Going self-hosted with WordPress
Two weeks ago, I took the plunge and went self-hosted with my blog. It was something I’d been meaning to do for a while and with the potential increase in blog traffic through Keep Britain Breastfeeding week, it seemed the right time to do it. In hindsight, I should have done it earlier so that the inbound links went to my new site but best laid plans and all that!
So here’s the steps I went through to get up and blogging in case you’re reading this and considering doing it yourself.
Domain and Hosting
To start, I researched some web hosting companies (somewhere to store all your blog pages that will make them available to the internet – WordPress.com is a host, but can be restrictive as it is free) and from everything I read, TSOhost.com had all I would need at a decent price (use the code FSM10 at the checkout for 10% off if you decide to use them too). I also bought my domain (my own web address – so rather than fadedseasidemama.wordpress.com, I am now fadedseasidemama.co.uk) through them as they offered a .co.uk option, which others I’d looked at didn’t (and being English is very much what defines me so this was important!).
Once I’d gone through the registration steps with them, there was a simple process to install the WordPress software onto my hosting package so that I could continue to use the blog format I’ve come to love. I followed the wonderful Sally Whittle’s step by step video, so this was a very easy stage. Rather than go through this here, I would recommend you either watch the video tutorial or go to the written step by step instructions for Getting Started with WordPress over on the Tots100 site.
Export WordPress.com Blog
Once WordPress was installed, I was ready to export my old blog into my new site which again was very simple. Before doing this, I would recommend that you copy the HTML text strings of any sidebar widgets you have into a Word or notepad document as sometimes these can be lost by different themes.
Next, in the wordpress.com blog site, there is an option under the Tools menu to Export. Click this and then choose the free option which will create an xml file (which will most likely go to your downloads folder on your computer unless you’ve set it up to go elsewhere).
Export All Content so that you don’t lose anything.
Once this has downloaded, go back into the self-hosted site and choose Import from the Tools menu (it looks almost exactly the same bar a few omissions) and click on the WordPress option at the bottom of the table.
Select your xml file from the downloads folder and click upload and import and it will transfer the files to your new self-hosted blog, populating it with all of your posts, pages, images and links.
However, before you do this, it is worth installing the Jetpack plug-in as apparently this will help keep your followers when you move over. I can’t verify this as I installed it after I’d imported but read that this is the case. Either way, Jetpack is worth having as it provides your readership stats (which doesn’t come with the self-hosted package as standard). It also provides the social network posting option that is standard on wordpress.com blogs so that you can automatically share new posts with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Linked In followers. It does lots of additional things too but these are two functions I immediately missed when I went over to self-hosted.
Personalise with a Theme
Once you’ve imported your files, your blog should now be showing all of your previous posts and pages as before, although they will be in the basic default Twenty Twelve theme (at the time of writing at least). You may not have all the widgets you had before or even the layout you’re used to, so once you’ve checked the import went ok, it’s time to start thinking about how you want your blog to look. If you had a theme and layout you liked before, you can stick with it, but being self-hosted opens up lots more options when it comes to themes. A quick search for free WordPress themes throws out a lot of hits and they are fairly simple to use. When you find one you like, download it and it will place a zip file into your downloads folder. Back on your WordPress site, go to Appearance – Themes and then select the Install Themes option and choose to upload a zipped file from your computer. Browse for the file and then click Activate. You should have an option to check a Live Preview of the theme as it would look for your own blog, although I’ve found these don’t always work. But it’s fun to play around with how your blog could look after all the restrictions of wordpress.com! If you want to get clever, the wonderful Mammasaurus has some brilliant theme customisations on her blog that you can follow.
The final stage before you get back to blogging is to add some plug-ins to your site. This is one of the biggest advantages of being self-hosted – there are so many options out there to really functionalise and personalise your blog to make it really work for you. As I mentioned ealier, I got the Jetpack plugin once I’d moved everything over and apart from the first day using it, it’s been fabulous with lots more functionality than the standard stats tool on the wordpress.com dashboard. You may also want to install the WP Maintenance Mode plugin to make changes to your blog without it confusing any readers online at the time.
I’ve also installed Yoast’s WordPress SEO for its full feature optimisation functionality (quite simply, it really makes you think about how and what you post in the background for search engines to find); Commentluv to promote the blogs of my lovely readers and share a bit more of the blog love; and Shareaholic which adds a more interactive social networking menu to your posts to encourage readers to share with their friends and followers.
Remember your Social Networks!
So that’s it so far. I did put a request out to have my followers transferred across, but that hasn’t happened (yet) and of course, you have to remember to update your blog details in all your subscriptions and networks – mine was linked up in Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and on my Bloglovin’ accounts. Plus of course, I’d linked up with Britmums, Tots100, Mumsnet and other parent blogger networks. I think I’m almost there, but still have a long way to go to tidy my blog up properly – optimising images to upload quickly, tidying tags and of course, creating a blog logo and theme that actually complements my posts!
The old blog
If you’re not quite ready to delete the wordpress.com blog, then you can go to the Settings and change the visibility to Private so that duplication issues don’t hit your SEO rating. If you want to keep it as a backup of your blog, make sure you periodically do a reverse export/import process to keep it up to date with your new blog posts.
I hope this has helped anyone that might be thinking about going self-hosted and I would be interested to hear if there’s anything else I could have done, or should have done or still need to do to make this all work better. Also any plug-in recommendations are always welcome as well!