WordPress Migration: Moving your Blog from Free to Hosted, Part 1

January 22, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Software, Web Apps, Web Design | 6 Comments

Part 1 of 4
Many bloggers start out using a free blog service, then migrate to a hosted service after they’ve gotten into the swing of it or tested their market. When it’s time to go pro, it’s time to go paid.

WordPress (WP) is the dominant player. WP comes in 2 versions. This difference is key as you have to go to the right site for the right support. The communities are also quite distinctly different. WordPress.com is the free blog hosting service. WordPress.org is the source for hosting your own WP-based site. It is the platform of choice for millions of blogs and web sites because so much of the design and feature set can be built and managed with widely available themes and plug-ins. It’s modular – like web site by Lego.

There is still a learning curve to managing your own blog, depending on how custom and sophisticated you want to go. But it’s nothing like learning Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS, PHP, Ajax, and Javascript. With a little time and experimentation on your part, you can have a professional web site at a very modest cost, mostly by checking boxes, clicking buttons, and following directions.

This is an article about migrating from WP.com to a WP.org hosted blog, derived from my own experience migrating my other blog. I also draw on the experience of many others. Migrating from Blogger or other platforms is similar but the Export and Import steps are a little different. Key resources for the process I used are at the end of this article.

Prep
Before beginning, you want to prepare. Do some research. What is the purpose of your site? Who is your market/ readership? What features will you need to support them? This will inform your choices as you go along. These questions may have different answers than they did when you started your free blog.

Is this a graphical site, for an artist or photographer? Is it magazine style? Clean and professional? A writer or journalists? What is your colour scheme? Your own style and approach will determine the style of the theme you’ll be looking for.

Make a list of the features you’d like. Make a list of the fixed Pages you’ll want: the web site around the blog. Do you want a Home page? Contact and About pages are common. This site has some colour tables (tabs above). Note that your old blogs fixed pages are normally imported as well. They’ll get renamed if you added matching ones to the new site prior. Plan the general layout of the banner, columns, sidebar, and tabs or menu to access those pages. Bookmark web sites like that. Do they show the theme name at the bottom?  Browse WP theme sites for styles you like. (see links in Step 3) Some allow you to change colours or layout.

A note on Branding – you want a site name, domain name, and logo or icon that align to your brand – be it your company, personal or site-specific name. If they don’t align, it’s confusing and hard to remember.

You can use the default banner of the theme you choose but your site will look much better if you design a custom banner with your icon and tagline. An icon can be as simple as your name in a certain font and colour.

WordPress does allow you to change your mind many times: change the theme and the look changes completely. But it’s better to get these choices made before you launch so you don’t confuse people.

Begin drafting updated content for your fixed Pages, as required. Start a spreadsheet or text file to collect the key links and passwords from suppliers that you’ll need to reference over time. Save those “Welcome” emails from suppliers too. They often have key links or numbers you’ll need.

You may also want to print out (to PDF) the stats from your old site. That is left behind.

When you’re ready, let’s get underway.

1) Domain
Find a suitable domain name. This is the name you’ll go by. Hopefully, it’s easy enough to remember and type. And it ties in with your brand. If you find something suitable, park (reserve) the domain. Or set it up to point to your old blog until you’re ready*. Don’t leave it for later or you can lose that choice. I explore more details about choosing a domain and the structure of domains here.

*a virtual domain is pointed to a web address, like your old blogs URL. A true domain points to a server IP address. The good registrars support both for no extra cost.

Many people get their domain at their blog host (Step 2 below). Some hosts include the domain cost in your hosting fee. This is also simpler. More sophisticated users may prefer managing their domains at a separate registrar. If you’re uncertain of the host, having a separate Registrar can simplify migration if necessary.

Registrar choices include sites like EasyDNS and  Register.com. Check on-line reviews. You are not limited to .com domains but do understand what the extension (TLD) means before you launch it to the world. .org, for example, implies non-profit.

Email
Also, you’ll want to set up email accounts at your new domain for your new site. The WP setup process will ask for them. contact@, info@, author@, shop@, etc. as required. They can be set to forward to your usual email account but it’s useful and professional to have domain-based accounts for you site.

For those accounts you expect to use on other sites and for commenting on your own site (your User email), go to Gravatar.com and create a gravatar for them. Use your site icon so your logo follows you. Or your picture. Quality comments on related blogs can be a great driver of new readers. Don’t mess that up by looking amateur.

2) Your Blog Host
Who will provide you server space and a network connection for your site? Host reviews have been around forever but some are old or biased, even paid. Use of cPanel is a good choice for ease of site management. I discuss some of the things to watch for here.

I can recommend:
TRK Hosting – smaller, recommended by a tech expert, I’ve happily used them for clients.

I can also note that many of the “top” web hosts in reviews these days I would not recommend. Quite a few have been bought up by EIG [the link used to list the companies but thats been deleted] which is followed by reports of long down-times and deteriorating service. GoDaddy is non-standard and problematic for some blogs. Some avoid them for ethical reasons. Also note that cheap isn’t always your best choice for your professional on-line presence. You want value rather than flaky.

3) Theme
What features do you want? How do you want your site to look? How much custom control of the look do you want? Some themes now are whole design packages. Some are single layout and colour schemes. And many are somewhere in the middle – a single theme, but with a range of customization.

Browse web sites and try the live demos out.
Here’s a few I explored more:
Elegant Themes       Woo Themes

WordPress Themes     DIY Themes

ThemeHybrid     This site discusses free vs paid themes and things to watch for.

I ended up going with Cryout’s Mantra theme. It has a large range of customization options.

Find the theme you want and purchase (if needed) and download it.

Banner
At this point, you may want to make note of the required banner size and start designing your banner. Each theme can be different. Here’s an article with links to several programs with tutorials that can help you do that. And here’s an article with tips on choosing a legal image. Just keep in mind it’s not just about a nice image but tying that to your long-term brand.
David

Part 2 – Setup >
Part 3 – Customize >
Part 4 – Final >

6 Comments »

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  1. […] < Part 1 Part 2 – Setup 4) Setup This step will depend a little on your host. With easyPress, the blog is installed and secured for you when ordered so you can skip this step. With some cPanel sites, they have a one-click install. Molly runs through a BlueHost install here (see Part 1)*. Other hosts may require you to download the installer from WordPress.org and do the server install yourself – see WP.org for the Manual install. It’s not difficult. […]

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  2. […] < Part 1 – Prep < Part 2 – Setup < Part 3 – Customization […]

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  3. On the host choice, you may find reviewing this free ebook useful for things to watch for. It’s prepared by a WordPress developer who does ebooks for customer support. I use their ecommerce solution and the book does talk about their site backup software.
    http://ithemes.com/publishing/how-to-pick-web-hosting-without-a-computer-science-degree/

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  4. […] you need a site. Your best choice long-term is a free WordPress.com blog. This can easily be migrated to a hosted site later if you decide to grow your presence. And it doesn’t have to be a blog. […]

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  5. Here’s a WordPress Launch checklist. It’s rather more thorough than you may need but a review may help for your planning.

    https://ithemes.com/publishing/the-essential-wordpress-website-launch-checklist/

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  6. easyPress has ceased business. After some research, I migrated to webnames.ca
    They resolved an unexpected migration problem.

    These are both Canadian hosts.

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