Self-hosting without the aid of someone else was completely new to me a few years ago, and while I am still learning as I go, the transition, overall, was very simple and definitely something that you can do on your own (without paying someone to help and even do it for you)! In fact, I argue that you should do it yourself; doing it yourself will only enhance your website, as you’ll know exactly where to go when you want to make more complicated (or advanced) updates to your site in the future.
Before initiating the transfer to a self-hosted site, you need to make a few decisions. First (and maybe most important), decide if you’ll be keeping your website name (and URL) or creating a new one. I knew I wanted to change my site name—I could have just changed my WordPress user name, of course, but I also knew that as some point I would want to generate some revenue (for example, by adding Amazon links to the sidebar). I also wanted the flexibility to post dynamic html on my siderbar (for example, I wanted to link to Ellen‘s Etsy store, but wordpress.com doesn’t support the Etsy buttons I wanted to use to do her site justice). Pick the new name (or names) before beginning the process to self-hosting. I say set of names because it is possible that someone else had the same clever idea for a website as you, and you may have to make some changes/permutations to your name or accept a .me URL to get the name you want.
I reviewed the common sites (e.g. HostGator, Bluehost) that allow for both domain purchases and self-hosting, and after doing some research, I settled on Bluehost in large part because it claimed to be the easiest way to self-host a site using the WordPress platform. I’ve worked with HostGator in the past, and while I do not have negative things to say about the experience (I always found their support very helpful), Bluehost really sold me on how easy the process would be. Because Bluehost also allowed me to purchase my new domain name as a part of the sign-up process, this sealed the deal (Note: Bluehost also supports the transfer of a WordPress.com site to a self-hosted one if you are not changing your name. I believe that process is even easier than creating a new site). I also knew that I definitely wanted to stay with WordPress; I am not a fan of the blogger platform and tumblr is too amorphous for me. Plus, I’m familiar with WordPress and wanted to diminish the growing pains as much as possible.
Bluehost walked me through the entire initial new domain purchase: After selecting my new name and URL, I purchased my shiny new self-hosted website at Bluehost for a little over $30. I also paid monthly fee for self-hosting that was comparative with the other hosting platforms I reviewed (e.g. HostGator). From there, the steps for installing WordPress and getting the site up and running was fast and easy.
1. At this point, the process had been easy (i.e. Bluehost lived up to it’s claim), but I was a little apprehensive about how the wordpress installation would go. Luckily, Bluehost has a series of YouTube videos that literally walks you though the process of using the WordPress platform for your new website. I didn’t need the videos, though, because there is a link on the dashboard of your website that links you directly to the WordPress installation. I clicked on it, downloaded it, and saved a file with my username/password. It took about five minutes and was seriously so darn simple I wondered why I hadn’t done this before (note: I’m glad I didn’t, because then I would have had to do this twice, for each website name change).
Once WordPress is installed, the rest is easy. If you’ve been using WordPress.com, you’ll know how to select a theme except this time it’ll be way more fun because there are more theme and customization options for self-hosted sites. If you are new to WordPress, Bluehost has YouTube videos to walk through themes, posting, comments, etc. Either way, the creation and launching of the new site is very straightforward and amazingly simple. Bluehost for the win.
2. Because I had an established website, I needed to import the content. WordPress itself makes this really easy. I just clicked on the “tools” section of the WordPress dashboard from my old website (The Gluten-Free Treadmill) and exported the blog files (and saved the file). From the dashboard of the new site, I clicked on “tools” again, and imported that file. This took about two minutes, and all of my content was moved (including comments, media and the about page).
3. I also wanted to make the transition for followers (both via WordPress and email) simple, so I emailed WordPress support, and they transferred over the subscriptions to the new website. Within 24 hours, the subscribers were transferred (they also transferred the stats). So very awesome.
4. The next logical step is to have an automatic re-direct from the old site to this one. WordPress does that for $13 a year.
And that’s it! It took about an hour and was extremely user-friendly and intuitive. I think a lot of the credit must be attributed to Bluehost – they made the entire process simple and fast. If you have more questions, please leave them in comments, and I’ll answer them to the best of my knowledge (or refer you to links that can answer better than me).