I just moved this blog to RaKasUniverse.info domain from a free blog at WordPress.com. When I moved the domain I also moved to own hosting. Reasons for this is not 100% clear even for me. I was a bit frustrated about not being able to install my own plug-ins, not being able to write java script code, and lots of other things that I find fun and interesting as a hobby programmer. I know I can do pretty much all that on blogger. That’s why I said it’s not 100% clear.
Setting up WordPress on own hosting is not that easy. That’s what I read in most other blogs. It may be so for a non technical person if you are setting it up full manual. But based on WordPress installation guide it’s not that complicated. Even with the manual steps you just need to upload WordPress files, set up a database and configure WordPress using wp-config.php file. But if you use Fantastico you just need to do few clicks and it’s done.
In this post I am trying to share my experience of moving to self hosting probably with some pointers for any one who is planing to do the same.
Finding a Host
First step of moving the blog to own hosting is to find a place to host it. In my case I had few requirements. Host should give decent storage, and bandwidth for a reasonable cost. Since I am familiar with cPanel, I wanted the host to offer cPanel access. Also I did not want to go through manual installation process of WordPress. Therefore I wanted the host to support Automatic WordPress Installation through Fantastico. Anything else provided by the host is just a bonus. Oh! by the way there must be very good customer service.
I found a suitable host. They give 10 Gb of storage and 100 Gb/Month bandwidth with a free .info domain for just 15 USD/Year. It included all above and much more. They also give SSL if I can pay for a dedicated IP address. I made few calls and asked few questions about their offering from customer care and their response was quite good. Then I signed up and no surprises so far.
Setting Up WordPress
Once hosting and the domain is up and running, next step is to set up WordPress. I decided to go with Fantastico automatic installation. I just logged in to cPanel and looked for Fantastico icon. WHAT! No Fantastico in cPanel. Now that a surprise! Main reason for selecting this hosting company is, their site says that they give Fantastico on cPanel. If that is not there it’s a problem. I called up customer care. It was almost midnight and the guy at the other end answered the phone immediately without keeping me waiting. I explained him the problem and it turned out that cPanel support different themes (You learn new stuff every day). According to him for some reason, the default theme that I was using do not show Fantastico icon or something like that. He made few changes for me on cPanel and tasked me to re-login. Problem solved! This is why you need great customer service.
Setting up WordPress using Fantastico is as simple as installing a simple software on your computer. Inside Fantastico page in cPanel you can see a long list of web applications it allows you to install. You just have to select WordPress and specify the directly in which you need to install it and that’s it. You can customize other settings like database name in a very simple interface. You will be prompted to define general blog settings such as admin user account, e-mail address, blog name and so on but that’s very straight forward and most of that you have to do even on a wordpress.com blog.
Once above things are done, you will have an empty WordPress blog up and running in no time.
Import Old Blog to Your New Blog
This is very simple as WordPress comes with a simple export/import feature. Go to DashBoard / Tools / Export of your old blog to export its content to a xml file and save it in your hard disk. Then go to DashBoard / Tools / Import section in your new blog to do the import. You just have to upload the xml file you saved when you exported your old blog. Once that is uploaded, new blog will also ask you if you like to copy all the media content from old blog as well.
When I was trying to do this there were few hiccups. Probably because of my slow and unstable internet connection. Import hanged half way through. Some posts are imported and some not. I had to delete all partially imported pages/posts in new blog and then re-import. Second time it worked like a charm.
Basic Configuration Changes
Now it’s time to make all the configurations that I need. I could have made these changes even before importing data. But most of the changes needed were not visible in the empty blog. First I installed my usual theme that I was using on WordPress.com. I like to use a new theme for new domain. But it takes a lot of time to try lots of themes and find out a good one. That gonna have to wait. I also made the right hand panel widgets to look same as it did before on my WordPress hosted blog.
Installing themes were bit different from changing themes in WordPress.com hosted blogs. Basically at WordPress.com you have to select from a list of pre-installed themes. But in this case your installed list of themes is empty. You have to install them first and then select them. There are two ways to install. You can either download a theme from somewhere and upload it to your blog (Dashboard / Themes / Install Themes / Upload). Or you can search in WordPress theme repository and select a suitable theme (Dashboard / Themes / Install Themes / Search).
Default permalinks format to posts and pages is “domain?p=xxx” format. Which is ugly and not search engine friendly. I switched it to “domain/date/post title” format by changing permalink settings at “dashboard / settings / permalinks” which is the same format I used in my WordPress hosted blog.
Promoting New Blog
Now everything is up and running and the blog is presentable. It’s time to promote it. First thing t do is to update all my profiles in all other places (WordPress.com, Facebook, …. and tons of other places) and change personal website URL to my new blog URL. This was a major problem as I did not know where I had placed URL to my blog. I changed all the places I remember. Also did a google search in hope of finding other places that needs changing. This could have been easier if I keep track of places that I manually add my blog URL to my profile. Also updated my e-mail signatures. During my Google search I found some interesting surprises. But that’s another post.
I also have to update syndicators that are syndicating my old blog to syndicate new one. That was not easy as I haven’t keep track of them. I updated places I remember and I am sure that I will find more places to update later.
Idea is to get better search engine ranking for new blog URL than the old blog. This is not easy and will take time and lot more promoting.
You also need to update anyone who is subscribed to your blog. If you have used feed-burner like me you just have to change your feed-burner settings to new place. Otherwise it will be lots of work and you may lose readers.
Now the blog is up and running. But still there are lots of things to be done. If you have come this far you would have already realized that dash-board do not look anything like what you had in WordPress.com. Structure is same but lots of things are not there. For example statistics are missing. Spam filter is not working. No way to integrate with web master tools or google analytics. No open ID support. No related posts section, No Proofreader…. This is because WordPress.com installs a lot of plugins for you. When you are on your own hosting. You are on your own. Installing plugins are pretty straight forward. But the hard part is to find most suitable plugins for you from a large list of plugins. In another post I will cover on how I went about finding and installing plugins that I needed.
Hope you find this useful!
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