How to Convert Your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site

by | December 2019 | 0 comments

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Do you currently have a blog or website with WordPress.com and are ready to take it to the next level?

You might be ready to convert your WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of converting from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Many people start with WordPress.com for some, if not all, of the following reasons:

  • It’s free
  • It’s easy to get started
  • A “.com” URL is more recognizable than “.org”

If you’re wondering what the difference is between the free WordPress.com and the self-hosted WordPress.org, check out:

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – What’s the Difference and Which One Should You Use?

Once people with a free WordPress.com site realize it’s limitations and outgrow it, they may look for an alternative that gives them more options.

If you want limitless customization and monetization options for your WordPress.com blog, it’s time to convert to a self-hosted WordPress.org site!

Maybe you’ve been thinking about switching to the self-hosted route but felt overwhelmed or let the fear of the unknown keep you from moving forward.

That was me… for far too long. But once I accepted the fact that I needed to rip off the band-aid and just get it over with, I got it done and so can you!

Don’t believe the myths about self-hosting your blog with WordPress.org.

Self-Hosted WordPress.org Myths:

MYTH #1 – Hosting is expensive.

NOPE! The hosting provider I use has plans starting at just $3.95/month. Keep reading to find out more about hosting.

MYTH #2 – You have to know coding to use WordPress.org.

WRONG! The WordPress Theme I use let’s you completely customize your site without having to use any coding. But there’s also the option to use a little coding (or a lot) if you want. I’ll tell you about the Theme below.

I will say that having a self-hosted WordPress blog does require more management on your part. 

And converting your WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog is one of those things where it gets worse (during the transfer process) before it gets better. 

But the payoff is worth it!

I wish I would have self-hosted my WordPress blog a LONG time ago. So don’t wait as long as I did and go for it!

Why You Should go the Self-Hosted WordPress.org Route

If you want to blog for fun as a hobby, WordPress.com will do the trick. Or if you just want a simple solution to get your blog or website off the ground and running ASAP, WordPress.com is fine.

But if you want more tools, flexibility, and customization options, a self-hosted WordPress.org site is the best option. And if you want to make money and treat your blog as an actual business, going the self-hosted WordPress.org route is a must!

WordPress.org is the way to go if you want to be a legit blogger. By investing money into your blog, you’ll treat it like a business rather than a hobby. You’ll give yourself more options and set yourself up for success.

So… are you ready to convert your WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site instead? First things first. Before you start moving your WordPress.com site over, you’ll need a few things:

  • Domain Name
  • Web Hosting Plan

Domain Name

A domain name is the web address people visit to access your website (example: www.domainname.com). Your domain name should be the same as the name of your blog or include your blog name at the very least.

If you don’t already have a domain name…

  • You’ll need to purchase a domain name with a domain name registrar. I like Namecheap because they’re affordable and they include domain name privacy for free.

If you already have a domain name…

  • And your domain name is with another domain name registrar – you’ll need to point your domain name to your web hosting provider

I originally had my domain name with WordPress.com, which was convenient when I had my blog there.

But when I converted my WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site, I could no longer receive emails at my domain name (example: [email protected]).

I had to transfer my domain name to a different registrar and chose to move it to Namecheap.

Most web hosting providers offer domain names as an additional service or they may include a domain name with their web hosting.

It may be convenient to have your domain name with your web hosting provider.

But I prefer to keep them separate. That way if you ever want to change hosting providers, you won’t have to also go through the hassle of moving your domain name too.

Web Hosting Plan

Web hosting is basically where your website lives and where all the files are stored. You’ll need to purchase a hosting plan with a hosting provider before you can start using the WordPress.org software.

Choosing a Hosting Provider

With WordPress.org, you’ll need to pay for web hosting with your own hosting provider. This is to host your site and house all your website files.

Web hosting is fairly inexpensive and well worth the minimal investment to be able to use WordPress.org. You gotta spend money to make money, right?

The main things you want to consider when choosing a hosting provider are documented uptime, site load time, and customer service.

If your site goes down, people aren’t going to bother coming back when it’s live again. You’ll lose out on traffic and sales. You’ll also lose credibility.

And if your site takes too long to load, people may not be patient enough to wait around for it. You’ll miss out on traffic and potential customers.

