Migrating your WordPress.com Blog to a Personal Domain

This is a guide for bloggers who have plans to eventually move their site from WordPress.com’s free blogging account to a self-hosted web domain with the WordPress blogging software installed.

Once the migration is complete, all previous posts and blog links will continue to work and visitors will be redirected to the new site.

Why move to WordPress.org?

So, like the majority of users, you began writing your first blog on WordPress.com because the service was free, it wasn’t necessary to have any technical skills to get started, there were plenty of themes, plug-ins and widgets to help you customize your blog quickly and easily.

Then, as your blog gained traffic and popularity, you discovered certain limitation. For example, you couldn’t monetize your site traffic because WordPress disallows the use of Google Adsense and other advertising methods on their sites. There are literally thousands of wonderful and optimized WordPress themes, but with your free blog your choices were limited. WordPress.com also doesn’t allow JavaScript so you were unable to use advanced tracking software such as Google Analytics.

Apart from Google advertisements and themes, another reason why you may want to move from WordPress.com to a personal web domain is branding.

Step 1: Get a domain name and rent some server space

Prior to moving your blog from WordPress.com to your own domain, you need to have your own web domain and server space where you’ll be hosting that blog.Google Apps Logo

As you may already know, you can buy web domains at fairly reasonable pricing from websites such as GoDaddy.com or Network Solutions, however I recommend that you look into Google apps, which costs $10 per year per domain. By doing so, you get all the regular Google goodies (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.) however the best part is that your registration details will be kept private – people will be unable to see your address or phone number in your whois domain record.

There are a lot of different web hosting services that you can potential use for hosting your WordPress blog, a few are Rackspace, BlueHost, KnowHosting, DreamHost, and Media Temple. BrettPrince.net is hosted at BlueHost.com and I haven’t run into trouble.

Step 2: Transfer posts from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Now that you’ve gotten started and have a basic infrastructure in place, we can now setup a WordPress blog. Essentially every web hosting company offers a 1-click install of WordPress, so this should be fairly straight forward, however you have to be sure you install WordPress in a sub-directory.

Once you’ve done that, head over to the admin dashboard at your old WordPress.com blog, select Tools -> Export, then save the XML file somewhere on your computer. Next, go to your new website’s WordPress admin panel, select Tools -> Import and then choose WordPress. Choose the file you just downloaded. On the next page, select the authors, and check the box and say “Import Attachments.”

Now everything from your old WordPress.com blog will be imported automatically to your new blog, including images and other attachments.

Step 3: Redirect visitors and search engines to your new blog

Although your new blog is a copy of your WordPress.com site visitors and search engine spiders will still hit your old site since they don’t know anything about the new one. We want to avoid this problem, so we will implement a method to redirect traffic from your old site to your new one.

This isn’t difficult, trust me. First, visit your domain registrar (the company that you registered your domain with), login, then change your domain’s DNS settings to point to WordPress.com servers.

Important: You need to take note of the existing name server address, you’ll be needing them later on.

Once you’ve noted the existing information, you can now edit the name servers and change them to ns1, ns2, and ns3 with the .wordpress.com extension after each (ns1.wordpress.com). The domain registrar may prompt you to confirm the change.

From your free WordPress.com blog’s dashboard, select Upgrades -> Domains. Type in the new domain URL, and select “Add Domain to blog.” Then select “Map Domain” when you’re asked to confirm the address addition. Keep in mind that you can’t have www in the URLs and be sure to leave out the trailing slash.

If you chose to do domain mapping, keep in mind that it’s a premium service and will run you $10 per year. Payment is flexible, though – you can pay with a credit card or PayPal.

After you’ve completed this, you need to set your personal domain (site.com) as the primary URL for the WordPress.com blog. Head over to the WordPress.com admin panel, navigate to Upgrades and select Domains. Select the checkbox for your main that you added above and select Updated Primary Domain.

Step 4: Reverse the DNS Nameserver changes

Now it’s time to change your domain’s DNS back to the originals that we changed earlier. Once you’ve entered them, save and wait for awhile so that the web domain (site.com) and the old WordPress.com blog (site.wordpress.com) will redirect you to the new site.

That’s it!

All your search engine traffic, RSS readers, incoming links and everything will now be redirected to your new site. However, if you want to keep your WordPress.com address redirecting* to your new site, you’ll have to renew the domain mapping upgrade from WordPress.com every year.

Best of luck!

[*] WordPress.com uses a 302 redirect with domain mapping, meaning that it’s a “temporary redirect” and search engine spiders will continue to index your old site in addition to the new one.

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