Why (and How) I changed from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Migrating a site is a huge pain. Migrating a site is an especially huge pain if you know absolutely nothing about how to do it. When I started my blog in September 2016, I wanted a hosting service that made blogging as smooth as possible. I paid for a premium WordPress.com account, and things were all clear from there (or so I thought).

What’s so important about being self-hosted?

This really depends on the type of blog you want to create. If you want a place to put out your words, and could care less about site design, a free WordPress.com account or Medium will probably get you what you want. However, if you care about site appearance, controlling the full user experience, and having the option to monetize your blog, then self-hosting is the way to go. With WordPress.com, I was able to get my site to look the way I wanted, but I couldn’t make important changes that I knew where important for engaging my audience.
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Why I decided to leave WordPress.com

I knew I wanted more flexibility and control with my site’s appearance. I did like the functionality of WordPress; it allowed me to focus entirely on putting out content. That’s important, especially for new bloggers. However, I got very frustrated with the lack of control I had over my own site. I wanted detailed stats, I wanted to tweak my theme, and I wanted access to more plugins.

I’m now self-hosted through Bluehost. For less than $4 a month, you get so much more flexibility in building your site. If you sign up with my affiliate link, you’ll get that lower rate as well. I was paying $8.25 a month for WordPress.com’s Premium plan, which allowed some flexibility, but didn’t give me things I deemed necessary, like Google Analytics tracking.

Why is Google Analytics so important? It’s an industry standard for tracking web traffic. WordPress’ Jetpack plugin does provide useful information, but it’s not nearly as comprehensive. I use GA regularly at work, so I knew what I was missing out on. There were plenty of other plugins I wanted access to as well, so I could build a newsletter (without needing to fork over more cash) and add other plugins that were not included in my Premium WordPress plan.

What was the migration process like?

Complicated. Signing up for Bluehost was easy. I selected an account, made a plan, and forked over the money. Migrating domain ownership was the most annoying part. I had originally registered my domain with WordPress when I made an account there; with Bluehost as my new domain host, I had to move things over which took over a week—much longer than expected.

During the migration process, I had multiple browser tabs open to WPBeginner at the same time. It’s one of the best WordPress resources out there to deal with any migration problems you’re dealing with.

You know who else was super helpful? Twitter. Talking to fellow bloggers like Zero Day Finance and Debt Free Geek made me really realize just how little I knew about my blog’s backend.

WordPress.com does offer a service where one of their technicians can help migrate all of your content onto the new hosting service. It’s a one-time fee, but at a hefty price. I’d only recommend that if your site is already monetized and there are a lot of things to move over that you’re not familiar with. Even so, it’s much better (not to mention a good learning experience) to just muck through the process yourself.

Once I figured out how to move my domain over, things were pretty straightforward. I uploaded all of my content with one giant file and picked up where I had left off.

Using Bluehost for the technically challenged

The best part about using Bluehost is that there are a ton of free resources available online if you encounter any problems. Endurance page caching issues, bandwidth issues with uploading new content; step-by-step instructions are a quick google search away.

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Functionally, nothing. I’m still using WordPress software and overall the user experience of running my blog hasn’t changed. However, there’s a world of difference between the two in terms of what’s available for free vs at an additional cost.

There’s still so much I don’t know about running a website. (AKA Lessons Learned)

In fact, I know very little. As I continue to figure out what I want my site to look like and what functionality should be available, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a continual process.

  • If you’re expecting to have a perfect migration, don’t.

Something will inevitably go wrong. Proper planning will reduce the severity of any mishaps. Also, if you’re like me, and you don’t have a clear picture of what you want, prepare for some awkwardness as you play around with features you don’t fully understand. So long as your followers can still reach your content though, you’re good.

  • Have a buffer for moving everything over; it doesn’t happen instantly.

Originally, I was going to wait until my WordPress Premium plan ran out, to maximize every dollar I had put into the site. However, I was so anxious to set up Google Analytics that by the time May rolled around, I couldn’t wait any longer. One of the best things about the delay in domain transfer was that I had a few extra days to play around with my new site and theme before it went live. Nobody wants to know what it looked like at first; it was just really, really bad.

  • Get tech help, in the form of a real, live, human.

Nothing beats having an extra hand from someone who can read and understand computer errors. I’m so grateful that Ian knew what he was doing. When I couldn’t upload all my historical blog content, Ian was the one who followed the step-by-step instructions to tweak my PHP files and get everything working. Would I have been able to fix it eventually? Yes. Would I have been able to fix it in an hour? Definitely not.

  • Nothing is permanent.

I’ve made tweaks that I thought were great for the site, only to receive terrible feedback. Not everything you change will be a good idea. Also, if you’re like me, there are only so many hours in a week that can be dedicated to improving your site. Take a chill pill, and don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s one thing to have an ugly comment button (thankfully that’s fixed); it’s another to have an error that doesn’t allow someone to comment at all. Even so, bugs can be fixed and changes rolled out. The most important thing is to not get too worked up about it.

 

Has anyone else gone through a migration and lived to tell the tale? My migration experience wasn’t terrible, but it definitely could’ve been better. I’d love to hear other people’s experiences on the topic.

Comments

  1. A blog migrations sounds absolutely HEINOUS. I’m glad I started on WordPress.org, but I’ve had practice with other blogs. I saw you were migrating a while ago, but I haven’t noticed any kinks or anything, so I’d say it’s been a success!

    Which GA metrics do you think are most important? Should bloggers be setting any goals within the tool? I have JetPack, too, but I never activated it. I always use GA for some reason.

    1. Author

      High-level, I pay attention to pageviews/session and sessions/user, as a measure of engagement and loyalty. Jetpack doesn’t distinguish between sessions and users, which is annoying.

      My next step is to start using UTMs across all my sharing links, so I have a more accurate view of where my traffic is coming from. GA is pretty good about guessing for the most part, but UTMs will allow me to test different social packages without having to pay anyone else to do it.

      That’s my goal, at least. It’s not hard to do, but does require time to set up.

  2. Eesh that doesn’t sound good. I think some bloggers are moving to site ground and I’m wondering how that transfer would go down. I’m happy I started on BH off the get-go because I wouldn’t have figured it out.

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