A Non-technical Guide to Moving Your Blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

(Featured image photo credit: Bench Accounting on StockSnap.io)

When I first decided to create a blog, I was aware of WordPress.org. But I was too afraid to go near it – I heard that there would be steep learning curves and that it would require some serious technical knowledge to set it all up. As much as I love technology (and I even work in the technology sector), my brain wasn’t ready to cope with anything new and difficult back then. All I wanted to focus on was creating great content for my new blog. If I knew that it wouldn’t actually be that difficult or technical to set up, I would have opted for WordPress.org to begin with.

Why I switched away from WordPress.com

Like many beginner bloggers, I decided to start my blog on WordPress.com. I read that many other bloggers were using WordPress, the CMS was free to use, and it looked like it had an easy, modern user interface. However, once I was set up and going with WordPress.com, I kept coming across one roadblock after another until I finally decided to move on from it.

I knew that getting set up with Google Analytics (GA) was very important for my blog. I needed to stay informed of who was visiting my site and how users were interacting online. But on the ‘free’ plan, WordPress.com refused to connect my blog with GA unless I agreed to cough up $299 per year. I tried my hardest to hack around it. One of my attempts was to add my GA tracking code into a HTML widget on my blog, but nothing worked. After a couple more various hacking attempts, I gave up and decided to settle for the basic site stats that WordPress.com offered me.

(Since I wrote this post, I’ve checked my Google Analytics account, and it appears to be miraculously working now! However, I couldn’t tell you what has made it work because GA definitely couldn’t recognise my WordPress.com blog before.)

But WordPress.com threw something else at me that drove me up the wall. It refused to let me have Google AdSense as well.

I’m going to be honest with you – I hope to build an amazing blog that has a large readership base one day so that I can monetise it and eventually be able to write full-time without needing a day job. I knew that one of the key products that I needed for my money-maker was Google Ads. However, it turned out that WordPress.com has their own ad scheme, and it wouldn’t let me work with any others.

wordads-blurb-screenshot

In fact, I came across this rule that was buried in one of WordPress’ support pages:

wordpress-ad-rules

By this point, I was mortified at the amount of restrictions that WordPress.com had. I realised that I was never going to be able to grow my blog the way I wanted to, and I wasn’t planning on throwing my $300 at WordPress.com anytime soon.

‘Just focus on building your blog content’, I told myself, ‘Stop getting distracted by these admin issues.’ Actually, that was my partner telling me off in the background.

“Stop focusing on things that don’t directly relate to your writing.”, he scolded me.

He was right – I was procrastinating yet again. I needed to ignore all the feature limitations on WordPress.com and just get on with writing.

However, it finally came to my last straw when I tried to schedule a blog post. I had just finished writing my blog post on how to stay energised at work. I was pleased with my final version and decided to schedule it to publish at 8am the following morning. On my way to work the next morning, I decided to take a quick sneak look at my post. It was looking good so far. Both the featured image and the blog post title assured me that my new post had successfully published. I chose to view my post in more detail to quickly check for any spelling or grammar mistakes. I was mortified with what I found. Half of my work had vanished! All of the new content and edits I added the previous night had just disappeared into a virtual black hole and the unfinished edit of my blog post was staring back at me. As soon as my brain processed the situation, I quickly set the post to private view and hoped that no one had seen my horrifying, unfinished post.

‘How did this happen?’, I thought to myself, ‘Curse you, WordPress! I knew you were no good!!!’

I went home that night and searched everywhere for a backup file of my blog post. However, it doomed on me that, for some unknown reason, I had decided it was OK to not back up the final version of my blog post anywhere. I had lost everything. This is when I grudgingly made the decision to finally move on from WordPress.com and find a better CMS. To this day, I still have no idea why all my work disappeared. It was very likely to have been user-error (i.e., my fault) but it gave me the push I needed to move on from WordPress.com.

Choosing a web host for WordPress.org

Before I settled on WordPress.org, I trialled a few different CMS: Weebly, Squarespace, and Blogger. But each of them had at least one flaw or lack of a feature that didn’t quite make the cut as my ‘perfect CMS’. This is when I realised that I needed to take the plunge to WordPress.org. I was finally ready to hurt my brain and endure the pain of revisiting everything I learnt about web development. However, it turned out that I didn’t need to.

