WordPress is a beautiful platform. Whether you are on WordPress.com or WordPress.org, you are utilizing the most robust, powerful, and widely used website platform.

However, although these two methods offer you the power to manage your site with the tools, themes, plugins, and community that comes with WordPress, there are basic differences between them.

Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

WordPress.com is a blogging service that uses the WordPress platform. This service is offered and managed by Automattic, a company founded by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress)

On this service, you can get a free plan, or upgrade to paid plans if you need more features. You would be given a domain name (or can purchase one), hosting service, and other requirements needed to run your site.

With WordPress.org on the other hand, you download the WordPress platform software and install it on a web host you purchased. You would also need to purchase your domain name. All management of your website rests solely on you.

At Fixrunner, we believe WordPress.com is ok for newbie bloggers. But if you are aiming to grow your site and make money off of it, we advise you to switch to WordPress.org, and here’s why.

Why Choose WordPress.org over WordPress.com

Perhaps the most outstanding reason is the one we already mentioned, WordPress.org is for serious bloggers and website owners. These pros/cons will help you understand why:

  1. WordPress.com users can only use a small set of themes and plugins: You cannot simply pick any theme or plugin you think will look good on your site. It has to be one of those permitted by the WordPress.com service. On the self-hosted WordPress.org install, you can use any theme or plugin you like, no restrictions whatsoever.
  2. You cannot customize your code: As your site grows, it may get to a point where it’s absolutely necessary to add some custom feature. If you are on WordPress.com, that’s not going to happen. On WordPress.org however, you are free to customize your code whichever way you like. No restrictions whatsoever.
  3. Ecommerce is very limited: You cannot sell goods you did not produce yourself. You can only make money from ads using the WordAds system offered by WordPress.com; all ads from major ad networks like Google and VibrantMedia are prohibited. You can only use Paypal as your payment method, etc, etc. On WordPress.org, you are free to sell goods and services. You can also use ads from any network, no restrictions there either.

If you currently have a WordPress.com site, but have decided to go for the freedom that comes with WordPress.org, this guide will show you how to migrate your site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

How To Move From WordPress.com To WordPress.org

The rest of this tutorial will show you how to move your site to WordPress.org using the following steps:

  1. Purchase your hosting and domain name (If you already had a custom domain name, you can move it instead)
  2. Export all content from your WordPress.com site.
  3. Install WordPress in your new host.
  4. Import your content into your new, WordPress.org install.
  5. Check your install.
  6. Redirect visitors (only if you did not have a custom url in WordPress.com)

Step 1. Purchase your hosting and domain name

To move to WordPress.org, you would need to purchase a webhosting service. There are various hosts to choose from but we highly recommend Inmotion hosting as they offer very reliable, highly rated service. Please purchase a hosting plan with them (or with any other ‘thoroughly researched’ provider.)

If your domain on WordPress.com is something like example.wordpress.com, then you would also need to purchase a new domain name. You can purchase one when you are buying your hosting service.

If already had a custom domain (e.g. www.yoursitename.com), there is no need to purchase another domain. When buying your web hosting service, you would be asked to input your domain if you already had one. Enter your domain at that step.

Thereafter, you can point your name servers at your new web host and continue using your domain name.

However, note that all WordPress domains use ssl (i.e. the link is https://, and not http://)

If you are pointing your name servers to a webhost that does not implement ssl by default (ask your webhost about this), then those who try to access your site using https:// will get a warning. Since this url has also been indexed by search engines, it could affect your SEO. Please read this WordPress article to learn how to fix the ssl issues.

Step 2. Export your content form WordPress.com

Thankfully, WordPress provides a super easy way to get your content out of your WordPress.com site!

To do this, login to your WordPress.com account.

Switch to My Site, scroll down, and click WP Admin.

Export content - WordPress.org

In your admin dashboard, go to Tools > Export.

Export content to WordPress.org

In the free export section, click Start Export.

Free content export to WordPress.org

Leave it set to “All content” and click Download Export File.

