How to Migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (Self-Hosted Blog)

Let’s walk through our step-by-step tutorial on how to migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (moving to a self-hosted WordPress blog).

Powering about 38% of websites on the Internet, WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the planet. And for most people, their first foray into the world of website building starts with WordPress – particularly WordPress.com.

While running a website on the free version of WordPress has its many advantages, any serious blogger or business will have to eventually migrate their website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Why Should You Migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (Self-Hosted WordPress)?

If you’re here, you’re probably already in the process of migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, right? If so, you may already have identified the steps you need to take in order to migrate your blog, and this guide will cover it all.

Quickly, before we get into the technical aspects of migrating your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is essential for anyone that wants to build a profitable blog.

If you want to follow along with a step-by-step tutorial video, then watch Andy take you through the 4 easy steps to migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org right here:

The main reason to move to the .org version of WordPress is that it offers you greater flexibility to customize your website than the .com version does. This is because with WordPress.org you can:

  • Customize your code and all aspects of your site
  • Install plugins to enhance the functionality of your website
  • Buy and install premium WordPress themes

With WordPress.org, you can turn your website into anything your heart desires. WordPress.com on the other hand limits what you can do with your website.

Another advantage of migrating to WordPess.org is that it’s easier to scale your business if you’re using your website as a money generating machine. Yes, you can monetize your WordPress.com website but that means upgrading to the paid plans that start at $48/year. And the tight restrictions make it not worth the money.

Other downsides to the .com version of WordPress include limited SEO control, limited analytics, and of course the dreaded branding and ads that are forced upon users. So yes, for anyone serious about running a professional website, migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is a no brainer.

Before You Migrate Your Blog: Here’s What You Need (Checklist)

Ready to migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress)?

Not so fast! There are a few things you need to put in place before you do so. Let’s quickly look at them, shall we?

The Right WordPress Hosting Plan

Hosting companies are a dime a dozen. But not all of them will suit your needs. You need to get a plan that’s specifically tailored to WordPress if you’re to get the best hosting deal and features.

Without going into all the details comparing the best WordPress hosting plans, we recommend going with Bluehost as your WordPress hosting service:

How to Migrate to Self-Hosted WordPress with Bluehost Hosting Plan (Choosing Your Right Plan)

This is because they offer some of the most affordable plans on the market. They also have some of the best features and support too. And that’s not to mention they’re one of only 3 hosting companies officially recommended by WordPress. Other WordPress hosting providers you can consider include:

For a more in-depth look at the right hosting plan for your WordPress.com to WordPress.org migration, check out our article on the best WordPress hosting plans.

Domain Name Registration

With hosting sorted, you can move on to the next requirement – domain name registration. Again, this is where Bluehost shines as they offer free domain registration for the first year on all their plans.

A domain name plays a critical role in the success of your website and should thus be taken seriously. While finding the perfect domain name is becoming increasingly difficult by the day, it’s still possible to get a .com extension of your preferred domain name. You just have to take your time.

If you’d rather register your domain through a separate domain name registrar. Examples include Namecheap and Domain.com.

Install WordPress.org

Installing WordPress.org on your hosting platform is super easy (Bluehost offers a one-click WordPress install). All you have to do is log in to your hosting account and look for the WordPress icon. Click on it and follow the prompts given. This will not only help you install WordPress but you’ll also set up your site title as well as create a username and password for your WordPress dashboard.

With these 3 in place, you’re ready to migrate your website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. So let’s get to it.

How to Migrate Your WordPress.com Website to WordPress.org (Self-Hosted) in 4 Easy Steps

With self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) installed, it’s easy to migrate your WordPress.com site to its new home. Here are 4 easy steps you’ll have to take.

1. Export Your WordPress.com Data

The first thing you’ll want to do in order to migrate your site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is to export your WordPress.com site’s data. To do that, login to WordPress.com, go to the “My Sites” tab and click on WP Admin. This will take you to your WordPress.com dashboard. Once inside your dashboard, navigate to the “Tools” tab and select the “Export” option.

migrate wordpres.com to wordpress.org tools export

On the “Export Content” page, click the “Export All” button. Depending on the number of files you have, this may take a bit of time. WordPress will send you a link to download the files but if you wait around long enough, you’ll get a download link right there on the page. The file you’ll download will have all the posts, pages, and media from your WordPres.com website. Note that the file will be a zipped XML file.

Now that you’ve successfully exported your WordPress.com website’s files, you can move on to the next step – importing the files to your WordPress.org account.

2. Import Your Content/Data to WordPress.org

To import your WordPress.com content to your .org site, you’ll first of all have to login to your WordPress.org dashboard. Once there, head over to your menu and click on “Tools” then select “Import”.

