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This is the seventh in a series of posts discussing how to set up and run a WordPress blog from a relatively experienced expert, which will feature many helpful and hopefully relevant tangents.

This week: the big move!

If you’ve been running your blog happily for the last year or so, picked up some fairly positive comments and attracted some healthy organic traffic you may be thinking: what next?

Is there more I can do? Perhaps you’d like to dig around in the code to improve the look and usability of your site. Perhaps you’d like to ditch the .WordPress part of your URL. Perhaps you’ve discovered there’s a whole world of fancy plug-ins available to WordPress.org users to customise their site in ways you can’t within your blog.

Here I’ll look at domain name registration, finding a web host, installing WordPress.org and importing all of your existing content.

1. Domain name registration

This is your first step.

You’ve possibly already noticed in your existing WordPress.com blog this message at the top of the dashboard.

Currently my blog’s URL is suchwowdogmemes.WordPress.com. It’s not the most graceful of web addresses. Here I am offered the chance to remove the .WordPress portion of the address. 

At $18 per year, this is perhaps a little more expensive than other companies offering domain registration. Some UK based companies offer to register your domain for as little as £3.49 per year. 

You don’t have to register your domain with WordPress.com just because it’s being offered by it, you can register it with any company, but WordPress.com may end up being the most convenient for you.

It’s best to have a shop around to see which offers the best service for the longest period of registration. Just because GoDaddy is the most ubiquitous and cheapest doesn’t mean you won’t regret choosing it further down the line.

Benefits of domain registration

Losing the .WordPress portion of your URL will make your domain name easier to remember and easier to find.

Having a .com site will also make your site more visible to search engines, therefore improving your SEO

After registering your domain, visitors will be able to access it via the new .com URL, but don’t worry if you still have visitors with the old .WordPress.com address bookmarked, they will just be automatically redirected.

You can register as many domain names as you like and have them redirect to your site. It may be a good idea to register domain names with different suffixes (.com/.co.uk/.org) and point them all towards your site, or register an alternative name that relates to your site. I previously ran a music blog called RightTrackWrongSpeed.com, however I often referred to it as RTWS, so I registered RTWS.com too.

All of your domain controls are here in My Domains.

Once you’ve registered multiple domain names, you’ll be presented with the list here. You will have to pick which one is your ‘primary domain name’. This is the domain name your visitors will see in the address field.

2. Choosing a web host

Now that you have a ‘proper’ web address you can move to the second stage. Finding a web host. 

There are many to choose from, all offering an array of sevices at a range of prices. If you look on the WordPress Web Hosting page WordPress itself recommends a handful of partnered services.

The only minimum requirement of any web host is that they need to be able to run the latest version of WordPress. If you’re unsure, WordPress has drafted this little letter that you can send to your prospective host.

I'm interested in running the open-source WordPress <http://wordpress.org/> blogging software and I was wondering if my account supported the following: PHP 5.2.4 or greater MySQL 5.0 or greater and the mod rewrite Apache module. Thanks!

I used Bluehost at a time before it was highlighted as WordPress’s top recommendation, as even then it seemed to rate the highest in various forums on the subject.

I would highly recommend doing your own research into the subject. Just because one host was right for me, doesn’t mean it will be right for you. 

Try to stay away from the glut of ’10 best web host’ guides. These are regularly sponsored by the very hosts that occupy the top spots. Instead get on some forums, talk to some real people about their experiences, or trust the advice from WordPress.

I chose BlueHost because I was a complete novice when it came to transferring and hosting a website, and BlueHost offered the best technical support. I wrote about my experience with its live chat in why do online retailers need live chat

Many a time I had my backside pulled out of the fire with minimal wait time and friendly customer service. Even though the problem was fairly complicated and I struggled to explain myself brilliantly because I was a novice, everything was fixed in a speedy fashion.

Again, this is just my own personal opinion on the subject, so please carry out your own research as this is a fairly large investment.

3. Installing WordPress.org 

Once you have signed up to your chosen web host, you will need to install WordPress on its server. Most web hosts, certainly the ones recommended by WordPress, already have a simple one-click solution to installing WordPress, so don’t worry about this being a difficult stage.

As an example, within the Bluehost control panel, if you click on Getting Started you will be taken through to a page that summarises the options available to you. 

Then when you click on ‘How to Install WordPress’ there’s a great video tutorial and easy-to-read guide on installing WordPress.

If your chosen web host doesn’t have a WordPress option, just head to WordPress.org, there you will find the latest download. Click the button ‘download WordPress’ and unzip the folder to a file on your desktop.

After this you’ll have to upload the file to your web server. WordPress has a five-minute install guide which explains things rather clearly. If you don’t find this too challenging, then all power to you. However if it’s a bit daunting, then perhaps you should consider ‘easy integration with WordPress’ as a requisite for choosing a host.

4. Exporting your content

Once you’ve set up WordPress on your server, you’ll need to move your content.

Within the dashboard, head to Tools, then Export.

Here you’ll be able to download an entire XML file containing all of your content to your desktop. When you get to the next screen, click on ‘all content’. Then you’ll have a file ready to upload to your brand new WordPress.org content management system.

Within your WordPress.org dashboard, head to Tools, then Import, then WordPress.

Choose the XML file then click ‘Upload file and import’.

Next you’ll be able to either import the author’s name and details, or use an existing author’s name on your site. Also don’t forget to tick the box ‘Import Attachments’ if you want to keep any images attached to your posts.

As an example of what to expect when Importing content to your new site, I’ll use an old music blog I used to run, which is still hosted on Bluehost via WordPress.org.

As you can see, the content from my horrible doge meme website have been transferred successfully. For better or worse.

5. Customise

Now the tricky stuff is all done, you can customise, rebuild or redesign your website to your heart’s content. That’s the fun stuff. WordPress.org allows you complete freedom to use whatever themes, templates, plug-ins and tools you like, from WordPress itself or various third-parties. 

Or you can be really brave and get into the CSS and write your own rules.

Further WordPress reading...

This is the seventh post in my WordPress series. Here are the others:

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 17 March, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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John Daffern

Another interesting article thanks. But how do you redirect your old Wordpress site whilst keeping Google happy?

about 2 years ago

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Winston Twin, Manager at Freelancer

I started my current blog on WP.com , but soon I felt limited with its possibilities and decided to switch to WP.org. As I'm not very computer literate person, I googled the tool called cms2cms (http://goo.gl/EOUc2C) and got the job done in a fully automated manner. Hope, it will help smb save huge time and money. Regards...

about 1 year ago

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