The 9 Steps to Switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Part 2

Today we finish up our series by my phenomenal guest poster Melinda VanLone on how to switch from WordPress.com. If you missed her previous posts on Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? and the first five steps in switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org you can find them by clicking the links. Next Wednesday, I’m taking part in a really cool cross-blog discussion about endings, and then I’ll finally be continuing on with my series on using the five senses in fiction.


How to Switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Part 2

Last week we covered the first five steps:

1. Advertise the move.

2. Export your data.

3. Get a domain name.

4. Locate a host for your new website.

5. Install WordPress.

And now it’s time to…

Move In

6. Create a WordPress.org log in.

This will be different from your .com log in. The trick here is to use a different email for your website than you did for the free wordpress.com account. If you try to use the same email, you’ll end up with a lot of grief over “this email is not associated with this account” anytime you want to comment on a blog. Your host can provide email along with your website, you can sign up for a gmail account, or you can ask your Internet provider.

Why do you need a different log in? Well, the WordPress.com is NOT the same as WordPress.org. Similar names, very different locations. On .org, you’re a webmaster. You’ll create an “admin” log in. On .com, they’re the webmaster. You’re a visitor with special access to your room but no keys to all the other rooms. 

Once you’re logged in as the admin on your WordPress.org site, head on over to the dashboard. You’ll notice it looks a lot like the .com side.

At this point, your site isn’t live. The only way anyone will see it is if you send them a link with the IP address, so don’t be afraid to play around with it. Make sure you write down this address! (Hint: It’s in the admin panel of your web host.)

7. Import your data.

Remember that file you saved to your desktop? It’s time to put that to use.

Go to your dashboard, and select Plug Ins > Add New. Do a search for “Wordpress Importer.” Install it, and activate it.

Now go to the Dashboard and select Tools > Import > WordPress. Then select “choose file” and select your saved file. The plug-in will take all the data and import it to your new site.

This won’t be perfect, but it’ll be close enough. Some issues will most likely arise based on the theme you select and whether you had designated Featured Images. Take a deep breathe, and realize it’s better than starting from scratch.

Once the file import is done, view your site. You should see the Twenty Eleven default theme populated by your blog data. It probably doesn’t look perfect. If your data isn’t there, be sure to refresh your browser by pressing CTRL + F5. If it’s still not there, verify that you imported the right file. If all else fails, contact your web host for assistance. They can look on their side and see if your files made it. You can too, if you know FTP, but sometimes it’s worth it to ask for help.

Decorate Your New Digs

8. Pick a theme.

This is one of the biggest reasons you switched from .com to .org, so that you can frolic in all that the .org world has to offer in the way of themes and customization. Picking a theme sounds simple, but will probably take the longest amount of time. There are so many options! Unlike .com, themes don’t come pre-loaded for you. You can search from within your dashboard, or head out to the internet to find one.

Don’t be cheap. Buy a good quality template from a company who offers complete themes. Some to look at are http://themeforest.net/, http://www.theme-junkie.com/, and  http://www.elegantthemes.com/. These sites let you see the whole theme and even a live demo so you can really get to know what they offer.

Choosing a theme is serious business. It’s time to take a step back and really think about what it is you need and want on your website. You didn’t have that many options on .com, so this will feel a bit overwhelming. Or a bit like a kid in a candy store, depending on your view of technology in general. Either way, be patient with the process.

Download the ones you like to your desktop, and then install them onto your new site via the Appearance > Theme dashboard menu item. You’ll see a “Manage Themes” and an “Install Themes” tab. Click “Install Themes,” and then either search for a new one from this page or click “upload” if you have some on your hard drive you want to use. WordPress will unpack and install the theme files for you.

View your site. It’s perfect right? No?

A common problem you’ll run in to is a lot of themes require that you designate a “featured image” per post. If your old theme didn’t, then you’ll see blank boxes where you should see images. It’s an easy but time-consuming fix. Simply go to each post and select a “featured image.” Yes, it’s a pain. But in the end, it’s what makes a great theme stand out.

Remember, all of these themes are customizable. If something isn’t landing or flowing like you wanted, first check the theme options and play with everything they give you to play with.

Tweak. View site. Tweak. View site. Drink. Tweak. View site. Tweak. View site.

If it’s still not working, you can select a new theme and try again or delve into the wonderful world of CSS.

House Warming Party!

