More than a month after moving my blog to this self-hosted site, I’m finally writing about my transition from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Several readers have asked me whether it was difficult, presumably because they’re considering making the same transition.
The answer: no. It wasn’t difficult. But it did take a lot of time, particularly to make my new blog look the way I wanted it to. Part of the reason for that was because I wanted to use the Thesis theme, but I didn’t want it to look Thesis-y, like every other Thesis blog. I wanted it to look unique, so I had to customize quite a bit.
Here’s how I did it:
Domain: I already owned alexisgrant.com. A friend built my original site here a while back. So I built this site on a sub-domain, and that awesome friend helped me move it here when I was ready.
When I went to buy alexisgrant.com about two years ago, it was already taken. But the guy who’d bought it wasn’t using it. He was just squatting there, waiting for me or someone with my name to ask to buy the site. I think he grabbed it because of my Houston Chronicle byline, which made my name show up a lot online. Or he knew I was going to become a famous author one day. For whatever reason, he had it, and I ended up paying $400 for it. I bargained with him, and I have no idea whether that was a good price. Maybe I got screwed. But it was totally worth it, because I now have my name as my domain.
I’m telling you this so you go out and buy your name, before someone squats there and makes you pay hundreds of dollars for what you could’ve bought on GoDaddy.com for $9.99 a year. The more active you are online, the more likely your name will be bought. So buy it now, even if you don’t want to use it yet. You’ll want it later.
Hosting: I already owned server space with Dreamhost. My web-design friend says that’s the best place to host, and I trust his judgment. If you buy server space there, they give you one free domain of your choice. (If you buy your domain at GoDaddy now, you can transfer it to Dreamhost later.)
Theme: I chose Thesis because it looks professional, it’s customizable and lots of people use it, which means there’s a hearty support community if I have a problem. I also considered WooThemes, which has an up-and-coming Thesis-like theme, largely because they offered me a free theme over Twitter when I tweeted about them. Businesses, take note: going after customers on Twitter works.
Except in this case, it didn’t work, but only because I liked the look of Thesis better. Or maybe it did, because I’m telling you to check out WooThemes even though I’m not using their product.
Here’s the cool part: If you like the look of my site and decide to use Thesis too, you should buy it, or just check it out, by clicking here. If you decide to buy Thesis months from now, click on the yellow box at the bottom of my right sidebar. When you buy it through me, I get a cut! Thesis is awesome like that. It costs $87.
The creators of Thesis have made a significant improvement to the theme even since I bought it: you can now upload a customized header. This is freakin’ fabulous, and yet another reason why Thesis is considered one of the best WordPress themes around.
Customization: I wanted a customized header (back when it wasn’t easy to upload one), a design with a lot of white space, and other changes that would help the blog look unique. And I wanted to learn to do it myself.
Most of the Thesis experts I found online make those tweaks for you, rather than teaching you how to do it. But I found and hired Rachael Butts as my tutor, and I’m so glad I did, because she’s da bomb. She did with me what I do for my blog coach clients: hooked up our computers over the Internet and showed me how to make changes to my site. She also taught some CSS basics (a language used to style websites), so I can now make most changes on my own. Rachael is affordable and awesome. If you need help with Thesis, I recommend her.
Transfer: The actual transfer of my WordPress.com content to this blog was easy. Export everything at once from WordPress.com, import at WordPress.org. Nice and simple.
RSS Feed: I already used Feedburner for e-mail subscriptions, but I used to use WordPress’s option for my RSS feed. Now that goes through Feedburner, too. I kind of hate Feedburner, think it’s clunky and not user-friendly, but it allows me to watch my subscriber numbers grow.
Redirect old blog to new blog: Google liked my old blog because I’d been posting there for a year. But when I switched to alexisgrant.com, Google continued sending readers who searched for me to alexisgrant.wordpress.com. So I redirected the WordPress.com blog to my new self-hosted site. It costs $12 a year.