Moving from WordPress.com to Self Hosted WordPress with WPBeginner

So a could of weeks ago I decided to relaunch mikeestravels.com after a two year hiatus.  I’d noticed that even without posting in such a long time, that certain blog posts were getting a tonne of traffic, and I was moving back into freelancing and getting the itch (ironically as my Green Card was about to expire) to travel a bit more, and more importantly write again.

I started looking at the old WordPress.com hosted site, and really wanted to change the theme, and add plugins, and maybe look at trying to generate some revenue from all the traffic that was there, but I couldn’t do most of that using WordPress.com.  I’d been wanting to migrate the site across from WordPress.com to self hosted for quite some time, but every time I attempted it, or read about it – it looked like a nightmare. I’d run into issues with importing images, something would time out, or it would just be a major headache.  I finally stumbled upon a guide from WPBeginner (and I’m no beginner myself) that laid out all the steps required, but in all honesty, I really didn’t want to screw up the site, it’s SEO positioning for keywords, or kill the site itself. I read further down the page and saw that they offered not only migration services, but free migration services – and I thought it was too good to be true.

So I googled around for reviews on WPBeginner and especially their migration service, and found a few, but not too many. My research showed that the team behind WPBeginner also made optinmonster, an exit intent plugin that I’d used for a previous client and had positive experiences, and I’d previously given Syed and his team access to that website without any issues, so I felt fairly comfortable.

My experience was fairly similar to that of Five Marigolds, with a few caveats

  • The service works, but expect some road bumps along the way
  • Moving from WordPress.com to self hosted is never perfect
  • I’m still having some serious problem with the https:// version of the website that I am yet to fix.
  • All in all the migration took two days from the first reply and 5 days from the initial application, though there was a weekend in between.  From what I can tell they are working on Eastern Time.
  • WPBeginner’s service is funded by affiliate purchases, which I have no problem with as I ended up with discounted hosting anyway. If you plan on using their service DO NOT use any affiliate links from my site, as you won’t be able to use their free service.

Heres how the process worked for me.

March 24, 2017 (5:09 PM)

I purchased shared hosting (Which I upgraded to a VPS within the first 24 hours) from Dreamhost (I prefer Dreamhost over their recommended hosting provider Bluehost – Bluehost in my opinion are crap, but they pay the biggest affiliate %), I then filled out the form on the WP Beginner site and started the application process for moving my site from WordPress.com to shared Dreamhost hosting.

March 27, 2017 (7:24AM)

I received and email from Jeremy at WPBeginner explaining the process. I needed to disable two step authentication on WordPress.com and provide them with my WordPress.com username and password.  This I was a little bit more dubious about, as my WordPress.com account was linked to several client sites via Single Sign On, so I temporarily disabled Single Sign On, and provided them with the login credentials, along with logins for my freshly created Dreamhost account.

March 27, 2017 (11:28AM)

I received another email form Jeremy, letting me know that due to the size of my database, a link had been sent by WordPress.com and to forward the Zip file to them.  I also needed to fully host the domain at Dreamhost, which I did using the Dreamhost dashboard. So far so good.

I didn’t hear back from them for the rest of the day, most likely due to time zone differences, but also this was a free service, but I was between jobs and had some time on my hands –  so decided to send a follow up email just to ensure they had all the information they needed.

March 28, 2017 (5:00PM)

I was starting to get a little worried, especially based on my past experiences trying to export the site myself.  But I got an email from Jeremy letting me know that the site had been exported and was currently on temporary hosting. I was to check it out, login and make sure everything was working.  At this stage the site was almost the same as wordpress.com, with a few minor changes.  I had some issues with the menus showing, which at first I thought was to do with the install, but I later found out was theme related after a bit of back and forth with the support at Automatic (who run Jetpack).  Jeremy also warned me that my subscriber count wouldn’t show just yet, but they’d show me how to get it across.

I then needed to change the name servers at wordpress.com and point them towards Dreamhost.

It was at this stage that things started to get a little bit more complicated, part of it was related to the DNS propagation, and some of it I still can’t work out.  The site was (and still is in some situations, which is causing me problems with my https:// version of the site) trying to pull images from the old wordpress site, but only in certain situations. The site also would not load for some time on my main laptop, but would work on other laptops, and then stop, this happened for up to 24 hours and required a lot of back and forth with Dreamhost. Expect some headaches at this stage.

March 28, 2017 (7:15PM)

Jeremy informs me that it’s safe to delete the temporary mirror site. I install Jetpack, and try and get Vaultpress setup for automated backups.   The vaultpress install fails, and I run into issues trying to delete or install the plugin.  I’m still not sure why this was, but my suspicions are it was something on the hosts end.  I spend some time with tech support with dreamhost, and dealing with Jetpack/Vaultpress tech support and finally get it installed and working. I also run into an odd issue where I update a plugin, but then it shows up as not being updated, Dreamhost inform me that this is most likely related to DNS propagation and my local computer getting mixed up between the old and new site (which is odd as the old site I can’t update plugins) and let me know I need to wait for this to finish (and is most likely the source of 99% of my issues).  I also get in touch with Jetpack and they help me link the old stats from the WordPress.com site to the new one, as the old site could not run Google Analytics (It’s set up now)

March 20, 2017 (8:52AM)

The site starts running into some sort of redirect loop, and I’m spending a tonne of time on support with Dreamhost, there’s issues (that are still unresolved as of writing) with it going to https:// and the theme not displaying correctly. At this stage it’s pretty much out of the scope of WPBeginner and I’m on my own.

Issues since the Migration

Overall I’m happy with the migration, especially as it’s a “Free” service (it did require the purchase of hosting, which I was going to do anyway).  I’ve since upgraded the hosting to a VPS based on the plugins I’ll be using, which has helped – but there were some other issues with the site crashing and memory leaks that had to be resolved by updating the php.ini file on the site. I’m also still running into an issue where some files are apparently being pulled from the old wordpress site, which I am led to believe is causing my problems with the https:// version of the site.

It’s a good service for a free service, and it’s taught me that migration from WordPress.com is a complete and utter headache, I wouldn’t want to attempt it myself, even though I’ve got a tonne of experience migrating self hosted sites, I won’t personally touch a wordpress.com site migration with a 10 foot barge pole. If you have the choice, start right and start on a self hosted wordpress install on reputable hosting.  If you are going to migrate (which you should if you are getting decent traffic, want custom themes, Google Analytics, or plan on any type of affiliate marketing to cover costs) then WPBeginner will get the job done – but expect it to have a few glitches and headaches along the way.  It will however be worth it in the end.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply