All the bloody basics in 3 non-intimidating posts
If you’ve been blogging on a free platform for a while you must have heard, time and again, many “experts” and “not-so-experts” telling you you need to self-host. In the first part of this small series we broke down some essential info you need to be aware of and I also gave you a run-down list of major pros & cons on self versus free hosting. Then, in the second part, I gave you a brief look into the process of signing up with your host. I also gave you some insight about what could happen if you’re not registering a new domain name but rather transferring one. And, last but not least, I shared my experience with two different popular hosting companies while declaring my favorite (that I highly recommend!). Make sure you check back on those two posts to get all the deets.
If you’re migrating from a free blogging/hosting platform and you’re already paying for a custom domain name within it, then you’re not going to register a new one when signing up with your new host. To use your existing domain name you simply have to point it to your new host’s servers by replacing your old host DNS settings. Once you change the DNS settings of your domain name, it could take up to 48 hours for your domain to start pointing to the new location. The reason is that some registrars update their DNS information once every 48 hours. During this propagation time you can still reach your account on the new server through IP. (On your new host Customer Area, go to My Account, Information & Settings, Account IP –or similar menu– and click the “Access Site by IP” button.) You can also contact support and let them know if you can’t access your dashboard (in my case, even though I was using my new username & password to log into WordPress.org where I should be able to see my new dashboard, I was being redirected to the old WordPress.com one instead). If your host is half as awesome as SiteGround, they should immediately redirect you! (You can read all about my experience with SiteGround vs another popular hosting company and why I couldn’t recommend them more in part 2 of this blogging series.)
Meanwhile, here are a few steps to take before & after you sign up with your new host and migrate, from free-hosted WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.org:
- Sign into your WordPress.com blog. Go to Settings. Scroll down and find the field that says Change Site Address. If you click into that, you should be able to see two domains. Your original subdomain (www.xxx.wordpress.com) that comes with the description “included with site” and your “registered domain” (www.xxx.com) which should be set to primary at the time. Click Change Primary and select the subdomain name address.
- Go back to your Settings and scroll to Privacy. Change from public to private (do not make “hidden”).
- Set up an account with your new host, and download WordPress.org on your domain name (find all the details in part 2 of this blogging series).
- Go back to your Settings on WordPress.com. Scroll down to Change Site Address. Select the “registered domain”. Click on Name Servers and DNS. Copy and paste your new DNS server names on Use Custom Name Servers and click Save. (You can find your new servers by signing into your host Customer Area, go into My Account, and then on Information and Settings —or similar menu. See Account DNS.)
- Delete all your old blog bookmarks from your browser(s).
- Clear history, cookies/cache.
- Reset your router (don’t simply restart) to help it flush old data and update info.
So after all is set and done, and you’ve got your new site up and running, it’s high time you start building it —meaning, transfer content from your old blog and/or create new. Once again Google and YouTube are your best friends (and “seek and ye shall find”, I guess, will have to be my biblical quote of the day!). But before you get down to business and delve into all those tutorials, let’s tackle 7 FAQs you’re probably itching to ask!
- Eh?! I really don’t get the wordpress.org – wordpress.com thing
What everyone fails to mention, other than technicalities, is that the terms are used as mere names to distinguish between the free WordPress platform & the self-hosted WordPress platform. Yes, when you free-host and use the free subdomain name your address is www.xxx.wordpress.com but migrating to WordPress.org doesn’t mean your domain name will have the .org extension (unless you want it to!). Not having a www.xxx.wordpress.com address doesn’t mean that you self-host either, you’ve simply registered/purchased a custom domain name on your free-hosting platform.
- What is it with all the panels?
Uhm, yeah. I know! I was sooo confused first time around myself. Ok, your old WordPress.com panel? Still valid and effective with the username & password you’ve always had. Your new hosting panel is a different panel, effective with the new username & password you provided upon registration. Your WordPress.org panel is also different (from your old WordPress.com one) and is effective with the username & password you’ll be provided with, after you download WordPress.org on your domain name from your cPanel —the cPanel is the domain name panel and it is integrated to your hosting panel. It’s accessed without a username or password. You can, later, co-ordinate passwords if you hate keeping up with so many of them.
