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Last weekend I went self-hosted.
Having put it off for months as I was worried it would be complicated, and believing that I’d lose my followers and my historical stats, I was pleasantly surprised at how straight forward it was.
So, I thought it might be useful to write my own step-by-step guide to the process, from the perspective of a reasonably tech savvy individual, but one who still understands very little about how domains and websites work!
I would recommend reading the Tots100 ‘Back to School’ guides on going self-hosted and must-have plug-ins. I read them before I began, and they were a good starting point. However, I did feel (after completing the process) that there were a couple of useful pointers missing.
A few things to note before I start:
I was a wordpress.com user, so this post is written from that perspective. I’d imagine the process is similar for blogger, but I suspect there are some extra steps required along the way.
I hadn’t yet registered my own domain.
I am not an expert, this is simply an outline of what I did!
My step-by-step guide
1. Choose your hosting company. After speaking to a few people on Twitter, tsohost was recommended. On the basis that I knew little and they knew more, I took the recommendation. But, there are obviously many hosting companies out there and I cannot recommend one over another. Suffice to say I have been impressed with speed of response to queries etc. so far.
2. Register your domain name
I registered mumturnedmom.com with my hosting company. You don’t have to do this, you can register your domain elsewhere, but it makes the process easier if you register it through your hosting company. This cost £8.99 for a year.
3. Choose your hosting package
I went for a Standard Hosting package at £2.99 a month (paying £34.99 for the year).
4. Follow the steps sent to you in your Welcome email from your hosting company
The next steps are specific to tsohost.
a. Once I had received confirmation that my domain had been registered and my hosting account set up I logged into my Cloud Hosting Platform (all the links, log in details and instructions were sent in the welcome email);
b. I changed the password for my account via the Manage Account tab;
c. I added my domain to my hosting account via the Add New Website tab;
d. I then installed my blogging software, WordPress, via the Manage Websites tab: in this tab select ‘manage website‘ and then ‘install applications‘. Follow the instructions given on screen; for example you will need to change the login password (you will be assigned a user name). You will now be logged into your new wp-admin area.
Tip: when installing WP it asks for a folder name to install the application into. The first time I installed it I put it in a folder called wp, what this meant was that my ‘homepage’ for the new blog became mumturnedmom.com/wp not mumturnedmom.com… Don’t assign WordPress a folder! I had to uninstall and reinstall it.
5. Stay logged into your new WordPress blog admin
At this point, for wordpress.com users, everything looks exactly as you are used to: you are now logged into your new wp-admin area and you will see your Dashboard and all other functions (plus some new ones), in the same screen as before! This was a huge relief to me :) (note: if you also use the iPad app for WordPress you can add your new site to this and continue using it as before).
6. Export your old site
Log into your old WordPress account. Once logged into your old blog admin, you will need to Export your site (this also provides you with a back up of your old site, although it doesn’t have an actual copy of your image files). Under tools select export. Choose to export all content. This will create an XML document. Save this file.
7. Create a new user with your existing user name
Select users then add new and fill in the details, remembering to set them as an admin. This allowed me to retain my previous user details (albeit with a new password), one less new thing to remember! It also allows you to import your posts to your existing author name. (You do get the option to create a new user during the import, but it didn’t seem to work when I tried, so I went back and created the user before beginning the import again).
8. Import your old blog to your new site
Go back to your new blog admin. Now you need to Import your old blog. Under tools select import. Select the system you are importing from, in this case WordPress. When you select this it will install the WordPress importer. Once this is done you can import your XML file. Select upload file and import. Then, select an author, tick download attachments and submit.
At this point I needed to kick the import off again several times – I have a lot of media files and it seemed to import a certain number and then just stop. But, all I had to do was start a new import of the same file, it recognised which images were already imported and started again where it had left off. Once all the images had imported the posts and comments took no time at all. You can now check that everything is there (by going into post, comments and media library in your admin screen); you should have the same number of images, posts and comments as on your old site.
9. Select your theme
Go to themes. My new blog defaulted to the WP 2014 theme. 2014, plus 2012 and 2013, are already installed for use. So, I selected 2012 as this was the theme I used on my old blog. Now, this is where it starts to get a bit different from what existing WP users will be used to. You search for themes a little differently, so if you want to find a new/different theme straight away you need to select add new and then search. At this point you’re on your own for the time being, but I am planning to play around with themes, now that I can, so I will write about that later :)
10. Install plug-ins
This is the point where we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore! Now that you are self-hosted you install plug-ins to do all sorts of clever things. I’m just starting to get my head around them (and haven’t installed many), but the one thing I know is that you need to install Jetpack. Jetpack allows you to do most of things that you are used to doing within WordPress. It does your notifications, your comments, your stats, publicize, sharing, likes etc. But, most importantly for your next step, it manages your subscriptions. Go to plugins select installed plugins and activate Jetpack. You will need to configure it, but that is straightforward and easy to follow. You can choose which modules to activate, and then configure each of these (the configuration screens are familiar wp-admin forms).
11. Transfer your followers and email subscribers
Thanks to Mary at Over 40 and a Mum to One I already knew that this was possible, you just need to find the right forum on WordPress! So here’s the link that explains what you should do, note the Jetpack Subscriptions requirement (note: at the time of going to press the support forums were very busy and limiting queries to upgraded users). I was really impressed with WordPress here: I logged a query on the forum and within a day my followers had been moved to the new blog. They also offered to merge my stats… now my new blog has all my historical stat information associated with it. So you can ask them to do this too!
12. Optional: If you use Bloglovin’; change your URL
You cannot change the URL associated with your blog on Bloglovin’ yourself, but you can ask them to do it for you (this is for security reasons). The instructions are here. I contacted support in the evening and by the following morning the transfer had been done and all my followers moved.
13. Redirect your old site to your new site
To do this the permalink structure on the two blogs needs to match (the permalink is the full URL for your blog posts). So, although I wanted to simplify the permalink structure on my new site, I have chosen to keep it as it was on the old site for at least the next few months. Modifying the overarching permalink structure is a new option on your self-hosted site. Go to settings and select permalinks and then choose the option that matches what you had on your old site. Then, go back to the blog admin for your old site and select store and select store then select site redirect. Follow the instructions, they are very straightforward, although do make sure you include the forward slash at the end of the URL you want to redirect to… (e.g. mumturnedmom.com/). This cost me $13 (about £8) for a year.
14. Start playing with your new site!
You will need to put all your widgets back into your sidebar (if you use them), they don’t transfer. But, you can copy and paste the code from your old blog widgets into your new widgets (these are found under appearance then widgets). Then you can really start to have a play around with themes and the look of your site. I’m just starting to do this, but I’ll keep you posted on how I get on with CSS etc. now that I can play with it (although this still scares me a bit!).
I hope the above is helpful. Please remember that it is written from the perspective of a free wordpress.com user transferring to a self-hosted WordPress site.
Please let me know if I’ve missed anything out, or if something isn’t clear in the comments!
Have fun, and good luck :)