Switching from WordPress Premium to Self-Hosted: What Happened?
Recently I went through the somewhat traumatic experience of migrating from my WordPress premium plan to self-hosted. I had been researching into going self-hosted for quite some time. But back in April I got suckered into upgrading to WordPress premium when it was on offer. From my personal experience I wouldn’t suggest following the same path I did. You don’t need WordPress premium at all! Not only does it cost more, it is so limited. Please do not make the same mistake that I did! I LITERALLY couldn’t wait for my plan to finish (April 2019) before changing over. That is money I will never get back, and I’m a total tight wad. This should speak volumes ha!
*Full Disclosure – this post contains affiliate links. I would never promote anything I hadn’t tried, tested and LOVED. The opinions expressed below are my own, I have not been compromised by the sway of the mighty dollar! Check out my full policy here.
Why Did I choose Premium?
The initial reason I upgraded was to remove the rubbish ads from my free WordPress plan. Not only do they look unprofessional, I think they create a poor user experience and add unnecessary visual noise. I was already used to using plugins as part of my job. I knew that I couldn’t get plugins from WordPress premium. But my brain was like, oh yeah trial by fire baby, I can really earn my stripes … by making the whole experience incredibly PROBLEMATIC for myself of course. Face Palm.
Oh, and there was already next level freak out potential, because all the information I could find about going self-hosted, had no mention of migrating over from the premium plan. I had no idea what to expect in this regard. I won’t lie; the whole experience was damn stressful. I wasn’t a joy to be around during this period, let’s put it that way. But it was SO worth it. I’m super happy that I took the leap. Ultimately the best benefit of my trial by fire, is that I now have a lot of useful knowledge to share.
What is Self-Hosting?
Self-hosting means you own your website (woo) but you use an external company to store your website files on their servers. However, with great power, comes great responsibility. You are responsible for updates. You are responsible for backups…
Oh wait … THERE’S A PLUGIN FOR THAT!
Hey Rach from 7 months ago, before you upgrade please remember everything is easier with plugins.
What are the Benefits of Self-Hosting?
When you go self-hosted, it is like owning your own plot of virtual real estate. This basically means you own EVERYTHING that you produce. It truly is YOUR website. Even in the week that I have been self-hosted, I feel a lot more pride in my website. I’m now extremely site proud!
Along with this new sense of ownership, comes a lot more choice. I mean like A LOT. From themes to widgets (AND PLUGINS yay) when you are self-hosted the choices become endless. On the free plan you can only install from the limited free themes collection, and on the premium plan you have more to choose from, but you still can’t upload one you have paid for from outside of WordPress.
When I was on WordPress Premium I always knew I would eventually go self-hosted. As a result, I always felt like I didn’t want to spend time on choosing a theme for my website because it might not be available once I moved over. It truly felt like a total stop gap.
I’ll tell you exactly what I told WordPress when they asked me what they could do better when I cancelled my Premium plan. PLUGINS. Yep, this is coming from the trial by fire chick.
If you don’t already know what plugins are allow me to explain. WordPress plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to improve the functionality of your WordPress site. If you need to do anything worthwhile when it comes to improving your blog … a solution can generally be found with a quick visit to Pluginsville.
Improved Site Rankings
I must admit, this is one of the main driving forces that urged me to go self-hosted before my premium plan was up. I’ve read of people experiencing a little drop in their search rankings when they first make the switch to self-hosted. Although this rises again over time, I had visions of waiting until April 2019, and having a lot more to lose.
In the long run being self-hosted is a heck of a lot better for site rankings. It’s better to make the change sooner rather than later. A lot of this is due to the increased flexibility self-hosting brings to your site. For example, you have more control over your site speed and file sizes, these are all things that can negatively impact your rankings if left unchecked.
Ultimately you have more control over SEO and your DA.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you would like to learn more about SEO, why not check out my 3 Part series on the subject.
- Part 1 – Diving into SEO: Search Engines, Keywords & Algorithms
- Part 2 – Using Link Building for Search Engine Optimization
- Part 3 – How to Build Links & Boost SERP Rankings
Domain authority (DA) – If you don’t know much about Domain Authority, check out this awesome post from Ruth over at ruthinrevolt for a great deep dive on the subject.
How to Go Self-Hosted from WordPress Premium
So, you have made the decision to go self-hosted, but where do you start? I have outlined the steps below, in what I hope is an accessible and easy to follow guide.
Step 1 – Find a Hosting Service
First you need to find a hosting service. I had done some research and took a few names. But the one I saw recommended repeatedly by trusted blogging pals was *SiteGround.
If you choose this route, you must first choose your plan. I’m chose the ‘StartUp’ plan which is £2.75 a month.
Step 2 – Domain Name
I opted to register my own domain name from the start, mainly because it looks so much more professional, and it is 100% better for branding. As a result, I just needed to redirect it to my new hosting provider.
If you haven’t already created one, you can do so through *SiteGround. Failing that there are plenty of domain name registration sites out there.
Step 3 – Site Transfer
I paid a £20 fee for *SiteGround to manually transfer my website from WordPress Premium to their hosting service. I am reasonably tech savvy, so I think I could have done this myself, but it was so worth it to avoid a total stress freak out.
