WordPress.com is a a great service for hosting your WordPress site for free but it does come with some limitations, largely due to the fact that you dont have full control over every aspect of your website. If you are familiar with WordPress and ready to take it to the next level with more control over which plugins you can run, how to monetize it and so on then you should consider moving it over to a self-hosted installation.
A self-hosted WordPress site gives you the freedom of selecting whatever host you want so you can ensure your site runs as smooth as possible and grows as large as it needs to be. You’ll also open a gateway to a huge collection of premium WordPress themes, free and premium plugins, and the ability to monetize your site as you wish.
Follow thorough with our complete guide which will show you how to move your site correctly so you don't lose followers or traffic.
Exporting Your WordPress.com Site
We’re going to assume you already have a domain, hosting and WordPress set up on your new site. We recommend WPEngine if you still need a host. WPEngine is a managed WordPress host that offers affordable hosting and well-optimized servers designed to deliver lightning fast speeds to WordPress sites.
Type your WordPress.com URL in your web browser but add /wp-admin/ to the end of it, and hit enter to log into your site’s admin area:
Hover over Tools in the menu to the left, and select Export. Click Start Export under the free option:
Make sure All Content is selected, and click Download Export File:
Save the XML file to your computer.
Importing Your WordPress.com Site in WordPress.org
Log into the admin area of your new WordPress site. Make sure you delete the default post Hello world! and default page Sample Page that comes with every new WordPress installation.
Hover over Tools in the left-hand menu, and select Import. Select WordPress:
A window should appear as a lightbox asking you to install the WordPress Importer plugin. Click the Install Now button located in the lower, right-hand corner of the window. Activate the plugin once it installs.
Click Choose File, and select the XML file you downloaded. Click Upload File and Import:
If you’ve already set up a user profile for your new WordPress site, go ahead and select it from the drop-down menu. If not, enter one in the Create New User with Login Name box.
Make sure the Download and Import File Attachments box is checked. This imports images and any other media files you inserted into your posts. Click Submit once you’re done:
Look at your Posts section. You should see all of your published posts, drafts and categories. Make sure your pages imported as well.
Deactivate and delete the WordPress Importer plugin.
Should I Set My Site to Private or Redirect Users to My New Site?
The next step you choose depends on a few factors. If you still have a wordpress.com URL, such as barreldistortionblog.wordpress.com, and have a loyal following and SEO status, redirect users to your new site.
If you don’t have a loyal following or you purchased a .com domain from WordPress.com, set your blog to private. If you have a domain, you’ll need to transfer it to a domain registrar and point the nameservers to your host or transfer it directly to your host.
If you want to redirect users to your new site, which means they’ll be taken to your new site automatically when they go to your WordPress.com domain, log back into the admin area of your WordPress.com site, and click Store. Click Settings in the bottom, left-hand corner.
Under the Site Address section, click the Redirect This Site link:
Enter the domain of your new website, and click Go. Enter your payment information, and confirm payment to complete the redirect. Now when users or search engines find posts connected to your WordPress.com site, they’ll be redirected to your self-hosted WordPress site.
If you want to set your site to private, publish a blog post well before-hand to warn readers about the move. Let them know all of your content will be moved to your new site as well as where they can find your new site.
Head to the admin area of your WordPress.com site. Hover over Settings, and select Reading. Under Site Visibility, select I Would Like My Site to be Private, Visible Only to Myself and Users I Choose:
Make sure you scroll down and click Save Changes.
If you have a loyal following, move your subscribers over to your new site. This is one of the features that comes with the Jetpack plugin. Go to the admin area of your new site. Hover over Plugins, and select Add New.
Jetpack is usually one of the top suggested plugins when you view the Add New page in WordPress, so you shouldn't need to search for it too hard. Click Install Now once you find it:
Activate the plugin once you install it. Make sure you’re logged into your WordPress.com site in the same browser. Select Jetpack from the left-hand menu, and click Connect Jetpack. Click Approve when the plugin tells you it would like to connect to your WordPress.com account.
Back in WordPress.com, click My Sites, and select Switch Sites. Select your new site.
Click the Settings button located in the bottom, left-hand corner. Click Migrate Followers from Another WordPress.com Blog:
Make sure your WordPress.com site is selected, and click Migrate on the next page. You’ll receive a confirmation email once it completes.
What to Do Next
Now that you’ve moved your site over to a self-hosted WordPress site, install a plugin that lets you create an Undergoing Maintenance or Coming Soon page. This lets you keep your site hidden while you install a new theme and redesign its look. Some plugins even allow you to place an email form on your Coming Soon page so you can build an email list while you work on your site’s new design.
With that being said, you should also install a theme to give your site a premium look. We recommend Divi by Elegant Themes. It’s a flexible WordPress theme that comes with 18 pre-made layouts and a responsive design, a very important feature to have in 2016.