So, you’ve built a self-hosted WordPress.org website, but it’s become too much work to maintain. Or perhaps your life has just gotten busier. Whatever the reason, you’re ready for a solution that’s less time-consuming but just as robust. What better alternative than WordPress.com, TechRadar’s top-rated content management system of 2018? WordPress.com-hosted websites include customizable themes, site stats, and spam protection. And with a paid plan, you have access to the all WordPress features that you’re accustomed to, including your own domain name and access to thousands of plugins.
The process of moving an existing blog or website over to WordPress.com can be completed without losing your content or customization settings. Before you get started, make a list of the plugins you’re currently using, take screenshots of your pages, and make note of your navigation menus and widget areas. These things will change during the transfer process, and it will help to have a record of them as you make the switch.
Then, follow these six steps to migrate your self-hosted site to WordPress.com.
1. Download your site’s XML file
First, log into your self-hosted WordPress.org website. Open your Admin dashboard, and go to Tools > Export. Then, select All content and click the blue button labeled Download Export File. Save the file directly to your computer.
2. Create a WordPress.com account
Go to WordPress.com, select Get Started, and create your account for free.
3. Import your XML file into your WordPress.com site
After logging into WordPress.com, go to My Site > Settings. Under the Site Tools section, select the Import option. On the next screen, click Start Import. You can either drag your XML file into the box, or click to upload the file from wherever you saved it. Once the XML file has been uploaded, click the Start Import button.
4. Move your domain
Next, it’s time to set up your website’s domain so that it now points to the right place. You have two options for doing this:
The first is to transfer your domain from the provider where you purchased it, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap, to WordPress.com — follow these steps to do that.
The other option is to keep your domain registered with the original provider and link it to your new WordPress.com site. In this case, you’ll need to map your domain to WordPress.com.
5. Import theme
This will likely be the trickiest part, depending on which WordPress.com plan you use. If you opt for the Business or eCommerce Plan, you’ll be able to upload the same theme you used on your self-hosted site. Otherwise, browse the Theme Showcase to find a comparable theme that gives you the same or similar layout you had on your self-hosted site (you might even find your actual theme there!). After you activate it, customize it with your brand colors and images.
When you activate your theme, check your navigation menus and widgets; they may be in different spots in the new theme. In the end, your layout may not look exactly the same, but by choosing the right theme, you can find one that is similar.
6. Add plugins
WordPress.com paid plan users have access to many of the same popular plugins you’ll find for self-hosted websites. Go through the plugins you’ve been using on your self-hosted website, and add them by going to My Site > Tools Plugins — you’ll be able to search for them by name there. You may actually find that WordPress.com has so much built right in that you don’t need as many plugins as you thought!
After you follow these steps, check your website to make sure that everything (including your content and media) transferred over properly. If you’re having any trouble, you can post a question on the support forums. Or, if you opted for a paid WordPress.com plan, you can use live chat support for additional assistance.