Moving a Free WordPress Hosted Blog to its Own Domain

Posted by on Jul 12, 2007 in SEO, Wordpress

I have a friend who has a highly trafficked blog hosted on WordPress, kreahcraze.wordpress.com. Since my friend is getting quite a bit of traffic she would like to add ads to her site in order to make some money with her blog. However, wordpress doesn’t allow its users to have ads on their blogs. So, I have been helping her move her blog to her own domain and hosting, where she will have complete control of her blog. The tricky part about doing this is that she will likely lose a lot of traffic since many of her pages are listed in the search engines under her WordPress.com domain and she likely also receives some traffic from WordPresss.com itself. We have come up with a plan to minimize loss in traffic as much as possible while still giving her complete control of her blog on her own domain. I have not done this before so I have tried to do as much research on this subject as possible but haven’t found anyone explaining exactly what I think would be the best plan of action in her case, so I decided to share our plan in case someone else is considering doing the same. The plan is…

1. Buy a new domain (kreah-craze.com).

Cost: $8/yr.

Although WordPress allows you to buy a domain through their site we decided to go with GoDaddy since we want to be eventually completely independent from wordpress.com.

2. Buy Domain Mapping from Within The Existing WordPress Account

Cost: $10/yr.

This feature allows you to re-direct your existing traffic going to your wordpress.com blog to your own domain. So all traffic going to http://blog.wordpress.com/post/ will be redirected to http://newdomain.com/post/. At this point the blog is still technically hosted by WordPress, but since the traffic is redirected using a 301 redirect to the new domain the search engines should recognize that the blog has moved permanently and will eventually update their index to list the new domain instead of the old one.

3. Build Links to and Promote the New Domain

Cost: It’s up to you. In our case very little.

By building links to the new domain we will help the search engines recognize and index the new domain and hopefully reclaim any loss in search engine ranking we may experience due to the switch. We will tell existing readers to update their bookmarks, and notify anyone linking to the old domain to update their links to point to the new domain. We want to get as much traffic as possible going directly to the new domain rather than being redirected through the old domain.

4. Move the Blog to its Own Hosting Independent of WordPress.com, Run on an Independent Installation of WordPress (downloadable at wordpress.org), and Add Ads

Cost: In our case $0 since we are just adding the domain to my existing hosting account, which allows unlimited domains. However, costs for those starting with nothing can range from a couple dollars per month up. I use HostMonster for hosting.

Once the search engines have indexed the new domain, and a significant amount of the blog’s traffic is going directly to the new domain rather than being redirected through the old domain we will cut all ties with the old domain and move the content of the blog to its own installation of wordpress on a separate hosting account. The reason this step is necessary is because up to this point the blog has still been hosted for free by wordpress.com, so the ban on ads still applied. To my knowledge you can only use the domain mapping feature as long as you are still hosting your blog on wordpress.com. When you move to your own hosting you are on your own and can no longer redirect the old domain to the new one. However, once we move to our own installation and hosting we can add ads and start monetizing the blog, which was the point to doing all this in the first place.

Additional Notes:

  • When moving from an old domain to a new one using a 301 redirect you would usually keep the redirect in place permanently. However in this case that is not possible since we need to be independent of wordpress.com in order to add ads to the blog. If you were to do the switch also I would recommend waiting as long as possible before taking the last step and moving to your own wordpress installation so that more of your traffic is going directly to the new domain. Any traffic still going through the old domain when you make the switch to your own hosted installation will be lost.
  • We will most likely lose some traffic no matter what when you finally do move to your own installation because there are existing links out there pointing to the old domain that will no longer be redirected, we will no longer receive traffic from wordpress.com, and we will likely experience a drop in search engine rankings. Hopefully we will build up enough traffic going directly to the new domain that this loss in traffic will be fairly insignificant.
  • We are likely to lose some search engine rankings during this process because your old blog is hosted on wordpress.com which is already an established, trusted domain, and your new domain will initially be given less trust by the search engines. We can overcome this in time by promoting and building links to the new domain.
  • If you were to do this switch and have an existing feedburner account it will be fairly easy to switch the feed to the new domain from within feedburner. However, if you are just using the default wordpress feed I would recommend start using a feedburner feed as soon as possible and encourage existing wordpress feed subscribers to switch to the new feedburner feed so you can take them with you to your new domain. Once you make the switch to your new domain all your previous wordpress subscribers will be lost.
  • I have never actually done this before so I am not completely sure how it will all turn out. I will post an update when the entire process is complete and maybe a few updates in between. I hope for the best.

