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How to Move From WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Updated on March 6, 2017
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Melanie has been blogging since 2007 and has used WordPress, Blogger, and HubPages extensively.

WordPress.com is an amazing place to get started in blogging. You can get a blog up and running at no cost and get your message out onto the Internet. However, it's easy to outgrow a WordPress.com blog. When this happens, it's time to move to WordPress.org.

Why WordPress.org is The Bees Knees

WordPress.org blogs are self-hosted (that is, WordPress.com doesn't take care of the hosting for you), but you have considerably more control over your blog. With WordPress.org you can show ads, have full control over your theme, and upload plug-ins to completely customize your blog.

If you want to move up the ladder from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.org, you probably want to know the best way to go about it. Hey, you're in the right place. Here's how to git r done.

Set up a Self-hosted WordPress Blog

There are a couple of things you'll need to do regardless of whether you're starting completely fresh (folks without blogs) on WordPress.org or making the switch from .com to .org:
If you don't already have a domain name, you'll need one of those. You'll also need to get hosting, configure your nameservers, and install WordPress.

Sound overwhelming?

Don't worry, I wrote a step-by-step guide (with lots of pictures) on how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog that you'll want to check out. Don't worry, the guide will open in another window. Complete those steps and then come back over here for a step-by-step guide on data migration (moving all your stuff.)

Installing a Theme

The move to WordPress.org gives you an opportunity to use an enormously awesome variety of plug-ins and themes. However, when you're first making the move, all these can be a little bit like culture shock.

I recommend installing the same (or similar) theme you had before making the switch, just to get nicely moved in. Then, of course, you can move from there. You can search in the repertoire of WordPress themes or purchase a theme from a 3rd party theme developer.

Installation of themes in WordPress.org is a little different from .com. Unfortunately, you can't just hit an "activate theme" button to get the job done. Instead, you have to install themes before activating (although a few default themes come pre-packaged with WordPress. They're pretty boring unless you do some super customization, but will do the trick in a bind.)

Appearance then Themes
Appearance then Themes
Installing a theme via the WordPress Theme Directory
Installing a theme via the WordPress Theme Directory

To install a new theme, go to Appearance, then Themes.
This will take you to your Themes panel. Once there, click "Add New" at the top of the page.

You can either upload themes you've downloaded from a 3rd party or search for themes in the WordPress theme directory and hit the install button on any theme(s) you like.

As with a Wordpress.com blog, you need to activate your theme before it goes live on your blog. You can hit the "activate" button on the screen that pops up after installation or by browsing your installed themes on your Themes panel.

Settings then Permalinks
Settings then Permalinks

Setting Up Permalinks

You'll want to set up your permalinks in your .org installation before you migrate your blog. In order to do this, click "Settings" then "Permalinks."

If you've had your own personalized domain name attached to your blog for some time now, you'll want select "Day & Name" as your setting to (likely) avoid having to set up 301 redirects.

Personally, I like "Month & Name", it's ever-so-slightly less obnoxious than "Day & Name", but is still descriptive about your content. Don't select "default" or "numeric" because they're not great for SEO, because they're just numbers... it doesn't give you URLs that describe your content. Do NOT use "Post Name." It can cause some pretty serious structural issues and, of course, this.

Tools then Export
Tools then Export

Data Migration: Moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Yay, it's moving day! More importantly, you've made it to the exciting part where you'll breathe life into your new blog!

The first thing you'll need to do is export your old blog. To do this, click "Tools", then "Export." Once there, you'll see two options: Guided Transfer and Export. You can do a Guided Transfer which is essentially the folks at WordPress (they call them Happiness Engineers) will move your blog for you as covered in my post "How WordPress Makes Money" OR you can engineer your own happiness and export it yourself.

Click "Export."

You'll be asked what you want to export. I recommend selecting "All Content." If later you decide that you don't want your old pages on your new blog, you can just delete them.

Click "Download Export File" and an XML file will be saved to your computer. You'll be using this in the next step, but it's a really good idea to keep it forever (or at least until you're happy with everything in your new blog) in case something happens.

Exporting "all content" will make you have everything you need.
Exporting "all content" will make you have everything you need.

Now you're ready to move everything in. Head over to your new blog and click "Tools", then "Import." You'll be taken to a list of various importers. Select "WordPress" to install the WordPress Importer plug-in. Click "Install now" on the window that pops up. Once it's installed, click "Activate Plugin and Run Importer."

Here you'll select a file (that XML file you downloaded earlier) and click "Upload file and Import." On the next page, you'll be asked to select an import author. Essentially this is asking what name you would like listed as the author for all the posts you're importing. For example, I choose "melanie" for mine.

Select the author for your imported content.
Select the author for your imported content.

You'll want to select "Download and important file attachments" before hitting submit. This imports all your attachments (such as photos.)

Tying Up The Loose Ends

Voilà! You've imported your blog. But unfortunately, that's not the end of it. There are a few bits and pieces you'll have to put together before your new blog is oh-so-very you.

You'll need to get plug-ins to make your blog fancy and if your URLs aren't the same as before, you'll want to install a plug-in that will handle your 301 redirects. This isn't a requirement, but it will make sure all the SEO link juice you've collected passes through to your new blog.

© 2017 Melanie

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