click on name servers and DNS.
By default, use WordPress.com nameservers is selected. Toggle the slider next to it to the right.
Now replace the WordPress.com’s nameservers with Bluehost’s name servers. Usually, these are ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com
Click the blue save custom name servers button to save your changes. The changes will take effect anywhere between a few minutes and 72 hours.
At this point, I recommend you take a break, watch your favorite Netflix series, do the laundry or anything else you have pending. While the changes take effect, your blog will be partially down. Check back in a couple of hours to see if you can log into your new WordPress.org dashboard and follow with step 3.
b) You purchased your custom domain with WordPress.com more than 2 months ago
In this case, you can simply transfer your domain to Bluehost.
To do so, go to your old WordPress.com account and click on the domains tab in the left sidebar.
Select your custom domain.
Click transfer domain. You will need to unlock your domain by clicking on update settings and continue.
A transfer code (EPP code) will be sent to your email.
Now log into your Bluehost account and click on the domains tab at the top of the page.
In the top menu click on transfer and enter your custom domain (without www) and click continue.
Enter the transfer code (EPP code) and click continue.
You’ll be emailed an admin verification code. Enter the code and click continue again.
Agree to the terms and services and click add to cart. Your domain will be renewed for 1 year but you shouldn’t be charged anything.
3 | Import your old blog into your new WordPress.org dashboard
The last step is to import the contents of your old blog (remember the XML file you downloaded in step 1?) into its new home.
Log into your new WordPress.org dashboard by going to http://www.yourcustomdomain.com/wp-login.php (replace yourcustomdomain.com with your own domain name).
Use the same login username and password you set up when you installed WordPress on your Bluehost account (a copy of your login information should have been emailed to you).
Note: If you changed the nameservers in step 2 and don’t see the username and password fields, it’s because the change hasn’t taken effect just yet. Be patient.
Once logged into your new WordPress.org dashboard, look for the tools menu on the left and click the import tab under it.
Scroll down to WordPress and click install now. The WordPress Importer plugin will be installed. Click activate and then run importer.
You will be asked to choose a file from your computer. Upload the XML file you downloaded in step 1.
Assign your old blog content to an author. Here you have 2 options:
- Create a new username
- Assign all your old posts from your WordPress.com blog to an existing user
If you are the only author, I recommend you choose the second option. In the drop down menu, you will find your newly created username. Select it.
Check the download & import file attachments box to make sure your images are imported as well and click submit.
Pro tip: Sometimes the importer will fail to import all posts at once. If you get an error during the import process, don’t panic. Go to the posts tab and check to see if any posts were imported. If this is the case, the importer is working but the connection is timing out. The solution is as simple as running the importer several times until all your posts are imported. Don’t forget to check the download & import file attachments box every single time.
As a last step, install a theme and make your blog public.
Congrats! Your blog has a new home now that will allow it to grow in unimaginable ways.
Redirect old users and search engine traffic (for new domains only)
Note: This step is only necessary if you had a blogname.wordpress.com domain before and you’ve just registered a new custom domain with Bluehost in step 2.
If your old WordPress.com blog has been around for a few months and you’ve been receiving decent traffic from Google, you might want to pay for the Site Redirect ($13/year at the time of writing this article).
This is an upgrade offered by WordPress.com in case you decide to go self-hosted.
If redirecting your old users and search engines to your new custom domain is important to you, I recommend you pay for a 1-year Site Redirect.
Set your old WordPress.com blog to private
If redirecting users and search engines to your new domain is NOT a priority, then simply set your WordPress.com blog to private by going to the Setting tab >> General >> scroll down to Privacy, select private and save settings.
Celebrate with a nice logo
Maybe branding wasn’t a priority for you before, but if you’ve come this far, I think it’s because you want to make a great first impression. If this is your case, you might want to read my tips on creating a powerful personal brand as a blogger.
To start with, you can get a beautiful logo that complements your writing for as little as $5 on Fiverr.
I recommend you do this in spite of the fact that I designed my own logo for one simple reason – it took me a good few hours to design it and that’s without the days I needed to come up with the concept.
So even if you could design your own logo, is it really worth spending hours tweaking it in Canva or Photoshop when you could just have a professional designer do it for you for only $5?
Barbara is my absolutely favorite logo designer on Fiverr. She creates these gorgeous watercolor logos that are the perfect start to building a feminine brand. She receives rave reviews.
If I were to do it all over again, this would be a no-brainer for me.
Make your blog pretty with a new and professional theme
I’m sure one of the reasons you longed to move to WordPress.org was the limited theme options in the WordPress.com repository.
Now that you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, the world is your oyster. Read my post on how to choose a premium WordPress theme for the best themes on the market, including Divi – the most customizable and popular one.
Start growing your email list
I’m sure you’ve heard time and time again that the money is in the list. It’s true! Every successful blogger has a list and every blogger needs a list to be successful.
If you’ve never had an email list before, the idea can be intimidating. I completely understand. I was there not too long ago. But then I discovered MailerLite and fell in love.
MailerLite is the easiest platform to start growing your email list on. I’ve been using them for months and wholeheartedly recommend them.
If you need help, I wrote a detailed guide on getting started with MailerLite. Oh, and did I mention they are FREE up to 1,000 subscribers?
Hey girl hey! I’m a writer, designer and the creator of I Am Unstoppable: A Journal For Winning At Life. I’m on a mission to inspire and empower women to simplify their blogs and business so they can show up for their dreams in a sustainable way. I also love to travel, play with kitties and decorate my home.