Export all content to WordPress.org

Your entire website content will be downloaded as an xml file.

Step 3. Install WordPress in your new host

You can install WordPress using a software installer like Softaculous (this is easier), or by uploading the files and installing using FTP.

To do this, you need to have login access to your webhost admin panel (likely cPanel). Request these access details from your webhost if you do not yet have them. Next, proceed to install WordPress using one of the methods below:

  1. Installing WordPress Using a Package Installer (Softaculous or Fantastico).
  2. Downloading and Installing WordPress Using FTP.

Step 4. Import Your Content Into Your New WordPress Install

In step 2 above, you exported your content from your WordPress.com site. You can very easily import that file into your new WordPress install and get your entire content restored in your self-hosted site.

Here’s how to do this:

In your WordPress dashboard, go to Tools > Import.

Import content into WordPress.org install

In the import page, scroll down to the WordPress section and click Install Now. Wait for the WordPress importer to be installed.

Install Importer - WordPress.org

When the installation completes, the button changes to Run Importer. Click on this button.

Run Importer - WordPress.org

In the “WordPress Import” page, click Choose File and select the xml file you exported from your WordPress.com site. Next, click Upload file and import.

Select content file and import to WordPress.org

In the next page, select an existing user in the “Assign posts to an existing user” dropdown. Next, check the “Download and install file attachments” box (make sure this box is checked, otherwise, your images would not be imported).

Start content import into WordPress.org

Lastly, click Submit to start the importation process.

Note: There is a 32mb size restriction on files that can be uploaded. Most export files will be smaller than this, but in the event that yours is bigger, you can split it and install using WordPress WXR File Splitter.

When the import completes, you would be greeted with this pleasant page.

Import complete!

And that’s it, you’re done moving your site to WordPress.org. However, before you go on to “Have fun” as the page suggests, you want to check that everything was moved over correctly.

Step 5. Check your install.

After the import completes in the step above, you want to do a general check to make sure images are not broken. In most cases, you would have no problems with this and your tests will show that you are good to go.

However, in some instances, images may be broken. If that happens, you can restore your images using the Import External Images plugin.

Note that this plugin only imports 50 images at a time. To import the next 50, simply redo the import process.

Step 6. Enable Redirect if you had a wordpress.com domain

If your domain was something like yoursite.wordpress.com, and you had to purchase a new custom domain, then we recommend you add a redirect from your WordPress.com url to the domain you purchased.

This is necessary to preserve site traffic and SEO to your new site. Otherwise, your readers and SEO will continue going to your old WordPress.com site.

WordPress.com offers redirect at $13/year. To enable this feature, go to the WordPress Redirect item in WP Store.

Enter the domain you want to redirect to and click Go.

Purchase redirect to your WordPress.org site

Complete the checkout process to enable redirect.

A note about Permalinks: For redirect to work, your permalink structure has to be the same with the structure at WordPress.com, which is the “Date and name” permalink.

Though we normally recommend the “Post name” permalink structure because of its simplicity (besides other benefits), in this case, you have to use the “Date and name” permalink if you want to use redirection. In your self-hosted dashboard, go to Setting > Permalink to make this change.

What if you had a custom domain with WordPress.com: If this is the case, and you only had to change your name servers to point at your new host, then you don’t need redirection. Simply go ahead and set your WordPress.com site to private.

To do this, go to Settings > Reading.

Next, scroll to the “Site visibility” section and select “I would like my site to be private”.

Set WordPress.com site to private

Lastly, click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

How Can You Use This Information

While WordPress.com makes blogging easy for WordPress newbies, the truth is, if you want to do anything serious with your blog, you are better off moving to WordPress.org.

If you have decided to make this switch, and have successfully done this using the steps covered here, good job! Time to let WordPress off the leash and experience its full power.

Also, in the future, we recommend you start your blogs using WordPress.org. That way, you can avoid the extra effort needed to migrate, and the complications that sometimes come with it.

Of course, if you need a professional to help you with the migration process, you can request our service.