Moving to Self-Hosted: Everything You Wanted to Know About My Experience

Posted May 4, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Blog Tips / 26 Comments

I did it!

On April 21, 2015, I moved my book blog, Girl in the Pages, from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org site. This came after months of research, weeks of talking to other bloggers about their experiences moving, and a lot of internal debate. While I was making the decision to move, I scoured book blogs high and low for information about how the transition worked, what to expect, etc. I decided to make a post sharing my experience and answer all of the questions that I knew I was anxious to ask while I was going through the process. I want to share my insight with others who may be considering making the switch!

Why did I switch?

I started out my blog on wordpress.com and I was very happy during my time there. I loved the social-network aspect of it, how it made it easy to find and connect with new blogs, and how it has such a similar user interface as wordpress.org (in terms of the dashboard, how to write/publish posts, etc) so I had a very small learning curve once I migrated over to self-hosted. The staff at wordpress.com is really nice and friendly and it was overall a really nice place to be. However, as my blog grew I knew that I wanted more customization options that I had on wordpress.com, and I wanted to own my content. Come 2015 I knew I was fully and completely committed to running my blog consistently and for the long term, and I was itching to make the switch.

Choosing Book Host

I’m not an extremely tech savvy person, so I knew I wanted to find a host that would give me the support I needed. (In case you were wondering, wordpress.org is a free software but you have to find a hosting company to host your site on; on wordpress.com they do the hosting for you for free as well as provide the blogging software). I knew a few bloggers who had mentioned they went with Book Host, a hosting service run by the amazing Ashley at Nosegraze, a hosting service catered to the needs of book bloggers. I could not have made a better decision. Book Host is the perfect hosting service for my needs. It’s managed hosting, so I didn’t have to download the wordpress.org software myself or deal with exporting/importing my wordpress.com content myself, rather Ashley took care of all of that as a part of the hosting package I purchased. Ashley has a wide variety of plug-ins that are safe and reputable already installed and all I had to do was choose which ones to I wanted to activate. My package also includes access to Ashley’s themes and plug ins, so I am now using the absolutely amazing Tweak Me theme and the life-changing Ultimate Book Blogger Plug-In. The single thing about Book Host that has impressed me most, however, is the utterly professional and caring level of customer service I receive every time I have a question or submit a support ticket. I had so many questions about the migration process and getting used to wordpress.org and Ashley responded promptly and enthusiastically to each and every one. I can tell that she’s sincerely passionate about what she does and that she’s seriously committed to my blog working efficiently in every way. Book Host is a great choice for book bloggers who want to feel valued by their hosting service and want a personalized and thoughtful customer service experience. I say all this 100% based on my own short experience over the past few weeks, I was in no way asked to promote Book Host. I’ve enjoyed my experience so much I wanted to share it with my readers!

The Actual Moving Experience

The move itself went very smoothly. I purchased my URL about a year ago, so I didn’t have to worry about directing readers to a new URL. When I originally purchased my URL I also purchased domain mapping through wordpress.com, so that my old URL redirects to my new one. I did end up moving my domain name over to Bookhost as well, so once my domain mapping through wordpress.com expires I will just purchase a site redirect to point my old wordpress.com URL to my new site (which it already does, it’s just a matter or renewing it annually).

After I purchased my hosting package, Ashley and I coordinated a migration date where she would move all of my content from my old blog onto my new one. I was able to keep not only my posts but my pages, images, and comments as well! (WordPress.com “likes” don’t transfer over). She sent me an email once this was done, and I was able to check how everything looked, tweak and install my new theme, and then give the OK to Ashley to make my URL point to my new site instead of my old one. Just like that, my new site was live!

