Last Updated on: September 2nd, 2016
Moving a website from a free platform such as WordPress.com to one that is self-hosted can be a nightmare. (Just ask me. I know. I did this recently!) Problems will arise, but solutions can be found, if you know what to do and who to ask for help.
I was faced with several problems when moving from my old site to my new one. Some solutions were found simply by asking for help but others were found through trial and error. In this article, I will reveal two major problems I faced and the solutions I found. It is my hope that you can learn what to do and what to expect when moving your website by using my personal experience as a model.
Moving Posts – the easy part
I’m pleased to announce that I was able to move all of posts from my old site to the new one in about two minutes. It was actually easy.
All I had to do was:
- go to my dashboard, and choose Tools then Export,
- select what I wanted to move (Posts, Pages, or both),
- download the file to my computer,
- go to the dashboard of my new site, choose Tools then Import,
- and upload the file from my computer to my new site.
I opted to move only my posts and not my pages, as part of the reason for having a new site was to design things a bit differently!
Redirecting – the hard part
My blog was formerly called “Lorraine Reguly’s Life” but it is no longer accessible. If you try to visit it, you will be brought to “Wording Well” instead. Why? Because there is a redirect in place, which I purchased through the Store on WordPress.com for a cost of $13 per year.
From the above screenshot, one would think that the redirect is actually working. It was, to a certain degree; it brought visitors to the new site, but it didn’t bring them to the post they were looking for, even though I moved all of my posts from “Lorraine Reguly’s Life” over to this site.
The Problem: URL Structure
The problem with the redirect occurred when I opted to change the permalink (URL) structure on the new site. I did not want the date to be a part of the URLs; I wanted them to be customized and static.
This is not an option bloggers have if they blog on WordPress.com but it is an option on WordPress.org! (The URLs on WordPress.com contain the entire title of the post, whereas customized links can be shortened so that they will rank higher in search engines.)
Although I did not customize the URL for the post I wrote for the official rules for the Liebster Award, you can see that the date has been removed from the permalink on my new site:
OLD URL: http://lorrainemariereguly.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/the-liebster-award-the-official-rules-my-first-blog-award-and-a-few-personal-secrets-revealed
NEW URL: https://wordingwell.com/the-liebster-award-the-official-rules-my-first-blog-award-and-a-few-personal-secrets-revealed
Because of the difference in URL structure between the old site and the new one, problems arose. Visitors were not brought to the pages they wanted to see, and I had to turn to my web host, Alan Langford from Abivia, for help. This guy is awesome!
The Solution to the Permalink Problem
Alan is, indeed, one smart guy. He did all of the technical work to make this site visible to the world, he provided me with excellent answers to my many questions in a language even I could understand, and he made himself available to me at a moment’s notice.
I phoned him several times using his toll-free contact number and we spoke so much the first week of site set-up that I eventually just identified myself as “Lorraine” (instead of “Lorraine Reguly”) and he knew immediately who I was! 🙂
Honestly, I could not have asked for anyone better when I was looking for a web host. (I really should have complimented him more when I mentioned his company in the informative web hosting guide I created!) Alan’s been a true gem.
We also connected on Skype several times, too. When I realized the redirection was not working, I called him explained the problem. He said he’d let me know when or if he could fix it. I was grateful and surprised when, mere minutes later, I got a message via Skpye comments that a solution had been found.
Here is our exact conversation (please excuse the informal language and lack of capitalized letters; it was a chat, after all):
[email protected]: ok, your links should work now. Geek magic 😉
lorraine reguly: ok i will check
lorraine reguly: so sweet – how did you do that?
[email protected]: geek explanation: a regular expression match in your .htaccess file.
Non-geek: Apache has a way to change a requested URL and tell the browser it has moved. Regular expressions let you pattern match URLs, so I did one that matched yy/mm/dd/ and just removed the date codes.
He also sent me a link to an article on customizing and optimizing permalinks (which is too techie for me to comprehend but he understood quite easily).
This is only one example of the excellent support I have received from Abivia, too!
Problems with Followers and Notifications
I had many followers on WordPress.com, when I posted to “Lorraine Reguly’s Life,” but I don’t know for sure how many of them are following me now that I’ve moved over here and re-named my blog as “Wording Well.” I suspect that a lot of people haven’t bothered to follow me over here – yet.
I am getting notifications of new user registrations every day (which makes me happy!) but I am still unsure of who is getting notified when I publish a new post here.
I have received a small amount of feedback from several people and have determined this: followers of the old site are not being notified of new posts unless they are following me here.
Because I can still publish posts to “Lorraine Reguly’s Life,” my followers from there will get a notification that a post was published IF I PUBLISH A POST THERE, but if they try to visit the old site, they will be brought here (because of the redirect) but they might a message that says something like, “Whoa! You broke something!”
So, my solution for the first little while is to publish a post with the same title on both sites. At least, for the next three posts, anyway. (I just hope I don’t upset anyone by doing this.)
My Solution to Getting My Followers Back
Even though many people know that I’ve moved to a new site, I posted the following “Quick Note From Lorraine” to “Lorraine Reguly’s Life” to update those who don’t:
Hi. I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.
If you try to read this post on Lorraine Reguly’s Life, you will be brought to the new site and get a message that you “broke something” even though you really didn’t because of the redirect that has been put in place.
To continue following my blog, you have to subscribe to Wording Well via email by looking entering your email in the spot on the sidebar at the top, on the right, and clicking the “YES! SIGN ME UP!” button.
Thank you for your cooperation, and please accept my apologies for this notification. I really don’t want to lose you as a reader, and I’ve been missing you!
See you on the new site! 🙂
Another attempt I made to solve the problem of losing followers was to post directly to WordPress.com support. They finally helped me, but I had to wait for four days. This seemed like an eternity to me!
Once I was told that my followers had been moved, I asked for further articles that I could direct others to, and they pointed me to these two:
It turns out that you have to ask them to do this; you cannot move them yourself.
I have to give a shout out to Jeevan, who suggested (when I pled for help) that I read this support article which answers several questions people have about moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
If you are having problems understanding the difference between the two, I’d suggest reading WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2013. I have to give kudos to Alan at Abivia for this last one, too. He’s full of useful information at a moment’s notice! (FYI, you might want to add him to your circles on Google+ in case you ever have a tech question you need answered. Here is a direct connection to his profile.)
UPDATE: I have since deleted that site and the redirects.
More Problems I Had
I ran into several other problems while setting up my site, and I’ve written about them in a guest post on Dear Blogger called What No One Tells You About Moving Websites. I think my favourite part of that post is how to set up a favicon. 😉
I hope you can learn from my experiences when you decide to move to your own website!
Feel free to comment if you have something to say. 🙂
And if you’re wondering how I took a highlighter to this text, stay tuned; I’ll be giving you a tutorial in this soon! 🙂
Image #1 courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image #2 courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net