Ultimate WordPress.com to WordPress.org DYI guide for dummies

September 10, 2011 in Blogging, Websites

I'm out!

I am master of my domain.

This is the fourth day since I completed the DYI migration from my WordPress.com blog (pacejmiller.wordpress.com) to my own domain (pacejmiller.com), and it looks like all is going well.  My blog is now freer, better to look at, and packed with more features than before.  And I can (potentially) advertise.  My old stuff is still all there and my new blog is still getting regular visitors.

For a lot of people in my former position (ie, thinking of migrating from WordPress.com to their own domain — and in doing so, shredding the ‘wordpress’ from their URL), I am hoping this post will provide a simple, comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to get it done — from getting your own web host to exporting/importing your old materials, installing themes and plugins and redirecting visitors from your old blog to the new one.

I had to learn the hard way because almost all of the guides I came across online were difficult to understand, required assumed knowledge or were plagued with gaps.

Anyway, I am going to start from the beginning and separate the process out under specific headings.  Feel free to skip the sections you are familiar with and go straight to what you need.

I must preface this guide by saying that I am no expert, just someone who had no idea what they were doing but figured it out eventually, so pardon me if I don’t get all the terms right.

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Welcome to the new blog!

September 5, 2011 in Blogging, Misc, Technology, Websites

I'm back, baby!

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Deep exhale.

Finally, I have successfully migrated my old blog from pacejmiller.wordpress.com to my own domain at pacejmiller.com.  It was a little shaky at first but I think the blog has finally settled in.

The Big Move

To cut a long story short, I ended up doing it all myself, and it took a good couple of days and hours and hours of messing around and reading (and deciphering) online guides to move the blog over from the WordPress domain to my own purchased domain (from SiteGround) and to get it into the shape it is now.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was going to pay the $119 fee for WordPress.com to do a ‘Guided Transfer’ for me, after previous attempts to export the material on my old blog to new blog failed miserably.  However, as it turned out, WordPress can only do Guided Transfers for people who have purchased a domain from one of their affiliates.  So I got the kind engineers at WordPress to do a full refund for me and I proceeded to do the damn thing myself, including how to redirect traffic from the old site to the new one.

For those interested to learn how it is done, I am going to do a post shortly that sets out exactly what I did, where I looked and where I sought assistance.  Hopefully it can help people in my position — ie, want to move your blog to your own domain but don’t really know what the difference will be and find the whole process a little overwhelming.

New Blog, New Features!

The first thing you’ll notice on this new and improved blog is that I have a new theme.  From day one I stuck with Regulus (a free theme from WordPress.com) and it served me fine for more than two years, but I felt it was time to go with a slicker, more professional look that made better use of the space.

So I ended up picking a new theme called Custom Community by Themekraft.  Custom Community is also a free theme but you can upgrade it (for $39) to gain access to more custom features, widgets and so forth.  The best thing about this theme is that it already has plenty of customisation options — the ‘how to’ guides are not necessarily the best, but if you muck around with it for long enough you’ll eventually figure it out.

The most noticeable difference with this new layout is that I have a massive slideshow just below the banner.  I have customised the slideshow so that every time someone opens the Home page it will display four random posts from my new ‘Best Of’ category.  Essentially, I picked out around 20 or so posts which have either been highly popular at one time or another or represent some of my better works and ideas and put them in this category, and I customised the slideshow to show posts only from that category and at random.

The second main difference is the three image boxes directly under the slideshow, which lists my three most recent posts.  Personally, I would have preferred to get rid of them but they are not customisable in the free version of the theme. [Correction: I just figured out that you actually can get rid of the post list under the General/Default Homepage tab under Theme Settings but I realised the blog looks better with them so I put them back in]

The biggest hassle with the slideshows and image boxes is that I have to create these new Featured Images on my existing posts.  There’s a new box in the new post creation screen and I have to separately upload an image to it — and the image has to be resized (to 756px in width) in order for it to fit properly.  And I had to crop the images in cases where the slideshow zoomed in on the wrong part of the picture.  Hours of work, I tell ya.  Hours of work.

Those are the most obvious differences but boy did I have to do a lot of stuff.  Even though migrating your blog keeps all your old posts and comments, etc, none of the widgets in the sidebar are moved over, so I had to redo everything from scratch.  On the bright side, it allowed me to clean out a lot of the old stuff and links that weren’t being used.

Lots of other customisations that you probably won’t think much of but took me forever.  For instance the header of the blog (that little blue strip of the night sky), which I grabbed from my old theme — that alone took like three hours because I had to get the size and placement exactly right.  The drop down menus as well — the colour, the shape, the shadows — all that crap had to be customised.

One of the biggest changes I’ve had to get used to is all the Plugins that I have to install in order to replicate some of the features I had on WordPress.com as well as the new ones to give me additional features that weren’t available on WordPress.com.  It’s been a struggle but I am slowly coming around.

The next step is to install Google Adsense and other advertising mechanisms to take advantage of the ability to advertise (something which WordPress.com prohibits).  I’ve already signed up for Adsense but it might take a few days before the application is approved.

Another thing I will have to go through is the wealth of information provided on SEO (search engine optimisation), which is crucial if you want to increase your blog’s exposure and traffic.

In the meantime, life will be back to normal and I will continue to pump out posts.  I already have a handsome backlog.

Anyway, take a look around at the new site, check out the new features, and let me know what you think.  Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated!