Welcome to the second post in a four-part post series on my move from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted! These posts will discuss my lessons learned and tips you can use (even on Free WordPress!) to improve your website.
Paid WP vs. Self-Hosted | How I Went Self-Hosted | Proper Use of Headers | SEO for Book Bloggers
At the end of June I made the scary leap to self-hosted for my blog, and I was surprised how easy moving to self-hosted from paid WordPress was! I’d heard horror stories from friends who broke their site and spent weekends fixing it, which was the main reason I didn’t go self-hosted last year when I decided to buy a domain.
If you are a blogger considering making the move to self-hosted from WordPress (either free or paid), this guide is for you! I will go over the actual steps I took, how long of a process it is, and a couple of things I’ve learned since. This is a long post, but it should answer all of your questions!
Things to Consider Before Getting Started
Whether you are on a paid or free plan on WordPress.com, there are a few things that I’d recommend considering before taking the plunge.
- Your blog statistics and post likes will not move (unless you pay an addition $149 to Automattic to make it happen). Your post comments will migrate. What this means is your older posts will have all the original comments, but there will not be any post likes and prior page views won’t carry over. For an example, Reading Around the Globe was posted on August 16, 2018. It has 96 comments but only 2 likes; the likes came in once I moved hosts.
- Your original blog hosted on WordPress.com will not go away. I started on a free wordpress site in March 2018 and upgraded to paid in July 2018. At that time, the free version of my site automatically redirected to the new domain. I was concerned that since the free version no longer existed, I would lose all the data on my original blog so I backed everything up via excel. But that wasn’t necessary! Once I pointed my domain to the new host, my wordpress.com blog reverted back to the free version and all my data is still there (I just lost my pretty premium theme and CSS, so be sure to save that stuff first!).
- It is best to be on a blog hiatus while you migrate your site. Once you move your posts and comments over to your new webhost, any new comments or posts made on your old site won’t be carried over. This is why I turned off blog comments completely and halted my posting while I moved hosts.
- Give yourself time so you aren’t rushed! My move took two weeks, but that was largely because I was redesigning my site. It took some time to find a new theme and for my commissioned header and site button to be designed.
- The one bummer I’ve noticed is pingbacks don’t seem to work 100%. This is weird because I am using the Jetpack plugin so it should function, but I get very few now that I’m self-hosted.
The Process of Moving
Congratulations on making the decision to go self-hosted! I honestly believe that it is the better option for blogs looking to own their own domain because it’s cheaper and you have a lot more control.
1. Research web hosts to find one that meets your level of experience and budget.
I have prior experience running websites, but didn’t want the hassle of breaking my site or nightmare weekends. I wanted a host with customer service and features which streamlined the process for me. I did a lot of research, and after chatting with Christine about her experience I decided to go with SiteGround. Other popular hosts for book bloggers are Lyrical Host and managed hosting with Nose Graze.
I was impressed with the amount of space provided and their 24/7 customer service (not to mention the price). So after finding my front runner, I decided to test their customer service and ask a bunch of questions before getting locked into a plan.
Help support the blog by using my SiteGround affiliate link!
You’ll still get the discounted pricing, and I’ll receive a small commission to help support running Flapping Pages!
2. Ask lots of questions!
My main concerns were having the ability to redesign the look of my blog without changing the visiting experience for my visitors, additional costs (domain registration, themes, security certificate), cancellation policy, and that I would be able to take advantage of their free website migration.
SiteGround has a 30-day cancellation policy if you are unsatisfied, which gave me the peace of mind that I needed. Domain registration is a little pricey through SiteGround ($15.95), but I got a free year renewal for transferring my domain over before it expired with wordpress. If you are currently on paid wordpress, I recommend starting a month before your domain expires to take advantage of this; there needs to be at least 15 days remaining. Domain transfer takes up to 10 days to complete but you do not need to point the domain to your new site until you’re ready.
I’d recommend ensuring that you have a 100% money-back guarantee with whoever you decide to go with.
3. Once you’re ready to make your purchase, get ready for a hiatus.
I recommend taking a little break while you move everything over and get all set up. Not only will anything posted or new comments that come in after migration not move over, but I just didn’t want to deal with content creation while building a new site.
I made an announcement post about the hiatus and turned off comments on my blog. WordPress doesn’t make this easy to do – I had to do it manually through WordPress Admin (your website address/admin).