(Disclaimer: My instructions in this blog post on getting set up with WordPress.org is heavily biassed towards GoDaddy users. If you’re not an existing GoDaddy user and you don’t plan on being one, I apologise that my guide won’t be much of a help to you. If you are currently using GoDaddy or would consider using it – read on!)

When I started reading WordPress.org’s set-up instructions, one of the first things I learnt was that I needed to choose a web host. I was already using GoDaddy to manage my domain names and was a fan of their easy-to-use user interface. So I decided to use them again to host my WordPress.org blog and I’d absolutely recommend them to anyone who’s not particularly tech-savvy.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that GoDaddy offered web hosting specifically for WordPress. I chose their Deluxe plan over the Basic plan, only because it offered ‘one-click staging site’. I assumed that this meant that I could just click a magical button once to transfer all my content from WordPress.com to my new WordPress.org blog. However, it turned out that this wasn’t the case for those moving from WordPress.com. So I would have been better off on their Basic plan anyway.

godaddy-hosting-plans-screenshot
GoDaddy’s WordPress hosting products

Once you’ve paid for your web hosting and land on its initial setup, make sure you opt in to use a temporary domain name. This helps you to see and set up your new WordPress site without having to wait for your proper domain name to get mapped completely.

Tip: I bookmarked my temporary domain name so that I could still build on my new blog until my own domain name got  hooked up.

What’s next?

From here, you can do one of the three tasks in no particular order:

  1. Transfer all your blog content from your old blog to your new WordPress.org blog,
  2. Explore your new CMS features, or
  3. Map your blog site to your proper domain name.

The first task I chose to do was to explore what features WordPress.org offered, and to check that I was happy with what I had just purchased. And yes, I was freakin’ happy! I had so much more features and options that I did in WordPress.com. My first instinct was to jump into the Themes options. I quickly settled into the free Twenty Fifteen theme. This theme was actually already available in the free version of WordPress.com, but now I could customise the theme exactly how I wanted to.

After playing around and exploring in WordPress.com, my next step was to copy all the content over from my old WordPress.com blog.

Transferring your blog content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Unfortunately, transferring my content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org was a slightly manual process. Fortunately, it was a very straight-forward process. Follow my step-by-step guide below to copy all your blog content over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Your first steps are to grab all your content from WordPress.com. To do this, click on the Portfolio option from the left-side menu of your WordPress.com blog:

portfolio-option-screenshot

This will take you to a different view of WordPress.com menu. Hover your mouse pointer over the Tool option, then click on the Export option:

export-option-screenshot

Once you’re on the Export page, click on the Start Export button:

export-page-screenshot

From there, choose All content and then click Download Export File. Save the XML file to a location where you can easily find it again (e.g., desktop).

Your next steps are to upload all your content into your new WordPress.org blog. Firstly, hover your mouse pointer over the Tool option from the left-side menu, then click Import:

import-option-screenshot

Click on the WordPress option, and then click on the Choose File button to select the XML file that you’ve just downloaded from WordPress.com. Click Upload file and import.

And that should do it! You will now have all your blog content from WordPress.com in your new WordPress.org blog.

Mapping your domain name

By this point, I had to map my blog to a proper domain name, as opposed to using a temporary domain name, to progress any further on my blog.

If you haven’t got your own domain name already – go get one! GoDaddy’s WordPress hosting products should each come with a free domain name. I already had a domain name that I was using for my WordPress.com blog, so I just had to map that to my WordPress.org’s blog. Just follow GoDaddy’s process and it should be relatively straight-forward.

Tip: Remember that your domain name mapping will take up to 72 hours to complete. I wasn’t aware of this at the time and completely freaked out when my domain name kept taking me back to my old WordPress.com site. Sometimes your router may not have refreshed itself to the new domain mapping yet (according to GoDaddy’s technician). This means that your site address might take you to the old site when you’re using your WiFi, but when you access your site using mobile data on your phone, it will direct you to your new site. Just give it up to a few days and your new site will come through. You might have to clear your browser cache as well (through your browser settings).


And there you have it, folks! Your own brand new WordPress.org blog site without any coding required.

Please let me know how you got on by adding a comment below.

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