So as you can see, site uptime and load time are both critical. Customer service is also important. No hosting provider is going to be perfect. You’ll run into issues at some point.

But what it comes down to is this… Will customer service be available to help you? Will they be able to fix those issues? And, if so, how quickly will those issues be resolved?

These are just a few of the key features you’ll want to consider when choosing your hosting provider.

Why I chose SiteGround for Hosting my WordPress.org Blog

After A LOT of research on different hosting providers, I ended up going with SiteGround. My decision was based on the following for SiteGround:

  • Uptime
  • Site Load Time
  • Customer Service
  • Affordability

SiteGround is also officially recommended by WordPress.org, which is kind of a big deal!

There are many different hosting providers out there. And if you research any of them, you’ll most likely read conflicting reviews of each.

I was originally leaning towards another popular hosting provider. Other bloggers kept recommending this hosting provider.

But when I dug down and really looked into them, there were a lot of complaints from their actual users.

I looked at review sites to see feedback from a bunch of their users all in one place. This helped give me an overall picture of peoples’ actual experiences, and it wasn’t great.

When I researched SiteGround, the users seemed to be really happy with the service. They sang praises for SiteGround, especially the customer service. That was a good sign.

I also like reading comparison articles to stack different providers up against each other. SiteGround beat out other providers in most, if not all, of the comparisons I read. That was the icing on the cake.

SiteGround was the best choice for me. Full disclosure: I’m an affiliate for SiteGround, but that’s because I did extensive research on them before using their hosting for this site.

Don’t just take my word that SiteGround is the best hosting provider option though. Do your own research, and choose the best hosting provider for you.

And if you end up not being happy with the hosting provider you go with, most offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. So there’s that.

How to Convert your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site with SiteGround

When I reached out to SiteGround about the best way to go about converting my WordPress.com blog to WordPress.org with their hosting, they recommended these steps:

  1. Purchase hosting plan
  2. Point Domain Name to host (SiteGround)
  3. Export WordPress.com files
  4. Transfer WordPress.com Website Content
  5. Transfer/Purchase domain registration

But if you have your domain name with WordPress.com like I did, I recommend that you transfer your domain name first. It can take several days for the transfer, so you might as well get a headstart.

If I had to do it over again, here are the steps I would take (click on the links to be taken to those sections):

I was able to get through almost all the steps. But I got hung up in step 5 when I tried to Transfer Website Content. SiteGround kept timing out, so the transfer wouldn’t go through.

I reached out to SiteGround’s customer service, and they ended up completing the transfer (and migration) process for me.

You can have SiteGround handle the migration as they include free site migration with their GrowBig and GoGeek plans. It’s worth it.

Honestly, I wish I had just requested the free site migration from the start rather than trying to manually do it myself. But… I’m a control freak and didn’t want to ask for help.

If you have SiteGround migrate your WordPress.com site over, you’ll have to share it with SiteGround’s Technical Support. So I recommend that you change your WordPress Admin password to something generic temporarily.

You can then change your password back to something more secure (and I highly recommend that you do) once the migration process is complete.

If you’re a control freak like me though and want to give it a go yourself, here are the steps I got through…

How to Convert your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site with SiteGround

1. Transfer/Purchase Domain Name Registration

If you don’t already have a domain name, you’ll need to purchase one.

Find a domain starting at $0.88

powered by Namecheap

If you do happen to already have a domain name, you’ll either need to transfer your domain name or point it to your hosting provider depending on who your domain name is with.

• If your domain name is with WordPress.com, you’ll need to transfer it to a different domain name registrar.

• If your domain name is with another domain name registrar, you’ll just need to point it to your hosting provider. (I’ll show you how to do that in step 3 below.)

I like Namecheap for purchasing new domain names or transferring existing domain names. They’re affordable and they include domain name privacy for free!

2. Purchase Hosting Plan (SiteGround)

SiteGround offers a few different shared web hosting plan options starting at just $3.95/month for the initial term. Personally, I chose the GrowBig plan for $5.95/month for the following features:

• Unlimited websites
• More storage space
• SuperCacher for accelerated site speed
• Advanced on-demand back-up
• And last but not least, free site transfer since I had to move my existing WordPress.com blog over to WordPress.org

Once you choose the hosting plan you want by clicking “Get Plan,” you’ll need to enter your domain name. Choose the option for “I already have a Domain” and enter your domain name. Then click “Proceed.”

