How to Move a Free WordPress Blog to a Self-Hosted Website

WordPress iconIn my last post, I discussed my experience with free WordPress and why I moved to a self-hosted website. This post will outline the actual step-by-step process of moving a WordPress blog. Before the move, I suggest you decide how you want your new blog to look. Bookmark websites you like and browse WordPress themes.

Remember, if you have a WordPress blog, you must choose a WordPress theme. Great choices include “Elegant” themes, “Woo” themes , and free themes. Once you decide, simply purchase and download the theme ZIP file, purchase a domain name and a hosting package on Bluehost (preferred by many web developers – do your own research), and you’re ready to begin your move.

Tips: Be sure to keep track of all passwords! And, save your “welcome to Bluehost” emails, as they contain links you can use later, such as how to set up an email address. WordPress will move your blog for a fee in a Guided Transfer if you decide the process is too much. Another option for the not-tech-savvy from author and blogger Roni Loren: “I used user-friendly Squarespace to set up my website. It costs about $12/month and it’s worked really well!”

Overview of the Four Part Process:
Choose and download a theme, purchase a domain name and a Bluehost hosting package. Then,
Part 1: On the Dashboard:
• Launch the “One Click” Install of
• Install your new theme
Part 2: On the old blog Dashboard: Export blog and save the file on your desk top
Part 3: On the new Dashboard:
• Import content from old blog
• Activate new theme
• Style new theme and add plug-ins and widgets
Part 4: On Redirect your old blog to the new

Part 1: On the Dashboard: Launch the “One Click” Install of
First, install WordPress:
• Go to
• Click on “Control Panel Login”
• Enter your Domain and Password, then click Login
• Under “Software/Services,” click on “WordPress.” Wait for the page to reload
• Click on “Install” under “Install WordPress.” Wait for the page to reload
• Select the most recent stable version of WordPress from the “Which version of WordPress would you like to install?” drop-down – it should be the default entry
• More than one URL is pointed to your Bluehost account? Select the correct site from the “Where would you like WordPress installed?” drop-down
• Under STEP 2: Advanced Options,” click “Click here to display” and fill in your site’s name, a username and a password. VERIFY that the “Automatically create a new database” option is checked. (Keep a record of your username and a password!)
• Check the Terms and Conditions box
• Click “Complete.” Wait for the page to reload and show progress of the install
• Click on the Login URL, and enter your username and password to access your new WordPress Dashboard
Next, install your new theme:
• On your new WordPress Dashboard, navigate to the Themes folder in the Bluehost cPanel File Manager
• Click on Upload file(s) and upload the theme ZIP file
• Click on the ZIP file name in cPanel > Extract File Contents

Part 2: On the (old blog) Dashboard: Export your blog and save the file on your desk top
• Login to
• Go to your Dashboard
• Click on TOOLS – EXPORT. The WordPress export tool will compile your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags. When the file is ready …
• Click Download Export File
• Save the file to your desktop
Tip: before you package the file, delete spam comments and blog posts you don’t want to keep.

Part 3: On the new Dashboard: Import blog, activate theme
First, import content from old blog:
• On your new WordPress Dashboard, click on TOOLS – IMPORT
• Click on WordPress
• Click on Browse > locate your (old) WordPress blog file
• Upload and unpack the file into your (new) blog
• Your old WordPress blog is now installed on your new domain!
Next, activate the new theme, then customize it and add plugins and widgets:
• On your new WordPress Dashboard: go to > Appearance > Themes > Manage Themes > Available Themes > Theme. Click the Activate link
• Your new Theme will appear in your new WordPress Dashboard
• Use the theme dashboard to customize it and add plugins and widgets

Part 4: Redirecting the old site to the new
Google doesn’t like duplicate Internet content, so you need a plan to redirect your old site to the new. Choices:
• Delete the original .com blog
• Pay WordPress to redirect. If your site has been active for a while and posts are performing well in search results, redirecting SHOULD point links to the new site
• My choice: Replace old blog posts with a link to the same post on your new site. I’ve heard reports that when you click on a search results post, a redirected site will show a page “post not found.” And, I want to keep my old WordPress blog site. So I’m slowly replacing old posts with a explanation that the page has moved and a link to the new blog. Time consuming!

Although it sounds complicated, I managed to pull off the move myself with only a few minor glitches and one small meltdown. Good luck and happy blogging!

For additional information, tools and tutorials, visit my Industry Resources page in the upper menu bar.

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21 Responses to How to Move a Free WordPress Blog to a Self-Hosted Website

  1. crubin January 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Thanks for another informative post. I have saved it to my favorites should I ever decide to move my blog from I can imagine the time it must have taken you to put this together. Should prove very useful to a number of people!

    • Molly Greene January 17, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      Thank you so much, Carrie!

  2. Lynnette Conroy April 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Where were you last week? I made this transition I had my meltdown between steps 3 -4. The .com blog just evaporated.

    • Molly Greene April 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Lynnette, I’m so sorry! Yes, I it was frustrating. I was exhasted when I was done … just keep up the good work!

  3. Wally May 31, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks a lot. This is great information that came just in time. Thank you very much. I’ll be moving my free wordpress blog next week. Quick question, what happens to the comments and stuff?


