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Making the Switch: Moving to a Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

I am by no means an expert on computers. I am pretty good with them and I can move between a Mac and PC with ease, but there is still a lot I do not (or care to!) know. When I decided to move my blog to a self- hosted platform, I had no idea how frustrating the process would be.

I am hoping that this post can help those who are thinking about switching from a hosted blog to a self- hosted. I can only speak of my experience of switching from a blog posted on WordPress.com to the WordPress.org platform, however there are many resources about switching from Blogger to WordPress and vise versa on Google.

These tips are compiled through my observations, readings, and countless notes I made during the switch. I hope they help and you enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment! :)

Starting Out:

1) If you have the money, I STRONGLY urge you to use a professional. These services will cost you a little more, but they will save you a lot of aggravation. I did not have the money to pay for one of these services this time around, but I definitely did a lot of research. I was most impressed with Revive My Blog and Adjacent Concepts, LLC.

2) If you do not have the money to spend on these services, go stock up on coffee and purchase a comfy set of PJ’s. Trust me, you are going to thank me later. ;)

3) Decide if you want to keep your current blog name. I toyed around with the idea of changing the entire name of my blog, but decided against it. Right now, The Singing Runner describes me best at this point in my life. Eventually my blog name will probably change (i.e.- The Inner Workings of a College Graduate later became Meals and Miles), but right now, I like the name and want to keep it.

4) Consider buying a self- help book. If you are moving to the WordPress platform, I highly recommend WordPress for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson. It is full of great tips and offers help moving from another platform (like Blogger) to WordPress. You will not read the book cover-to-cover, but you will refer to it frequently.

Purchasing your Domain and Looking for a Web-Host:

5) Look for a Web-Host. I found the WordPress.org site very helpful throughout this entire process. WordPress recommends the following four web-hosts: Bluehost, DreamHost, MediaTemple, and LaughingSquid. I researched these four and others, but felt that Bluehost offered the most bang for my buck. It is all a matter of preference and how much you want to spend a month on hosting services. Be sure to look for web hosts that offer customer support, high (or unlimited) disk storage, and high (or unlimited) bandwidth. Google reviews on the companies. Every company will have rave and not- so- good reviews. Take these reviews with a grain of salt.

6) Choose a domain name and register it. Many Web-hosts will throw in free domain registration but make sure to check the fine print. Some of these companies will not allow you to have free reign on your domain and will have limitations in place. I actually chose to purchase my domain for three years through Network Solutions.  If you are purchasing yourdomainname.com, you may want to consider purchasing the .net, .org, and .us versions too and revert all the traffic to your .com domain. It is more money, but it ensures that others don’t try and purchase a domain name similar to yours and confuse your readers. Another thing I STRONGLY recommend is purchasing Private Registration. This ensures that your private information is not listed in the WHOIS Database.

7) Register with a Web-Host. Now that you have your domain purchased, go ahead and purchase your web-host. I recommend purchasing at least a two-year plan, since search engines like to see that you are intending on sticking around for a while. I purchased a two-year plan through Bluehost and can renew the hosting service at a later date, or move to a new host.

Setting Up Your New Site:

8 ) Don’t revert traffic to your new site yet! Still update your old site, but let people know that you have a new site coming! This gives you the chance to create buzz about the new site, but does not create unwanted traffic to your new site.

9) Download the WordPress software. (The remainder of this post is going to focus on the WordPress platform.) A lot of web-hosts have a 1-click installation of many popular blogging platforms. Initially I had issues with the 1-click installation and actually had to uninstall and reinstall three or four times. I finally got it to work, but was considering doing a manual install. If your web host does not have the 1-click installation, please refer to this link about manually installing WordPress onto your site.

10) Reverting your DNS and set up your SQL. If you purchased your domain through your web-host you can skip this. If you did not like me, you are going to have to revert your DNS (Domain Name System) to your web-host. It is quick and easy, but it can take up to 48 hours for the system to recognize the change. So BE PATIENT! I was not patient, which caused a lot of frustration and WordPress logging me out numerous times. I repeat, be patient! I saw this page too many times:

Do it before going to bed and when you wake up in the morning, you should be in good shape.  Follow your web-host instructions on how to revert the DNS and how to set up your SQL (Structured Query Language).

11) Find a WordPress Theme. The beauty of WordPress.org is the ability to have a custom layout. With WordPress.com, you are stuck within the limitations of the gallery and cannot change the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) without paying for an upgrade. With WordPress.org, you can change the CSS and can use custom layouts. I ultimately decided to go with The Clear Line Theme, but I made a LOT of changes to the CSS to make it my own. Once you find a theme you like, save the zip file and upload it to your site.

12) Download Plugins. Another great thing about the WordPress.org platform is the ability to have Plugins. Here’s a list of the most essential Plugins (in my opinion).

13) Backup your files from your old site and import them onto your new. If you are moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, refer to this link. It breaks it down and makes the process pretty simple. If you are moving from another platform to WordPress, a simple Google search should be able to provide you with some extra help! The import process should be fairly simple, but depending on how many posts and media (photos, videos, etc) you have on your site, it can take awhile. The entire import process for me took around two hours due to the amount of photos I had (over 1,000 in 2.5 months of blogging!). I believe you can import your files using a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Client, but I did not do this personally so I cannot personally offer you any advice.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that your Permalink settings are the same for BOTH sites! For example I use the Day and name setting: http://www.thesingingrunner.com/2011/01/01/sample-post/. If the settings are not the same for the transfer, you may be in for some trouble!

14) Experiment and have fun making changes. This is where the fun (and aggravation) comes into play.  This is also one of the most time consuming steps. It took me over 40 hours to finally get to a place where I liked the layout of my site. It was a lot of guessing, Google searches, and playing around with fonts (I highly recommend TypePad), colors, and columns. My best advice here is to look at some of your favorite blogs for inspiration and use (but not COPY!) aspects of their design in your own. During this time, make sure you take a break! Go out for a run, watch a movie, bake some cookies- do SOMETHING to get away from the computer for a while. As tempting as it is to keep slaving in front of the computer for hours on end, your brain needs a break after awhile.

15) Redirect search engines to your new site. You can purchase this upgrade through WordPress.com if you blog was previously there. It uses a 301 Redirect (permanent) and for $12 a year, it is not a bad deal. There are other ways to do it through html, but the option is yours.

16) Have fun with your new site. Celebrate and have fun! Congratulations! You made it! :)

Other odds and ends:

When in doubt, use Google. It really is your best friend. Chances are if you are having difficulties doing something, others have had the same problem!

Moving to a self-hosted site is rewarding and a great way to further connect with your viewers. However, be warned that it does cost money!!! Make sure this is something you want to commit to!

There are many things I did not go into full detail on this post. There are so many other topics I could have gone into such as Google Analytics, Site Meter, SEO, TypePad, etc. Perhaps I will do a follow up post in the future to address more topics! ;)  I wanted to provide a general overview of the experience, so if you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment or E-mail me. I will try to answer your question to the best of my knowledge. :D

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5 Responses to Making the Switch: Moving to a Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

  1. Great post Katy! Blogging’s not all fun and games people! Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

  2. What a grea post! Very informative, I’m saving it so that I can refer when I decide to make the switch :)

  3. very nice writeup.

    Making the move is tough. Confusing. Frustrating. Worth it :)

    I hired Seth from Boy Meets Food and he did all the work for me. He was fantastic. Now, I’m working on getting a new theme and tweaking it more! If I could just find that pesky thing called time…

  4. This was so helpful, you have no idea. I’m currently picking out a theme. One question though, when you export from your old site (wordpress.com for me), does it all disappear? I’m debating when to do this: right after I pick a theme, or after I make tons of changes to it. I would appreciate any advice!!

  5. [...] and getting my own domain. The best advice I can give you if you’re considering this is to check out The Singing Runner’s breakdown of her switch. She did it all herself, and her blog is phenomenal. I’m actually really lucky because I have a [...]

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