You’ll now be taken to the final step where you’ll “Review & Complete” your order. You’ll need to choose the period of time for your hosting plan.

You’ll have the option of a 12-month, 24-month, or 36-month term. There’s also a 1-month option, but it has an additional set-up fee, whereas the other terms don’t have a set-up fee.

Just a heads-up, the discounted promo price is only applicable for the first invoice. Once your initial term is over, the regular renewal prices will apply. So the longer term you purchase upfront, the more money you’ll end up saving.

If everything looks good, click “Pay Now” and then enter your payment info. You’ve now officially purchased a hosting plan with SiteGround and are almost ready to set up your site with WordPress.

3. Point Domain Name to Host (SiteGround)

Before your WordPress site will work, you’ll need to point your domain name from Namecheap to SiteGround. Don’t worry though, it’s easier than you think.

Here are 10 Steps for How To Point Your Domain Name from Namecheap to SiteGround:

1. Login to your SiteGround account.

2. You’ll need to find your nameservers. There are a few different ways you can find them, but this is the easiest: Go to Websites, click on the 3 dots to the right of your domain name, then click on “Server Details.”

A pop-up window will appear with two nameservers that should look something like this:

ns1.********.siteground.us

ns2.********.siteground.us

3. You’ll need to copy those two nameservers as you’ll have to enter them in Namecheap in the next steps.

4. Login to your Namecheap account.

5. From the Dashboard, you should see your domain name with a “Manage” button to the right. But if for some reason that’s not the case, click on “Domain List” on the left-hand side. 

6. Click on the “Manage” button to the right of your domain name.

7. On the next page for Domains → Details, find the ”Nameservers.”

8. From the dropdown menu to the right, select the “Custom DNS” option.

9. Paste the nameserver values you copied from SiteGround. 

10. Then click on the green checkmark to save the changes.

You have now finished setting up your domain name to point to your SiteGround website. Woo hoo! Be aware though that the update may take up to 48 hours to go into effect.

4. Export WordPress.com Files

You’ll need to Export your content from WordPress.com to then be able to transfer everything to your host.

How to Export your WordPress.com files:

1. Login to your WordPress.com dashboard and go to My Sites (select the appropriate site)

2. Go to Tools > Export.

3. Click on “Export All” to the right of “Export your content.”

4. When the export is ready, a success message will show up. Click on “Download.”

You should also export your Email Subscribers from WordPress.com. That way you’ll be able to upload them to your email marketing service.

How to Download your WordPress.com Email Followers:

1. Login to your WordPress.com dashboard and go to My Sites (select the appropriate site)

2. Go to Manage > People.

3. Go to Email Followers.

4. Click on “Download Data as CSV.”

Be sure to save that file! Email subscribers are gold for your blog!

5. Transfer WordPress.com Website Content

Before you can transfer your WordPress.com files over, you’ll need a stand-alone WordPress installation on your hosting account.

How to Install WordPress:

1. Login to your SiteGround Account.

2. Go to Websites, then click on “ Site Tools.”

3. Go to Site > App Manager.

4. From the dropdown under Application, select WordPress.

5. Enter the Admin Info you want to use for WordPress (these are different login credentials than your SiteGround account). You’ll use these login details to access the back-end of WordPress (your WordPress Admin area) where you can manage and add content to your site. When you’re done entering your login details, click “Install.”

How to login to your WordPress Admin:

There are a few different ways you can access your WordPress Admin area (the back-end of your site):

1. Directly with WordPress (the easier option and my preference)

Go directly to the default login for WordPress at http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin (replace yourdomain.com with your actual domain name).

2. Through SiteGround

To log in to your WordPress site through your SiteGround account, go to Websites > WordPress Kit.

A window will pop-up. Click on “Go” for WordPress Admin. You will then be redirected to your WordPress Admin login area at http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin (yourdomain.com will be replaced with your actual domain name).

Now that you’ve installed WordPress and know how to login to your WordPress Admin, you can transfer your WordPress.com files over to your SiteGround hosting account.