One of the big things I was concerned about with moving was the ability to keep all of my followers and stats. This was no problem for my Bloglovin’ followers, since my URL stayed the same. Migrating my wordpress.com followers was done through the use of a plug-in called Jetpack. It connects your wordpress.org blog to your existing wordpress.com account, and you can migrate your followers to your new account so your posts still appear in their wordpress.com readers. I did run into a bit of a glitch with this, because though my followers were migrated successfully my posts weren’t updating in their readers. It took about a week of troubleshooting with the wordpress.com support staff, but we finally got it sorted out, and they were very friendly and optimistic the entire time. They were also able to migrate over all of my existing stats from my wordpress.com blog! Using Jetpack I can also keep features such as Publicize, the “like” button, etc. on my new blog.

After getting all of the bugs worked out, I was able to successfully keep all of my followers, which was a huge reason why I felt comfortable switching, knowing I could bring my audience with me. I also haven’t noticed a decrease in traffic at all (another thing I was worried about) since my URL stayed the same.

My Favorite New Features

One of the main reasons I wanted to move was so I could use the Ultimate Book Blogger Plug-In. It’s literally a huge time-saver if you run a book blog. I can cross-post my reviews to Goodreads with just the click of a button, it formats all of the book information for me, pulls all of the book data for me so I don’t have to go looking for it, and I can even update my reading challenge progress in status bars in a neat little widget in my sidebar. I’m slowly going back and updating all of my old reviews with the UBB plug-in, so I’ll have a comprehensive, self updating review index on my site! Another one of my favorite aspects of the UBB Plug-In is the widgets! I have widgets in my sidebar that display cover images that link to all of my recent reviews, as well as my upcoming scheduled reviews!

Another one of my favorite new features is the ability to tweet posts from my blog archives! It’s great to give attention to older posts. I also love my new commenting system that allows bloggers to promote their latest blog post when leaving a comment; it definitely drives me to their sites! I can also now do little things that I used to yearn to be able to do like embed Rafflecopter widgets.

I’m using the Tweak Me theme (also created by Ashley) and I absolutely adore it. It has so many layers of customization. Now, I’m by no means a graphic designer, and I’ve worked really hard on making the images on my blog and keeping a cohesive look and color scheme. With my new theme the basics are already constructed and I can format and color them any way I want, from choosing from a huge variety of fonts to choosing the colors of buttons, links, menus, etc. My new theme has allowed me to get the clean, cohesive look I want, and should I ever change my blog’s look I know my theme will be able to adapt!

Important Things to Know

I chose to move to self-hosted because I wanted to invest in my brand. I knew it was going to be more of a financial commitment, but I was already paying a yearly fee for my domain name so I was ready to take the next step. I pay $11/year for my domain name, $5.50/year to keep my information “unlisted” (when you register a domain you have to provide some basic info), and $13/year for the wordpress.com redirect (which means if someone types in or lands on my old URL, it redirects them to my new one). My current hosting fees are $14.99/month, but that includes customer service support, access to Ashley’s themes in her shop, the Ultimate Book Blogger Plug-In, and the migration from my wordpress.com to wordpress.org. I feel like I’m paying for premium service and access to a lot of amazing plug ins and themes, and my monthly hosting fee really covers everything I need.

Being self-hosted does mean more personal responsibility for you and your blog. I’ve had to do some research on things here and there (such as some troubleshooting when things glitch or wondering what exactly a plug-in does, etc) and Ashley’s been great at helping me when I have a question for her. If you’ve been on wordpress.com you’ll easily be comfortable with the basics, since as I mentioned before, the Dashboard is very, very similar.

Important: If you’re moving from wordpress.com to wordpress.org and use Jetpack to connect your old site and new site, you will still use your wordpress.com account to comment on other blogs in the wordpress.com network. (Even if you try logging out and manually entering your email and name to comment, wordpress will ask you to log in since it recognizes your email address). This isn’t really a big deal (and it’s still handy to use your reader to follow wordpress.com blogs), however this means that my wordpress.com account is connected to both your NEW blog and your OLD blog, which can make things from wp.com followers a bit confusing. For example, even if you’re following me on my new site (which you should be since I migrated all of my followers over) there may still be a “follow” option next to my name, which would cause you to follow my OLD blog still. Similarly, “Girl in the Pages” still may show up in the “blogs you may like” section or in the wordpress.com tags/categories, but this is my OLD blog (so if you hit “follow” you’ll be following my old blog instead…I can still manually transfer these followers over though, it’s just an inconvenience when your followers get confused!) So if you KNOW you’re already following me/followed me before I moved to self-hosted and my posts are already appearing in your reader, there’s no need to click “follow” if “Girl in the Pages” shows up as a recommended blog to follow or if it says “follow” next to my name as if you’re not already following me when I comment on your wordpress.com blog. I know this explanation is a little complicated, but I hope it clarifies things!

