From WordPress.COM to WordPress.ORG, using Thesis

October 25, 2010

More than a month after moving my blog to this self-hosted site, I’m finally writing about my transition from to Several readers have asked me whether it was difficult, presumably because they’re considering making the same transition.

Photo from Flickr's teamstickergiant.

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 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 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 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 content to this blog was easy. Export everything at once from, import at 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, Google continued sending readers who searched for me to So I redirected the blog to my new self-hosted site. It costs $12 a year.


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    8 Replies to “From WordPress.COM to WordPress.ORG, using Thesis”

    • Megan says:

      Thanks for the info. I’m in the process of customizing my self-hosted wordpress blog, so it’s always nice to hear how others have done it (plus I love the look of your blog).
      While $400 may seem like a lot for a domain name, I think you got a good deal. A friend of mine recently paid $1600 for a domain name for his startup and he said that was a good deal. Craziness. I definitely agree with you. It’s worth it to buy your name now even if you don’t plan on doing anything with it for a while. I’ve had mine for 3 years and I thank my lucky stars I snagged it before someone else did.

    • Jessie Carty says:

      I 2nd and 3rd going ahead and registering your name. Better to pay $10 now even if you aren’t using it then have to pay more for it later!

      I’m still on because I’m not sure I want all the hassle, or extra expense of moving over to .org but I would love to hear more about what it specifically did for you that was better than .com. Also, did wordpress charge you a second time to map the domain?

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey — Good question. What does ORG do that COM didn’t? I can make the site look exactly like I want, I’m at rather than (though I suppose you can do that with COM, too), awesome plug-ins like Comment Luv and Sexy Bookmarks, other customization. I don’t do anything super complicated, so for me it’s more about making the site look more unique and professional, less like a template.

        As for charging me… You mean to redirect traffic here from my old blog? It costs about $12/year.

    • Can you explain more about how you built your new site with Thesis before taking it “live”? A “sub-domain” sounds like it’s live on the web; I’d rather play around with the theme a bit first.

      I wanted to read more about this but it seems you can’t get access to thesis help forums until you buy it. (I’m “almost” ready to buy it.)


      • Alexis Grant says:

        Sure! My sub-domain was live on the web, but you can tell Thesis not to make the site searchable on search engines like Google. So even though it’s live, no one will see it (unless you send someone the link).

        Try searching for info on the web but *not* in the Thesis forums… There’s a lot of information out there in other places, too. Good luck!

    • Thank you for this post! It is helping me to understand the process of switching from COM to ORG. I am looking into DreamHost but confused about all of the options. Can you pay per month to start out? Do you know if it is possible to switch back to COM if you find out ORG just isn’t worth the expense at this time? I appreciate the feedback!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Nope, you’ve got to buy for a year. But it’s really not that expensive!

        Just keep your COM blog as you build out your ORG one, so you can decide whether the new blog works for you. When you’re ready, you can redirect your COM blog to your ORG one.

        Good luck!

    • I just came to your post finding wordpress plugin
      But found your post really interesting
      Shared a great experience of yours.
      Great work alexis

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