- Do I need to know coding?
The chances of you actually needing to use any kind of code will be minimal to none, even though I have listed it as a positive feature on my pros & cons list of why to self host! Being able to know minimal CSS code to tweak, for example, a theme to best fit your blog’s needs is always a plus, right? In fact that’s the most likely reason you’ll ever find yourself googling simple prompts. I, for instance, needed to use a smaller font for my blog name to make it fit my theme’s header frame and, like I said, it was nothing a little web-searching couldn’t fix!
- Will the way I use WordPress change (is the user interface/dashboard the same)?
Your dashboard will be almost completely identical! If you’re already fairly familiar with WordPress.com, I guarantee you will have no problem finding your way around your new dashboard, at all!
- Do I transfer my content myself or do I pay for guided transfer?
That really-really depends! Many hosts advertise a free setup & transfer (of content). You will need to open a ticket with your host support [Customer Area → Advanced Technical Services → Transfer Website (or similar menu)], but do keep in mind that the process is kind of automated and limited in some aspects. If you have been blogging for a while and have a huge number of posts to transfer, loaded with pics and videos, it might be preferable to “invest” into guided transfer instead. You can purchase Guided Transfer directly from WordPress.com. It is a paid service provided by WordPress (not your host) and it also includes support for everything related to the transfer for two weeks. Make sure the hosting company of your choice is listed in the recommended hosts for WordPress and as such the Guided Transfer to their services is available. You can find Guided Transfer in the “Store” section for your WordPress.com blog. You can also order a paid transfer from your host, after you have already applied their free promo.
- Will I lose my WordPress.com “followers”?
Yes you will and you’re going to need to build up your following again, and grow a stong subscriber’s list. If your goal is to monetize by ad placement, think of it this way: you may have several thousand followers right now, but their pageviews don’t count if you can’t place a sponsor’s ad on your site nor do they translate into impressions. [An impression is when an ad is fetched from its source, and is countable (whether the ad is clicked is not taken into account). Each time an ad is fetched, it counts as one impression. Counting impressions is the method by which most web advertising is accounted and paid for.] They are what I call “ghost” followers, meaning they’re not doing anything for you! They are exposure, sure, but unless you can turn that exposure into something meaningful (or should I say tangible?) what are they there for? A good method to ensure your readers will follow you on your new endeavours is to “blast” them with posts reminding them of your imminent move. I would even dare call it one rare occasion in which you’re allowed to spam everyone with constant reminders (blogposts, Facebook posts, Tweets, emails, newsletters, anything you can think of)!
You will also lose your likes but the trick is to –again!– keep reminding people of older content, so that they can revisit and like or share your blogposts again. Repinning your best posts on Pinterest and resharing on other social media is a good SEO move anyway. It’s called recycling your content and it’s something you can easily do, esp. with seasonal posts.
- Can I also migrate my domain name if my hosting company is a registrar and has a really compelling offer?
Yes you can, anytime you choose to, just make sure you have not recently renewed your payment since it is only possible to transfer a domain 60 days after its registration or renewal date. This 60 day lock is required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and no registrar can waive it. I haven’t transferred my domain because I find what I pay to WordPress.com cheaper (including Privacy Protection) than my hosts’ annual fee for domain name registry.
Phew! These posts were a handful but I’m quite happy I finally got to share my experiences with you. Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert on the matter. I have only been blogging since 2012 and I started out, all on my own, knowing almost nothing. It took 5 years of endless hours online, quite a bit of research, many trials and errors –well lots and lots of the last ones, mind you. I’m still learning but I hope I’ve given you some useful insight.
Don’t forget to check part 1 & part 2 of this blogging series to get the full picture. You can also download the printable PDFs I’m linking at the beginning of this post (also in part 2) if you find them helpful: the first explains blog components, and the second is a comparative run-down list of the pros & cons of self vs free-hosting.
If you wish to sing-up with SiteGround you can click on the banner at the beginning of this post, on their logo in part 2 of this blogging series or on the banner that displays seasonal offers in my header, now and then.