Pro-Tip: If you’re on wordpress.com and you notice that when a self-hosted blog post appears in your reader without the option to like/comment on it, just click on the NAME of the blog as it appears on the post and it should take you to a page with the feed of that self-hosted blog’s posts where you can comment/like directly from wordpress.com!

Plan to move when you have some free-time. In the case that you do have some bugs to work out after the switch, it will be much less stressful if you can address them immediately. You’ll also want time to play around with your new site’s theme and plug-ins!

Everyone I worked with, from Ashley to the WordPress Happiness Engineers to the Jetpack support team was so friendly and helpful! It can seem really scary when you switch and something goes wrong or doesn’t work the way it should (even if it’s a minor thing), but these support teams truly want your blog to succeed! I worked with several people through this process and they made it as positive as possible despite the minor issues I encountered!

Things I Still Have Left To Do

I’m loving my new site so far but I’m also still working on tweaking and updating a lot of things. Here’s a look at the things I still have left to do:

  • Update my Blogroll widget with more of my favorite blogs’ buttons
  • Update all of my reviews to the UBB format
  • Evaluate more of the plug-in options and see if there’s more I want to add
  • Export my content and create a back up of it for my personal files

Questions?

If you have any questions about my experience moving to self hosted, feel free to ask me in the comments, or you can send me an email! I wanted to be as thorough as possible in my post about my experience, but if there’s something I didn’t address or you’d like me to elaborate on please let me know!

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26 responses to “Moving to Self-Hosted: Everything You Wanted to Know About My Experience

  1. This post is awesome, Cristina! I’m planning on doing the same thing sometime in August. I’m glad you mentioned that we should do it when we will have lots of time, though. That’s the reason I’m waiting until August. I wish I could make the switch sooner!! But your new blog is lovely and I’m glad to hear everything is working out for you! Thanks for all the tips! 🙂

    Emily @ Books & Cleverness recently posted: The Future of Books & Cleverness
  2. I’ve been thinking about switching over to wordpress and possibly buying my own domain name but it all seems so complicated! This post really helps though and I’ll probably reference it a lot if I decide to move! That’s so awesome that all the book’s information and all that jazz is pulled up for you and you can update everything from one place! That’s definitely one reason why my social media presence isn’t as good as it could be. Great post!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    • It seems overwhelming but if you go with managed hosting like Book Host then they do A LOT of the complicated stuff for you! For example, I don’t have to worry about updating software and plug ins because Ashley manages it for me 🙂

  3. This was really interesting! Thanks, Cristina. 🙂 I must admit even though you’ve given lots of great tips here it still seems mighty complicated and daunting so well done for getting through it and coming out the other side. Ashley sounds like a great person to work with and I love all the tips on her blog. The ultimate book blogger plug-in sounds like a dream!

    I didn’t realise you had to pay for the URL redirect when changing it on top of everything else, that sure bumps the price of having your own username up, hmm. I wonder how much of a nightmare that would be if you didn’t do that…

    • It definitely requires some planning and research but once it’s done it’s not AS complicated as you’d think! The UBB plug in and other features definitely make the switch worthwhile 🙂 If you don’t do a URL redirect you can always put a post on your old blog saying you’ve moved and linking to your new blog, and make it the top post and then whenever people go to your old blog they’ll see the message that you’ve moved to your new one!