    • Molly Greene May 31, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      The comments get packaged with your posts for the move. Subscribers don’t.

  4. Shumaila July 1, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    Thanks for the information. I just moved from a blog to a self hosted website and since you did the same, I was wondering how did you move your email subscribers?

    • Molly Greene July 2, 2012 at 7:25 am # will move your subscribers IF you use the WordPress-supported subscription management system “Jetpack” on your new .org website. Email .com support and don’t take no for an answer – not all techs know they can do it!

  5. Lisa Tognola September 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to spell out the process. I am considering self-hosting and if I decide to take this plunge the info here will be invaluable. My biggest fear is hacking because I’ve heard some scary stories. I’m sure there’s ways around that but I’m afraid I’m not techie enough to figure them out. If you have any comments around that issue, I’m all ears!

    • Molly Greene September 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      Lisa, I use a WordPress plug-in called “Wordfence,” something you can just download and install with a a couple of clicks, and there are others available. Your hosting company will also offer security options. When in doubt Google it! Try “best self-hosted WordPress website security options.” Good luck to you and thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Ikenna February 10, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Thank you for the write-up.
    I recently moved mine, named above. I will follow your listed steps.
    Once again, thank you

  7. David February 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Great article, Molly and thanks for the tips in comments.
    Googling this I ran into another article that wasn’t as good as yours but he does go into the somewhat obscure steps of redirection in more detail. Given that I have over 1,000 posts to migrate, replacing each with a forward isn’t really an option.

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 8:49 am #

      David, thanks for the link re: re-direction. You’re right, my method would drive you crazy. I think I only had a dozen posts that I re-directed with a link – just the posts that had gained real traction with Google. Consider installing Jetpack because the tech team will be able to migrate your email subscribers if you need them to. Best of luck to you!

  8. David February 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thanks, Molly. Good tip.
    As I mentioned on the prior post, I used Feedburner for subscriptions so I could easily migrate subscriptions. However, WP added a subscription feature later that couldn’t be turned off, so my subscribers are now split. Will combine them on the new site.

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Ack! Sorry, I wasn’t following the whole thread. I’d love to hear what you decide to do and when – and how your move goes. Will you design your own website or use a developer?

  9. David February 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Hi Molly
    I mean on Your prior post, so no apologies needed. I simply brought it up again so it was here on this relevant post of yours. 😉

    You install Jetpack on the new site?
    As for my schedule, it’s dependent on a book project. That’s the main driver for a self-hosted site though I did set some stat goals (subscribers, hits), beyond which I figured I’d migrate so i could better serve readers. That’s been reached.

    Recently I discovered a domain I’d been thinking about got picked up, so I grabbed the alternate and pointed it to my existing free blog for now. (I should know better – you find a domain you like, park it or you may loose it)

    I also discovered that people are browsing free wordpress blogs and parking the domains for the prefix blog-name to oblige people who later want to migrate to buy the domain from them.

    Anyway – this activity lead me to review the upcoming steps I’ll have and your blog came up tops in Google. As a fellow writer, I’ve subscribed. 😉

    I used to design web applications and once had a large site on web design, so I’m familiar with it. But I’ll probably take my own advice and build a blog-based site and customize an existing theme and add my own graphics as it’s much faster and already debugged.

    I’ve seen some amazing templates lately that are site-based rather than blog oriented (but include blogs). You buy an inexpensive “suite”, choose the colour theme and layout style, etc and output your theme. Hard to justify a pro designer when stuff like that costs $60.

  10. David February 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Oops – sorry you answered the Jetpack question above.

  11. David February 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    btw – a little tip I discovered. I found that some of my blog posts were showing up on other scripted sites without a link back or credit. This seemed to be based on keyword use in the post.

    I started signing the bottom of my posts with my name. Because it’s in the content, it goes with the posts. This stopped the lifting.

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      Hmmm, just your name or your name as anchor text w/a link to your blog as well?

      • David February 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

        I just use my name, like at the bottom of a letter. Most articles have cross-links to other posts anyway. But the name seems to discourage article theft and is not out of place.

        Note that some add standard footers to posts, like your “Did you enjoy…” above. But these are not in the body itself. The idea is that scripted sites just pick up the body content to provide material to be noticed by Google. They gain passive income by having many such sites with Google Adsense ads on them.

        The domain squatters I mentioned above do similar, and even some popular domain hosts – park a domain with them and they gain revenue from your paid domain with ads on your placeholder page. A friend was horrified to find porn ads on her new domain.

        Google gains revenue so has not particularly discouraged the practice. So now we have a lot of junk sites that appear legitimate but are something of a dogs breakfast, mostly linking to other such sites.

        There are separate reporting tools like WOT, SiteAdvisor, etc to warn you off of problem sites, but that’s mostly about virus infections. The problem has drifted into tech sites, like driver references which is quite annoying.

        Hopefully, demand leads to crowd-sourced site rating tools.

        • Molly Greene February 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

          I’ve had my content scraped a couple of times and it’s so infuriating! Now I try not to go out there and look for it, because there’s simply not much you can do. It makes me crazy that we work so hard and someone else takes credit, but my mom told me life wasn’t fair long ago :-O Still, rats!!