4. Make your purchase and submit a ticket for migration (or migrate yourself).
One of the main reasons I was super excited about going with SiteGround is they would take care of moving my posts and comments over and installing WordPress for me. Sure, I could do it, but I didn’t want to. Since I had already chosen my theme, I asked them to install it for me at the same time. I got an email notification when it was done and was able to get to work on the redesign!
The import/export is super easy to do yourself if you need to. On your current website, go to tools > export and select that you want to export all content. You will then upload the export file on your new site via the import function on WP-admin (see step 6a for more information about navigating and designing).
5. Find your perfect theme!
You have access to any of the 5,000+ free themes available on WordPress.org when you are self-hosted, which is awesome! You can browse the themes here even before you get started to streamline the process. It is a simple install once you are ready!
6. If you are moving from paid wordpress, change your computer’s local DNS so you can work on the new site.
I didn’t want my blog’s visitors to see a site under construction and I didn’t want to take it down to put under construction while I worked. I wanted people to have access to my guides and reviews, so I needed to change my computer’s DNS settings.
This sounded really scary to me, so I Live Chatted with SiteGround’s support and they talked me through it. Turns out it was very easy to do and it allowed me to use “readervoracious.com ” to build the website, regardless of the domain name’s current DNS settings. When my computer went to readervoracious.com, I saw the new site. Everyone else saw the old one.
NOTE: This step isn’t necessary if you are moving from a free wordpress website because your custom domain isn’t already being used. You can build your website and launch whenever you are ready without needing to redirect the domain.
6a. How to build new website.
Since you are coming from a WordPress blog, it is very similar to what you are used to… you just have a lot more options now! To edit your website, go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and you will be greeted with the WordPress admin panel.
As you can see, there is a lot there for you (but know everything between comments and appearance in the menu options are plugins). The dashboard is fully customizable with tiles that you can add and move around. To begin building your site, go to appearance > customize. The page that comes up should look familiar to you! If you haven’t already installed your theme, you can browse via this menu as well.
I did all of my design with Additional CSS in the customize editor, I never needed to go into the theme itself to tinker around with it (but I don’t recommend you edit your theme unless you know coding and what you are doing).
7. When you are ready, redirect your domain to the new website.
Once you are finished, change your computer’s host file back by deleting the code you entered. The last step will be to update your domain URL to point to your new website instead of your old one hosted on WordPress.com. This is called DNS Propagation, and can take up to 72 hours to complete globally. For me it took about 12 hours, and you can check the progress with DNSchecker.org. There may be a few bumps initially so patience here is a virtue – don’t announce right when it updates for you because people elsewhere may not have it updated yet.
NOTE: This step isn’t necessary if you are moving from a free wordpress website. All you have to do is share your new URL and make a post on your free wordpress blog directing them to your new domain.
8. Install essential plugins (Jetpack).
I have a list of the plugins I use and recommend in the next section, and you can add them at any time. But the one plugin that you definitely want to have installed is Jetpack. This plugin is designed by the WordPress.com team and brings some features over to self-hosted websites (wordpress followers, likes, a simple comment box).
You don’t want to setup Jetpack too early – I waited until propagation ended to set it up – but it is very easy to do. The cool thing is it links your blog with WordPress.com so you can continue to use the site that way if you want to.
You’ll have access to your WordPress Reader if you use it for blog hopping, and once you update your Gravatar information all comments that you make will direct people to your new blog.
9. Migrate your wordpress and email followers.
You cannot do this step until your domain is pointed to your new domain, and you definitely don’t want to move people before you are ready to come off hiatus. It takes very little time to migrate your followers, though!
Visit your new website via WordPress.com and go to Manage > Settings > Discussion. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Migrate followers from another site.”
You’ll get an email once it is finished, and it took maybe 20 minutes. I did seem to lose 49 followers from the change; I am not sure if it was people unfollowing or if something weird happened. But better than asking everyone to re-follow you!
10. Add a WordPress follow button on your self-hosted blog!
Lastly, you will need to manually add a WordPress follow button to make it easier for people to follow you. Make sure that subscriptions are activated by going to Manage > Settings > Discussion.
Go to the develop site to create your follower button and add the code onto your website!
I don’t use a lot of plugins, but I want to provide you with a list of the free ones I use that I find invaluable. To add plugins, go to Plugins > Add New and search for the name(s) of the plugins you want to install.
Accessibility by UserWay – this free plugin adds an accessibility menu to your blog to help visitors with disabilities access your website better. It’s very easy to set up.
Akismet Anti-Spam – my spam problem honestly went away once I moved to self-hosted, and I am not sure if Akimset is better or not. But I am not getting 100+ spam comments a day anymore to review.
Classic Editor – if you don’t want to use the wordpress blocks, you will need to add this plugin so you can use the classic post editor.
DMCA Website Protection Badge – I wanted to protect my website from copyright infringement, and added the badge via a plugin for easy displaying.
Duplicate Post – I copy template posts to streamline things, so this is a must!
Elementor – Essentially with this plugin you are able to build a page with multiple elements without needing to code it with HTML.
I built my homepage using the Elementor plugin by creating a homepage (you can also edit any post or page with Elementor if you want).
Font Awesome – be able to use font awesome icons on your blog!
GDPR Cookie Consent – IMPORTANT to comply with EU Cookie Law / GDPR.
NG Scroll Box – ever wonder how I have book synopses in scrollboxes? I use this free plugin design by Nosegraze instead of HTML. I downloaded the file from Ashley’s site and installed it.
Redirection – sets up redirects. This is especially important if you change your post naming structure when you move to self hosted to not include post dates.
Smush – this is an awesome image optimizer that helps reduce space and helps SEO.
TinyMCE Advanced – added additional features to the classic editor panel – I did it for font sizes.
UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore – Create backups of your website so you can easily restore if something goes wrong.
What I’m Reading – This is also a free NoseGraze plugin, and is how I have the pretty What I’m Reading widget. I downloaded the file from Ashley’s site and installed it.
Yoast SEO – powerful and free tools to boost and improve your SEO (search engine optimization).
The last six weeks has been full of learning and excitement, the vast majority of my experiences being incredibly positive! Honestly, barring not getting notifications for pingbacks is a small price to pay for how much control I have over my website now and cut my hosting costs by 50%.
Going self-hosted sounds really scary, but I promise you with a good host it’s really seamless! I am so glad that I decided to go with SiteGround because their customer service is absolutely stellar. I haven’t run into any issues and am so happy that I locked in hosting with them for three years!
This post is #notsponsored, but I did join their affiliate program because I truly believe in them and the services they provide. If you are considering going self-hosted, check SiteGround out using my link – if you decide to go with them, I’ll get a little money to help support the blog & Flapping Pages at no additional cost to you (and it works with promo pricing).
The next post in my Lessons Series will be how to properly use headers in your posts to help your SEO! I never really cared about SEO when I was on WordPress.com, but now I am digging DEEP and have lots of tips for you… even on free wordpress!
💖 If you like the work that I do here at Reader Voracious, consider fueling my pumpkin spice latte and black tie addiction by buying me a ko-fi or joining my Patreon! ☕
Let’s go on another adventure together!
Bless you wise lady! I book marked the first one and have been waiting for this one with baited breath. Book marking and reading…
Aww, you’re welcome and I hope you found this as useful as anticipated!
Absolutely! I really appreciate it.
This is super helpful!! Thanks so much for explaining all of this. I’ve been using free WordPress for a while but I’ve been thinking about hopping over to something else…
You;re welcome, and good luck if you decide to go self-hosted! There’s nothing wrong with being on free wordpress, but if you do go paid it’s way better to go self-hosted. It isn’t as scary as you think!
i’ve been thinking of going self hosted but was scared in case I lost all my followers as a result. Glad to see that’s not the case. this will be a good project for 2020
Yea, I was really worried about that as well so I was SO HAPPY to find out that wasn’t the case! It sucks about the likes and initial views, but the free version of my site with all those stats still exist. Good luck when you decide to take the plunge!
Thanks Kal, I just need to get off the fence and begin. I’m sure once I’ve summoned up the courage to start, it will be fine…..
Great post! I’m thinking of going self hosted, so this was really useful for me!
I am so glad you found the post useful, and good luck!
This is such a helpful post!
Thank you, I am so glad to hear that!
I love this post (It’s basically the only one I currently can’t write for a blogging 101 series bc I did it all in such a tired blur I can’t remember my own going self hosted process 😉 ) I’m glad it’s not just me about the pingback issue! And I love that I can find the perfect theme when self-hosted!!
Thank you so much Becky, this means a lot coming from the QUEEN of blogging 101 posts! Honestly I am glad it isn’t just me re: pingbacks, either. I should really reach out to jetpack and find out what is going on.
Another great post! I was one of those ones who broke my blog for awhile when trying to transfer. In the end, I stayed with WP since my stats are good and I didn’t want to have to start over. This will definitely help a lot of people like me who are clueless with this type of stuff. Maybe one day I’ll get brave and try it again. But I had massive panic thinking I lost everything.