  4. Thank you for this post. I may not be moving to self hosted in a few years but this post will be a big help if I ever do. I haven’t heard big things about Bookhost, I actually just learned about it when Lauren (Bookmark Lit) talked about her switching to self hosted and she mentioned how much she loved it. It seems like a great great thing for book bloggers! You have done so great with this move and I wish you luck for the future! 😉 Thank you for sharing your experience.

    ~Kaitlin

    Kaitlin @ Next Page Please! recently posted: Let's Talk!: Forged by Erin Bowman
    • As always, thank you for the kind words! 🙂 It’s a great move if you want to move your blog to a more customizable platform, but it IS a big decision and even I sometimes still get a little overwhelmed by the features, but I’m learning and loving it! I just really love knowing that I own my own content 100% now!

  5. Thanks for sharing Cristina. This was a timely post for me as I recently made the move from a wordpress.com blog to a self-hosted wordpress.org site. I did it for some of the reasons that you mentioned, such as investing in my brand and desire for greater customization than wordpress.com would allow. Overall I’ve been super happy about the move, especially now that I’m able to use widgets such as Jetpack (which has been a lifesaver). Troubleshooting can be a pain, but I find that it’s worth it for all of the additional benefits that self-hosting can provide. Congrats on making the move, and best of luck to you with your new self-hosted site!

    • Thank you so much Zed! Jetpack is truly a lifesaver (I definitely still prefer using their stats and notifications features!) I’m still learning the ropes but I love having so much more control now. I noticed you have a handy wordpress.com blue follow button in your sidebar. How were you able to get that? Through Jetpack?

  6. This is late but do you think before I move to self-hosted WP I should use another e-mail to create my self-hosted so when commenting to other blogs, I won’t have to use WP.com blog? I don’t really have the money to redirect my WP.com blog to my self-hosted site. Thanks! 🙂

    • That is actually an excellent question! (I almost wish I had thought of it myself!) It’s worth maybe doing a search or even shooting the wp.com team an email asking them if that would help. Redirecting is $13/year and I have read most places that it’s recommended you do it for at least the first year so that all of the links you might be mentioned in that go to your old blog redirect to your new one while your followers adjust to the move 🙂

  7. Hello, I found your blog through Nose-graze as an example of someone using her hosting services. I am considering moving from Blogger as I am having some issues with it lately and am afraid of losing everything as I’ve heard other bloggers say happened to them. I’m not sure if I want to spend as much per month as it sounds like you are spending, but having a host like this sounds perfect and very helpful! Like you I’m not a graphics person, and I have some that a friend has done for me. So was that something Ashley was able to do? Or did you have to do all of t hat yourself? And are her themes something you can do that with? Thanks for any help or answers you can give. I’m going to contact her as well.

    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted: Promo Interview and Giveaway: Ascendancy by Karri Thompson
    • Hi Lisa! I would definitely recommend Ashley for hosting and migration. I moved from wordpress.com and I didn’t want to deal with any headaches when it came to moving everything over (nor do I have much knowledge of how to do so) so enlisting the help of a hosting company that manages everything for me, rather than just acts as a platform for wp.org, was very important. The cost of the hosting really is worth it for several reasons, especially as I gained access to many of Ashley’s themes, which is an incredible value. I am not a graphics person really but the graphics on my blog (header, post images) I’ve all made myself. I’m using Ashley’s tweak me v.2 theme (in conjunction with the Ultimate Book Blogger plug in) which made the visual element of my blog very easy to design despite not having a lot of experience, as there are pr-einstalled fonts, colors, widgets, social media icons, etc. So I was able to use some of my self taught design skills along with Ashley’s theme and have a cohesive design that I’m happy with. I have literally seen dozens of bloggers using the same theme I am that look so completely different because of the high level of customization allowed. Also, the customer service can’t be beat. I asked a lot of questions my first two months of being self hosted and Ashley responded to them all so promptly, even despite being in a different time zone. I can’t imagine being with a large hosting company where I wouldn’t even really know where my support ticket was going. Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

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