The support team were so responsive it was amazing. I did this transfer during a weekend too, so that’s dedication right there – on both our parts!! I paid for the service and it had been done within a few hours. Once the site migration is complete you will be given a new admin login.
Step 4 – New Theme
In the time I was waiting for the site transfer from the *SiteGround team, I went theme shopping! I was literally SO excited for this process. Even my boyfriend was laughing about how excited I was to trawl through theme designs because as a general rule he knows I hate shopping.
I know a lot of people recommend pipdig and they do have some beautiful themes to choose from. In the end however, I found mine through Creative Market.
I can’t explain to you the sense of pride you get once you go self-hosted and choose your theme. As mentioned previously, I am now extremely site proud. Whilst before I crossed my fingers and hoped the content spoke for itself.
Click the image below to sign up to SiteGround 🙂
What were the Initial Improvements?
Once the transfer was completely I immediately started working through the list of improvements I had been mulling over in my brain for what seemed like FOREVER. I was finally freeeeeeeee!
Oh lord, I wanted this bad boy for so long. If you have access to plugins you can install ‘jQuery Pin It Button for Images.’ This is such a cool and easy to use plugin. Once you install and activate it will automatically add the pin it option to every image. This provides a nice little reminder for any avid pinners that visit your site. You do have the option to turn off the plugin within individual posts when you edit them.
Improve Site Speed
My site is very image heavy. I am a Pinterest addict AND an Artist/Designer after all! I have always been extremely aware of the impact this may have on my website speed, and in turn the impact this will have on my DA and search ranking potential.
Enter Smush. This is a plugin that reduces image file sizes without impacting on their quality. Thus, drastically improving site speed whilst retaining image integrity. Yeah that’s right, I just slipped a little thus action into this post. This nerd has skillz.
Once you install and activate the plugin, you have the option to work through your existing images in groups of 50 at a time.
Yoast is the holy grail of all plugins. The blog I update at work uses Yoast, so I already had some experience with it and knew it was a must! It takes the hassle away from optimising your website for the search engines. Here is the full list of what Yoast can do for your site.
With WordPress premium the best option I had for my permalink structure included the date at the end. ERG. I hated is, and always found my links so distracting because of this; shuddering every time I shared them.
I couldn’t wait to change my permalink structure! To achieve this head to your admin dashboard and click the ‘Settings’ tab followed by ‘Permalinks.’ The below screen will appear. Select post name.
Going Self-Hosted: the Ultimate Learning Curve
I’m including this section so that you don’t spend your Sunday freaking out like I did. Yay! Freak out five. Remember how excited I was about FINALLY being able to change my permalink structure. Yeah well that kinda bit me in the butt in a way I didn’t foresee.
ALL of my links were now broken, including everything on Pinterest. Meaning every Pin I had ever scheduled from my own content, lead to a 404 page. Immediately I had visions of all my existing pins being reported as spam. I had nightmares about how these 404 links would mess up my site rankings. I thought I would have to go back through ALL of my links and fix them. Safe to say, I was one step away from bawling my eyes out. So, I went for a walk to clear my head.
When I came back from my stress stroll, I searched for solutions, and you guessed it. THERE’S A PLUGIN FOR THAT!
I installed and activated ‘WP 404 Auto Redirect to Similar Post.’ All the existing links that I have tested so far have all linked directly back to the original post. However, if the plugin can’t manage this function, your reader will be directed to a similar post. Trust me, this is so much better than a broken link.
Phew impending blog doom over.
My domain was still linking to my old site at this point even though I had redirected it. I had uploaded my new theme and had begun work on customising it. At this point I began to wonder if I would have to reinstall my theme once everything had caught up.
After the weekend was up this problem was fixed. The only way this can be fixed is time and patience. But don’t feel like you can’t start work on your new theme. It just takes up to 48 hours for the domain transfer to full register when you switch servers.
So, after the broken link debacle, I took a breath. The dust had settled, on to the next fire fight. I realised that my new site was missing all the existing subscribers that I had worked exceptionally hard to gain. At this point I just laughed. Could anything else go wrong?
After some research, I found a few tutorials on migrating your subscribers. I had a bit of trouble with this, because I was in the in between phase so my WordPress app wasn’t showing two separate sites. I did a bit of messing about and re connected my new site onto the old WordPress.com dashboard.
You will need to install the Jetpack plugin to your new self-hosted WordPress site. This is the tutorial I used to eventually migrate my existing followers.
I really hope this has been a helpful post! Especially for those on a WordPress Premium plan considering taking the leap to self-hosted. After the whole experience was over, I thanked my lucky stars that I did this sooner rather than later. Do you want to gain a ton of traffic, only to have to stall everything to go self hosted? Cringe. I honestly wish I had changed to over to *SiteGround sooner. Furthermore, if I could go back in time, I would have started with a self-hosted website. But you live and you learn folks.
Have you recently gone self-hosted? Let me know how you found it! If you have any questions please comment below.
P.s. Why not buy me a coffee?
P.p.s. If you enjoyed this post why not check out my previous post ‘A Practical Guide to Social Media Marketing for Business.’ Just click the image below.