I was so afraid of breaking my blog, because it happened to so many of my friends. I really think the host you choose makes a huge difference, and I am glad that I didn’t have any hiccups. I am glad you didn’t lose everything though, and it does stink to have to start over with the stats (I essentially just added my original pageviews into my total for the self-hosted version of the blog. I don’t have a hit counter anymore so it doesn’t make much of a difference.
I’m glad it’s working so well for you!
Meeghan reads says
This is so ridiculously helpful!! Thank you so much for sharing, Kal!! 💕
Glad to hear it, and you are welcome, Meeghan!
This is awesome, I’ve never read a post on this topic before. Thanks for all the effort you put into writing it!
Thanks for reading, and how cool that mine was the first post on the topic you saw?!!?!?!
This was so interesting! Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go self-hosted, so free wordpress it is. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll check into it. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of information, though! I don’t think I’d handle it …
There’s nothing wrong with being on free wordpress, save those coins! And yea… I have a tendency to be overly verbose but I figured it would be helpful to have everything in one place for people to refer to. You definitely can handle it if you decide to down the road!
I am in awe and just really really very much in love with this series, Kal. This is so detailed and well explained and so, so helpful, thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this together and to be so helpful, this is incredible. I’m definitely bookmarking this if ever needed and thank you for doing this series <3 <3
Oh wow, thank you so much for your kind compliment, Marie!!! I am really glad you find it useful and I hope it comes in handy if you ever decide to take the plunge yourself.
Xandra @ Starry Sky Books says
Thank you so much for this series, Kal! I can tell that you put so much detail and effort into writing these helpful posts, and I appreciate it so much! 💕
Once my blog hits 1k or more followers, I’m thinking about going self-hosted, but I’m worried that will be a bad decision. I would want to change my blog design and blog name as well, and I’m worried it will take too much of my time or be too confusing.
But thank you for this series, because now I’m not as worried as before, haha! 😅 I wish you all the best in continuing to grow your blog, and I can’t wait to see your next post in the series!
You are most welcome! I am always happy to pass along what I learn to help others down the road, no reason to keep the info to myself!
The good thing about moving from a free wordpress blog is you can take as much time as you need to redesign and set everything up before relaunching the blog and moving your followers. In my experience, design and customization is the same as on free but with more options with plugins. If you wanted you could pay someone to work on new graphics or design for you so you don’t have to do it yourself. Kat did my new graphics and I am very pleased with them!
Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Xandra!
Definitely went into the helpful posts bookmark category, I am in awe, and slightly overwhelmed lol. Actually I’m really super grateful you’ve broken it down into lessons like this, I feel that I’ll keep coming back to them to familiarize myself until the time I finally decide to make the change in the future. Thanks Kal!
At least everything you could possibly need to know is in one overwhelming place? LOL. Glad you found the post helpful and you are always welcome to poke me when/if you move.
Ruby's Books says
As always, you are the queen of guides. I already bookmarked this post for when I’m finally ready to take the big step. I can’t wait to see the rest of your guides from this series, Actually all your guides. *hugs*
Aww thank you so much Ruby! Feel free to poke me when/if you make the big step.
Jessica at Booked J says
Ooh, this was super useful and interesting to read. Moving around blogs or webpages in general can be super complicated and overwhelming but you definitely laid it all out there for those who are looking to do something similar. I love how you broke it all down and I think this is really going to help people. Phew! Great and informative post.
Thank you so much, Jessica! I am so glad you found the post useful and easy to follow!
This is such a helpful post and I’m so glad you’ve chosen to share everything from your own process of moving sites with all of us! I’d love to take this step as well, but I think that for now, the idea of it is just entirely too daunting. I really love the new updates to your site and think it looks amazing!
I’d definitely recommend that you wait until your current paid plan is closer to expiring so you don’t miss out on the money you spent anyways, but I promise it isn’t as daunting as it seems. But thanks so much for reading & I am glad you like the refreshed look!
You’re welcome, Kal! All of the effort that you’ve put in really shows! And yes, I’ll definitely wait at least for now. The abilities you get when switching over are so tempting, but I’ve got some time left on my plan to decide!
