In the last week I’ve went through the process of migrating this blog from a standard WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. I’ve been running this blog for several years and have written a couple hundred articles, so I thought it was time to take it to the next level.
A self-hosted blog has many advantages, including the freedom to use any WordPress plugin or theme (and there are many). Essentially, you can change your blog’s design in any way you can think of. An added bonus is more advanced statistics with no information hidden from you. WordPress.com-hosted blogs have many limitations, including the inability to run arbitrary HTML code. This means you cannot add custom functionality such as Google AdSense.
Some of the commonly mentioned disadvantages of a self-hosted blog are having to potentially spend more money on hosting fees, plus the extra time and knowledge required for maintenance, updates, and backups. I was able to avoid the first of these by sharing hosting space with another website of mine, which I run through InMotion Hosting. There are a huge number of providers and I cannot claim InMotion is the best, though they do provide good features for a reasonable price, and above all excellent customer service.
Despite the fact that I have a background which includes skills to create and configure websites, I was not looking forward to effort of migrating my site. Fortunately for WordPress, being the most widely used blogging software on the planet, this process has been partially automated and there are several tools that save you from having to do any tedious tasks.
There are many sites online that detail the migration process online, but fundamentally the major steps include exporting your blog data (all your articles, comments, etc.) to a file, importing that to your new blog, transferring your WordPress.com followers, and a few other items. A convenient free plugin called Jetpack helps make the follower transfer process pretty painless, and does this by linking your self-hosted site to WordPress.com. It has other nice features like similar statistics to WordPress.com.
If you are keeping the same domain name, like I did, then you will have to tell WordPress.com to point to your provider’s DNS servers for your domain.
I ran into a few hiccups during this migration, like an error message I was getting when I tried to link Jetpack to WordPress.com. The problem was because I hadn’t switched over my DNS yet so their authentication mechanism was getting confused. I purposefully was trying to do the DNS switchover last so I could validate everything first, but I was told by the Jetpack customer support that I had to make my site live before I could use Jetpack to transfer my followers. Once I did, things went smoothly and I got all of them transferred in a few minutes.
Besides the follower migration, I was able to test my self-hosted blog fully before the DNS switchover by changing my local machine’s hosts file. The process may be different depending on your provider and OS of your local machine, but here is some information that may help you figure this out.
The main reason I decided to write up this post is there are a few hidden disadvantages of making the migration to self-hosted which I wanted to tell others about. These were not mentioned in any of the articles I read so I had to discover them myself.
The biggest of these is the fact that your blog will no longer be listed on the WordPress.com reader for keyword tags. I am not sure how many people use this feature, but I have done keyword searches to discover many other blogs and have a hunch that many of my followers find me via this same route. This was a major disappointment to me, though I’ll acknowledge that in the long term well-written content is more important than keywords. After tall, the number of people finding blogs via WordPress.com keywords is a small fraction of those finding them on major search sites like Google.
Another annoyance, though minor, is that statistics counters get reset during the migration. Even though I used Jetpack to link up my migrated blog with WordPress.com, the statistics shown on that site have been completely set to zero. Fortunately the statistics look like they are roughly the same, which isn’t the case with other statistics plugins that show several times the hits when compared to pre-migration. I think this is because those don’t remove bots from the counts.
Even worse, I am not able to get correct statistics on my WordPress iOS app, it shows extremely small numbers. I bet some playing around with the app, or reinstalling, might fix this however.
One final thing to be careful of is that adding new plugins and tweaking the settings of your blog can get addicting. With even more power in a self-hosted blog, this can consume hours of your time which would otherwise be spent producing actual content.
In any case, I’ve decided to stay with self-hosted for the time being. For those making the leap, I recommend keeping your old blog on WordPress.com, since the DNS redirection means you don’t have to delete or disable it. If self-hosted becomes to much of a burden, I can always switch back by using the same export/import process followed by resetting the WordPress DNS names for my domain to their defaults.