You’ll have to first install the WordPress importer tool first:

migrate wordpres.com to wordpress.org importer

Once installed, click the “Run Importer” tab. You will then get a prompt to upload your XML file.

Remember, the exported file with all your WordPress.com data is zipped, so you’ll have to unzip it first.

Next, click on the “Choose File” tab on the Import WordPress page (or similarly, drag your unzipped file to the “Choose File” tab.

Once you’ve selected the unzipped XML folder with your WordPress.com data, click on the “Upload file and import” tab. This will take you to the next step of the process – assigning authors.

migrate wordpres.com to wordpress.org download all attachments

Before you assign your authors, make sure to check the “download and import file attachments” box. This is because this file contains all your posts and references to your media and you want all your content to live on your new site.

Now that this is done, you can focus on assigning authors to your new website. You can either stick to the default authors from your previous site or choose to assign new authors.

If you have multiple authors on your blog, you’ll have to type them all in one by one.

Once you’ve assigned authors and checked the “download and import file attachments” you can then click the “Submit” button. This will start the import process, which can take a couple of minutes depending on how big your file is.

Note: If you have a lot of media files and are familiar with file transfer protocol (FTP), you can go to your WordPress.com dashboard and export your media library.

migrate wordpres.com to wordpress.org export media library

This will give you a folder with all your media files that you can manually move over to your WordPress.org site using FTP.

Sometimes it may look like your export/import process has failed as the WordPress.org version of your website may fail to load. Don’t panic as this is normal. Simply head back to your admin dashboard and go to your posts page. You’ll notice that all your posts and media imported correctly from the WordPress.com site are now on your WordPress.org site. The reason the website may not load the first time could be that the page timed out.

3. Polish Up Your New WordPress.org Site

Now that your import is complete, head over to your homepage and check out your site. You’ll notice that all your menus from your previous site are now available. However, you will also notice that you’ll need to restructure a few things.

One of the first things you’ll need to restructure is your menu bar. To do this, simply click on “Customize” at the top of your website (as in the screenshot below):

After clicking the “Customize” button and head over to the “Menu” section. From there, select “Primary” as that’s the menu you were using in the WordPress.com version of your site.

Because your new theme doesn’t know that the primary menu is the one it needs to use, you’ll have to set it manually. To do this, you’ll have to check the “desktop horizontal menu”:

Once you do this, your new site will look more production-ready.

Next, check out the other pages on your new website – the About Page for example. You’ll notice that the formatting is off. Heading back to the WordPress.com version of your website, you’ll notice that it used a columned layout. This is because of a default plugin used on WordPress.com called Layout Grid by Jetpack. Installing this plugin will help make your WordPress.org website look more like the WordPress.com version.

To install the plugin, head over to your dashboard, go to plugins, and click on add new.

migrate wordpres.com to wordpress.org install plugin

Type in Layout Grid in the search bar and click on Layout Grid Block by Automattic (WordPress’ parent company). Install and activate it.

Heading back to your About Page, you’ll notice that it has the correct formatting from your WordPress.com website. Go through all your pages and check for and fix any formatting errors you may find. At this stage, you can also add any customizations you want – something you couldn’t do on the WordPres.com version of your site.

4. Redirect Your WordPress.com Site to the .org Version

What happens to your WordPress.com site at this stage?

Nothing. It will still be live and people who will be looking for your site will probably find that version.

That’s why you’ll have to do a redirect on the WordPress.com site.

Unfortunately, WordPress charges for this service ($13/year) but it’s best to make this investment for at least a year. This is to give search engines time to properly index your new site, thereby making it so that people will find the WordPres.org version of your site and not the WordPress.com one.

So how do you redirect your WordPress.com site?

Head over to your WordPress.com admin dashboard and click on the “Manage” button and select settings. On the settings page, click on redirect.

You will then be taken to a page where you fill in the address of the site you want to redirect to, which is your WordPress.org URL. This is also the page you purchase the redirect from.

And that’s it. You’ve successfully migrated your website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Thankfully Not Rocket Science

WordPress.org gives you so much flexibility to customize your website. That alone is worth the hassle and small investment involved in making the move. And as you can see, it’s not rocket science.

Even without much technical experience, you can successfully do it in a short space of time, and without having to rack your brain.

Speaking of racking your brain, check out our article on the best WordPress Migration plugins.

These certainly help make migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org much easier.

Ryan Robinson

Ryan Robinson

Full-time blogger, podcaster and side project aficionado. I teach 400,000+ monthly readers how to start a blog and build a profitable side business. I also write for publications like Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, Business Insider and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Tips Monthly

Get the latest from SmartWP to your inbox.