Oh my goodness, I am so thankful and so overwhelmed. I am wanting to upgrade because I have had my free blog for a while now, I almost think I need to start fresh and start a big girl blog. So many decisions. How do you even make all of these decisions?!? Its just overwhelming. I have to gather my thoughts first obviously. 😛
Oh wow, your comment is REALLY RELATABLE. But your free blog can be a big girl blog, so don’t feel like you need to get a domain to be taken seriously or anything! But I feel you on the overwhelming amount of decisions. Think it over, and maybe make a pro/con list? I started with a list of what I WANTED to start.
Cristina @ Girl in the Pages says
I migrated over to self hosted about 4 years ago and it was one of the best blogging decisions I’ve made! I used Nosegraze hosting and it’s been phenomenal! I’m glad you’ve had such a positive migration experience 🙂
I totally agree that going self-hosted was the best decisions for me! I looked at Nosegraze and have heard great things.
Great guide! I went from blogger to self-hosted in April 2018 and changed hosts earlier this year because mine increased the prices ridiculously. I notice the same with pinbacks, really frustrating! They only seem to work with my own content. I found some useful plugins, but have a question about the scrollboxes. How do they work with Ultimate Book Blogger? I use that plugin for my reviews. I tried to set up Yoost but didn’t understand. The currently reading plugin won’t probably make sense when using the Goodreads widget I guess? Will install the disability plugin definitely!
Thank you, and I’ve noticed the only pingbacks I get now are from free wordpress blogs. It’s really weird. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to answer your questions about UBB as I don’t use that plugin. Since Ashley is the creator of both, I am sure she could answer those questions better than I ever could.
Destiny @ Howling Libraries says
You are an absolute delight and I am so happy that you posted this! I’m still torn between whether I want my hiatus to be in September or November, but I’m thinking probably September, because October is my favorite blogging month and I’d like to have it finished before then! I’m nervous but SO excited (and will definitely be going with SiteGround and using your link ♥).
Awww thank you so much, and I am glad you found the post useful!!! I think September would be good because you can come back for your favorite time of the year with a fresh, new look. Redesigning and moving the site really revitalized passion for me, which was needed because my health has drained joy from essentially everything.
I will be happy to help you / answer questions when you move, and thanks in advance for using my link!
Destiny @ Howling Libraries says
Yessss, exactly! That’s precisely what I was thinking yesterday, like, “Man, it would feel SO GOOD to go into October with a fresh new blog~!” I actually blew up your Discord a little last night about this and pulled an all-nighter working on graphics, so I’m very excited. I think I need a boost, too, and I’m hoping it’ll help me feel that spark again. I’m so glad it helped you so much! I’m also hoping taking this little hiatus, even though I’ll be working on other blog-related things in the meantime, will help me feel pumped and ready to get back on a GOOD schedule with daily blog hopping and replying to comments quickly.
Thank you so much! I’m sure I will have a billion questions for you haha. And I did use your link, hopefully it went through okay?! <3
I was SO EXCITED when I woke up to the DM explosion, and am really stoked to help you get everything all set up if needed! The facelift really helped reignite a spark in me, and given my health issues this year… it was nice to feel some joy again.
Thanks for using my affiliate link, love!
Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says
Another great post, Kaleena! I ended up going with BlueHost when I went self hosted, but I’ve heard amazing things about SiteGround! I probably would’ve gone with them, if I had known they would handle the migration for me! The deciding factor for me to use my current host, was the service I was offered to have the migration handled. Haha! I use just about all the same plugins as you do, but I never heard of Elementor! I’ll definitely have to download that one! <3
I have heard great things about BlueHost and I am hoping it is working out for you! Elementor is a really cool plugin, I’ve been enjoying playing with it!
Kayla @ Books and Blends says
I really want to try this but I’m so scared to do it on my own!
Don’t be scared, it isn’t as freaky as it seems in our heads! And I will help you with the move if you want (I am helping Destiny too!).
Kayla @ Books and Blends says
You know I love you right?
And I love you!
Kayla @ Books and Blends says
AHH, my heart can’t handle it!
That’s an awesome post, Kaleena. I am sure it will help many out there. I started my blog as a self-hosted so never found the hassle of transferring or anything. A part of my job is a web developer so I knew the benefits. I chose Bluehost as my hosting as it was within my budget and had good recommendations. I am really happy with them.
You included so much things here. I can’t even imagine the amount of work it needed. I am definitely looking forward to the SEO post 🙂
Thank you so much, Sim! I’ve herd great things about BlueHost, I probably would have gone with them had Christine not recommended SiteGround so highly. Part of me wish I started with self-hosted, but I wasn’t sure that I was going to stick with blogging and didn’t want to invest $ up front.