9. Assign your domain name.

On the dashboard, go to Settings > General. There are two options called “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL).” Right now, they are most likely populated with an IP address. It’s the address your web host gave you for your website. Now is the time to point your domain name to this particular address. In both fields, put in your domain name. For example, mine is http://www.melindavan.com.

Then wait. It takes awhile to populate the servers around the world with the new instructions. Be sure to refresh your own browser or you won’t see it update. Eventually it should make the rounds and you should then be able to type in www.YOURNAME.com and see your shiny new site!

If this doesn’t work, and you end up with an error, give your web host a call. You probably need to change a DNS (domain name server) instruction somewhere, and this is definitely something they can help you with. It’s an easy fix, but it’s not always easy to find.

I can’t stress enough to be patient with all of this. Set aside time to focus on it. Plan to spend a few days getting it all just right. Once you have it set up, it will be pretty much maintenance free. I haven’t visited the dashboard in months now, other than to add content. Which, after all, is why you went through all this pain.

Put out the welcome mat! Invite people to come see your new site. Sit back, have a glass of wine, and enjoy the satisfaction. You did it!

Any questions?

Melinda VanLone Fantasy AuthorMelinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at http://www.melindavan.com/.

REMINDER FROM MARCY: My first class with WANA International kicks off on June 30th. Register for Get Rid of Boring Blog Titles Once and For All by clicking here.

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The 9 Steps to Switching From WordPress.com to WordPress.org: Part 1

Two weeks ago I had the generous Melinda VanLone by to help answer the question Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? Not only was Melinda’s post fantastic but so were the comments. For those of you who decided to make the change, Melinda’s broken it down into nine easy-to-follow steps for you. This week she’ll go through the first five, and next week you’ll get the remaining four.

If you entered last week’s critique giveaway, winners are announced at the end.

So, without further ado, take it away Melinda…


How to Switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

If you started out on WordPress.com, and have now decided you are a professional with a need for your own hosted website, it’s time to move. The sooner you do it the easier it will be in the long run. Don’t worry, I just went through this myself and I’ll hold your hand. We can do this together!

Moving from your wordpress.com blog to a wordpress.org website is like moving from an apartment to a house you’ve built.

Pack Up

1. Advertise the move.

Write a blog post explaining that your blog will be moving to a hosted site in the near future, and include a reminder in every blog post leading up to the move. Unfortunately, subscribers won’t automatically travel with you. You will lose subscribers in the switch no matter what you do, but the more you tell them, the more likely they will be to remember to subscribe to your new blog location.

2. Export your data.

Log in to your WordPress.com dashboard. Look along the admin panel until you find Tools > Export. Using this handy plug-in will make a file that combines all of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags.

Click on Export. It will bring up a page that gives you the option of paying a lot of money for a “guided transfer.” You don’t need that. Click Export again. Select “all content.”  Click “Download Export File.” WordPress will then create a file containing your data in one handy package. Be sure to save it somewhere you will remember later. You’ll need it.

Buy the Land

3. Get a domain name.

On the internet, it’s all about location—your web address. Your domain name is how people will find you. This isn’t something to dash off without thought. See Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me Writer or Dan Blank’s We Grow Media website for help with choosing the right domain name for your author platform. You’ll notice that both Marcy and I have chosen our names for our domain because as fiction writers our names are part of our brand.

Some web hosts offer domain names as well as hosting services. If you like things simple, take them up on their offer. If you don’t like putting all of your eggs in one basket, use a service like godaddy.com or dotregistrar.com to buy your domain name, and look for a web host elsewhere.

If you already own your domain name and are using it for your wordpress.com site, then you can skip right over this and start building.

Lay the Foundation

4. Locate a host for your new website.

There are thousands of options. Don’t go with the cheapest. Instead, look for one that has been in business for awhile, seems stable, is compatible with WordPress, does daily and weekly back-ups, and has 24/7 tech support. If your site goes down, it’s nice if someone answers the phone. Find a host that is friendly, not afraid to walk you through the steps, can prove nearly 100% up-time, and gets great reviews. Research this just like you would a building contractor or any other big purchase. It might not cost a lot, but this will be a big deal in the long run. Just ask anyone who’s had host problems.

WordPress recommends Bluehost (among others). This is the one I chose because they have one-button installation of the WordPress infrastructure. I’m all about easy installs. You should be able to find a host for less than $10/month.

Frame the House

5. Install WordPress.

If you’re using Bluehost or something similar, there is a one-button installation right on the admin page. If you use another host, give them a call and ask them if they have WordPress installation set up. They will walk you through it. If they won’t, find another host. You pay these people to support you.

You can also install WordPress yourself following their instructions. It looks intimidating, but it’s not overly difficult. Try not to let the technical terms scare you, and just follow the instructions step by step.

Any questions so far?

Melinda VanLone Fantasy AuthorMelinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at http://www.melindavan.com/.

SPECIAL NOTE FROM MARCY: The winners of 1,500-word critique offered last week in my post on Is Now Really the Best Time Ever for Writers? are Rebecca Enzor and Bonnie Way. Lisa and I will be in touch. Also, registration is now open for my Get Rid of Boring Blog Titles Once and For All class, with a special offer for the first 10 people who sign up.

Be sure to subscribe by email so you don’t miss the rest of Melinda’s series.

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Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?

Differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.orgIf you’re on a wordpress.com site, you’ve probably visited another blog and wished you could make your blog look like theirs, get the add-on they have, or create a portfolio to display or sell your books. Maybe you’ve just gotten tired of running across other blogs that look exactly like yours. The solution is simple, but not for everyone.

Because so many of you asked about switching from wordpress.com to wordpress.org in the comments of my post on the Four Little-Known Factors that Could Destroy Your Blog’s Chances of Success, I asked Melinda VanLone, who recently made the switch, to write a series on whether you should transfer your blog and to walk you through the steps. I’m very excited to welcome her here today!

Decision Time: Should You Move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?

So you’re building your author platform and have decided a website/blog is the way to go. Good idea! You’ve probably noticed a lot of free services out there for blog hosting—Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, just to name a few. Free is an awesome word, but in this case, free actually comes with a price.

If you’re on the fence about whether to go with a free service or to ante up and pay for a hosted website, here are some things to consider:

1. Is this a career or a hobby?

Professional writers have a professional face to show the world. This is a business, and you are an entrepreneur. A free wordpress.com or blogger blog doesn’t look professional. If this is a hobby for you, and that book you’re writing is just something you do for fun, then go with a free blog. If this is a career, and you hope to one day make a living from your writing, then go ahead and pretend you are the author you hope to someday be. Paying for a hosted website isn’t that expensive, and it’s worth it to start out looking professional vs. trying to fake it later. 

If you’re serious about your platform, change from your wordpress.com free site to a wordpress.org hosted site as soon as you possibly can. The earlier you do this, the less angst there will be.

2. Are you tech savvy, or do you have friends who are?

Everyone wants to keep costs down, and when you’re just starting out there’s probably not a big budget to spend on website development. That’s okay. There are many ways to have a professional website that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

If you are tech savvy, you can always design your own with software like Dreamweaver. If not, there are thousands (literally) of templates available free or for low cost that will make you look like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. It’s nothing to be afraid of. Embrace the madness and dive in. Having a friend who knows HTML is always a bonus, but it’s not required. You can do this.

3. Do you like having control over your stuff, or are you okay with someone else owning it?

If you go with a free host, the downside is they have limited options for customization, limited plug-ins, limited space (although they will sell you more), limited templates, limited…everything. That’s why it’s free. I’m not complaining. If you are a hobbyist and just doing a personal blog for family and friends, I’d definitely go with the free stuff.

If you are a professional, then sooner or later you’ll run into that brick wall. You’ll want to add a neat analytics plug in, or a calendar thing, or the latest gadget, and you’ll find that you can’t. Or you’ll see a fun website template, and discover you can’t use it because it’s not supported by the free platform you’ve chosen. Or you’ll love everything but the font. Guess what? You can’t change it. Unless, of course, you pay a small fee, and even then you’re stuck with a very limited list of options. If you like having control over how your site and brand looks, then paying for a host is the way to go.

What other concerns do you have about switching from a wordpress.com to a wordpress.org site? What do those of you who are already on wordpress.org love about it?

Melinda VanLone Fantasy AuthorMelinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at http://www.melindavan.com/.

Be sure to subscribe by email so you don’t miss the rest of Melinda’s series.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Make sure you read Kristen Lamb’s blog on June 1st for something really cool, and then come back here next Wednesday to find out how I’m involved. I’m incredibly excited about what Kristen has planned and what it will provide for writers and other creatives.

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