Update Aug. 27th, 2007: Kreah and I have written an update of this project at http://www.chrissandberg.com/an-update-on-switching-away-from-wordpresscoms-free-hosting/

12 Comments

  1. 7-12-2007

    It might be helpful to discuss adding the right plug-ins in a follow-up post. Newbies generall don’t know the value of the best plug-ins as far as seo and usability.

  2. 7-12-2007

    I’d like to congratulate you on your decision to move to a paid webhost, Chris. One point I always try to drive home to bloggers is the importance of establishing 100 percent ownership of your blog.

    Decide what niche audience your blog will serve.

    Decide on a domain name for your blog.

    Find a quality webhost for your blog.

    Decide which blog platform you’ll use.

    Implement the blog.

    I like your blog. I’ll be following it. In fact, I have just subscribed to your feed. You’ll do fine. You’ll soon have many subscribers and lots of quality, well-targeted traffic.

    I look forward to you and your blog’s future!

  3. 7-13-2007

    @ Mark@ApplyForCreditCards
    I agree, I have actually been thinking of writing a post of plugins I use already. Such a post would go along well as an update of this switch.

    @MarkBlogger
    Thanks for the encouraging words. I have actually already had my own domain and hosting for quite some time now. This plan to switch to a unique domain is actually for a friend of mine. Great advice though, and thanks for subscribing.

  4. 8-7-2007

    Dear Chris,

    Your post is indeed valuable since most people think that migration is just a matter of purchasing a domain name and hosting account and then move all the posts to their new home.

    I wonder if you could also share us the smooth way (talking about traffic) to migrate from blogger.com to paid hosting without loosing traffic from search engines.

    Many thanks & regards.

    Indratno Widiarto

  5. 8-7-2007

    @Indratno

    Yeah, you are right. If you just purchase a new domain and hosting and then move all your posts over you will lose all the search engine traffic you were getting to your old blog. It is like starting you blog over again. If you already have some search traffic coming to your blog, it is worth the effort to try to keep as much of that traffic as possible by applying some of the tips I mentioned in the post.

  6. 9-8-2007

    This is my first post
    just saying HI

  7. 10-5-2007

    Nice article, but need more information. I am pretty technical already, but was wondering, can you export your free blog on WordPress to a unique domain. ie without losing your history, or is that not possible?? The moving I can handle, but can I get my old wordpress info out, or will it forever remain on the free wordpress site? It there an export method?

    Thanks in advance for any info, or help.

  8. 10-5-2007

    @Richard

    Yes, there is an export feature on WordPress hosted blogs and an import feature on independently hosted WordPress blogs. Exporting your content from a blog on WordPress.com then importing it all to a blog on your own domain is what was implied in step 4 when I said “Move the Blog to its Own Hosting Independent of WordPress.com”, however, I understand I wasn’t too detailed in how to actually do that.

  9. 2-10-2008

    Chris,

    Thanks a lot for the nice and accurate explanations of the process and answers given to my concerns when moving from a free wordpress.com blog hosting to a self owned domain one.

    Leo.

  10. 6-7-2008

    Thanks this helped a lot this morning… I am in the middle of doing exactly whats described..I haven’t redirected yet and I was wondering how…right now its split between my hosted and free blog..free blog has about 1000 visits with no advertising. I thought i’d just be able to swap em and keep the traffic…this post gives me better direction on how to transfer….

  11. 6-7-2008

    @MsTrisBeats
    If you want to redirect your blog you will have to first still technically host it with wordpress.com and use their Domain mapping service to redirect to your new domain first. Once all the traffic from search engines is going directly to the new domain (not just going to the old domain and being redirected) you can just up a new blog on the new domain and import all the content so that it is an exact replica of what was hosted on wordpress.com

  12. 10-6-2009

    The domain mapping is valid even if you are self-hosted. May be it was not so when you wrote this post.

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