How to Transfer your WordPress.com Files to SiteGround:

1. Login to your WordPress Admin.

2. Go to Tools > Import.

3. Click on “Install Now” under the WordPress section at the bottom.

4. Once the plugin required for the import is automatically installed, the “Install Now” button will change to “Run Importer.” Click on “Run Importer.”

5. On the page that opens, click “Choose file.” From the pop-up, select the .xml file you downloaded from your WordPress.com blog earlier. Then click the “Upload file and import” button.

This is the part I got to. I couldn’t get the file from WordPress.com to upload. It kept timing out.

SiteGround says:

If the content which you want to migrate is quite large the corresponding web server’s timeout value can be reached before the data is fully copied. In this case, you need to re-upload the .xml file. The system keeps a record for the migrated content and will proceed with the remaining data. Repeat the procedure until you receive a confirmation that the process is successfully completed.”

But if your transfer isn’t going through, reach out to SiteGround’s customer service for help. You can also have a Professional Site Migration done by SiteGround.

After you have selected a domain during the Website Setup Wizard for your new site with SiteGround, click Select under Migrate Website. Then click Select next to Professional Migration.

You’ll have to provide your login credentials to SiteGround as part of the access details. So I recommend changing your WordPress.com password to something basic to give to SiteGround and then change it back to something secure when the site migration is complete.

When you fill in the required information and click “Continue,” SiteGround will post a ticket to their tech support who will take care of the migration. Be aware that website transfers may take up to 2-3 business days.

NOTE: SiteGround’s WordPress Automigration tool won’t work for a WordPress.com site you’re trying to transfer over. It only works for other self-hosted WordPress sites that are hosted with another hosting provider.

Once you get everything transferred over, you can start setting up and customizing your converted site. Start with the Theme and then add some Plugins.

Theme

WordPress uses “Themes,” which are basically templates for the layout and design of websites powered by WordPress. Themes are the starting point for building and customizing your site.

Just a heads-up, the Theme you had with your WordPress.com site will not transfer to your new self-hosted WordPress site. You’ll have to choose a new Theme.

WordPress.com has limited Themes. But with WordPress.org, your Theme options are practically limitless! It can be overwhelming. So how do you choose the right Theme?

Choosing a Theme

When it comes to choosing a Theme, there are practically endless options. So how do you choose the best Theme for your needs? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Simplicity – You don’t want something that’s too complex for you or your website visitors to navigate.

Mobile-Responsive – You want a theme that will look good on desktop devices as well as phones and tablets.

Supported Plugins – Make sure the Theme supports all popular Plugins.

Customer Support – If you need help, will you be able to get it? How available is customer support to help you?

Ratings & Reviews – What are other users saying? You want something that other people recommend.

There are free Themes as well as paid Themes. I’m a very frugal person, but I do recommend investing in a high-quality Theme that offers the features and customization options you’ll want for your site.

Divi WordPress Theme

The Divi Theme

I’ve used drag-and-drop website builders before and like being able to customize and design my website myself. But… I’m not a web developer, and my coding skills are very basic.

Luckily, I came across the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes which includes a Page Builder as well as a super handy Theme Builder! I love how I can customize my site with little to no coding needed.

It’s exactly what I was looking for! Plus, their customer service has been incredibly helpful. I highly recommend the Divi Theme if you want an awesome theme you can easily customize.

To use the Divi Theme, you’ll first need to purchase an Elegant Themes membership. Their membership includes access to the Divi Theme as well as the Bloom and Monarch Plugins.

The annual membership plan is $89/year, but they also offer a lifetime membership for a one-time payment of $249. Purchasing a membership is risk-free because they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

So you can go ahead and give the Divi Theme a try without worrying about wasting money if you end up not liking it. To purchase the Divi Theme, visit the Elegant Themes website and click on “Pricing” in the top right corner.

Choose the option you want (yearly access for $89/year or lifetime access for $249 one-time), and click “Sign Up Today!” to complete your membership registration.

How to Install the Divi Theme with WordPress

The Divi Theme is not available in the Theme library of WordPress. You have to download the Divi Theme from your Elegant Themes account and then upload the Theme’s file to WordPress.

Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is. I was intimidated at first myself but was pleasantly surprised when I did it. It’s actually a very easy process.

Plus, if you need any help, the customer service at Elegant Themes is awesome! They’re available 24/7 via chat and are super helpful.

Give it a go on your own though following the steps below, and I think you’ll see just how easy it is:

1. Login to your Elegant Themes account.

2. Go to the Downloads area and click on “Download the Divi Theme” (there’s also a Plugin version if you’d rather use the Divi builder with another Theme).

3. The Theme should automatically be downloaded as a .zip file to your computer (do NOT unzip the .zip file as you will upload the .zip file as is to WordPress).

4. Login to your WordPress Admin.

5. Go to Appearance > Themes > Add New.

6. Click on “Upload Theme.”

7. In the next window, click on “Choose File” to select the Divi.zip file, then click on “Install Now.”

8. Once the Theme has been uploaded to your WordPress Themes, be sure to Activate the Theme by clicking on the “Activate” button for it.

9. You can then start customizing the Theme. This is where you can start setting up some basic details for your site.

• To add a Site Title, Tagline, and Icon, go to General Settings > Site Identity.

• You can choose to display your Blog Posts on your Home Page or have a static Home Page that doesn’t change (my recommendation). To do this, go to Homepage Settings, and under “Your Homepage Displays” choose “A static page.”

• You can also customize your Menus here, but I’m going to show you how to do that along with another way down below in the Menu section.

If you want to use a theme other than Divi, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New. This is where you can search for and see available Themes. Once you find the one you want to use, click on “Install” then “Activate.”

Plugins

Plugins are tools you can add-on to expand the functionality and customization of your WordPress site.

One of the main advantages of having a self-hosted WordPress.org site is being able to use Plugins. They’ll take your site to the next level!

How to install Plugins with WordPress

Plugins are super easy to install. Here’s how to install them:

1. Login to your WordPress Admin.

2. Go to Plugins > Add New.

3. This is where you can search for available Plugins and install them. When you find a Plugin you want to use, click “Install” and then “Activate.” You also have the option to Upload Plugins similar to how you uploaded the Divi Theme.

4. Once the Plugin is installed, click “Activate” to be able to use the Plugin. You also have the option to Upload Plugins similar to how you uploaded the Divi Theme.

5 Essential WordPress Plugins to Install:

Here are some basic Plugins you should consider installing for your site:

If you had any email subscribers for your WordPress.com site, you can transfer them with the JetPack Plugin. Here are instructions for how to do it: Jetpack Subscription Migration Tool.

And you can see even more Plugins I use and recommend here: 10 Free Essential Plugins to Use for Your WordPress Blog.

Whenever you’re installing Plugins, make sure they are compatible with your version of WordPress. You may also want to see when they were last updated. If it’s been a year, that could be a red flag.

You should be familiar with the WordPress Admin interface. But if you need help creating Pages, a site Menu, or Blog Posts, check out my post How to Easily Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 5 Steps.

With your WordPress blog being self-hosted now, the sky’s the limit to what you can do with your blog! You’ve got a good start with a premium Theme and some essential Plugins.

Now the fun part begins… start designing! The Divi Theme offers pre-made layouts or you can build your blog design from scratch. If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to Elegant Themes‘ customer support. They’re legit!

And keep in mind that done is better than perfect. If you’re a perfectionist like me, that statement can be extremely freeing!

I know that my perfectionism has stood in the way of me moving forward in the past. But that statement really hit me hard and made me realize that the key to success is to START!

So get started converting your WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. And know that it doesn’t have to be perfect because you can always make changes.

Starting a self-hosted WordPress blog from scratch or need a refresher on WordPress in general? Join my Free 7-Day Blog Launch Email Course!

Hey there!

I’m Briana Nickas…

a part-time RVer who loves hiking, visiting National Parks, and taking photos. My happiest days are spent on the road with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb maltipoo) exploring the country and meeting fellow adventurers along the way… READ MORE

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Behind the Blog

 

I’m Briana Nickas.

After RVing through the country for over a year hitting up all 48 contiguous states, I settled down in Colorado with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb Maltipoo). I’m a homebody who loves to travel. That’s why RVing is my jam! We can take our home-on-wheels wherever the road goes.

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