Self-Hosted WordPress to Hosted WordPress.com

This article refers to an obsolete website. Links to it have been removed.

My Spam Chronicles site has been dormant since August. There’s a minor WordPress upgrade out now and a major one looming. I don’t want to spend the time needed to upgrade and I don’t want to run old, possibly vulnerable, software. Rather than kill the site I decided to move it to WordPress.com. WordPress.com is the hosted WordPress environment and would relieve me of the of the upgrade burden.

I didn’t want to kill off the site, I didn’t want to invest the time needed for upgrades, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time moving the site. So, WordPress.com seemed like the logical choice. They provided a free hosting environment and since I was already using WordPress the migration should be simple.

While the hosting is free I wanted to keep the www.spamchronicles.com address. This is a $10/yr. option.

In looking at WordPress.com I saw three minor problems.

1. The permalink structure of WordPress.com is not configurable and it did not match the permalink structure of my site. I figured links to my site will be broken. I was willing to accept this as the site usually has less than six visitors a day. I ended up being wrong about this and the old URLs where redirected to the correct page and Google search results continued to work.

2. WordPress.com does not allow advertising. I probably had a few affiliate links in my articles that I’d have to hunt down and remove. I didn’t expect this to be very time consuming and in fact only took me less than 15 minutes.

3. The third problem was pictures. Since WordPress.com is a hosted blog I had no access to the file system so I couldn’t just copy the graphic files. I’d have to upload them individually. I didn’t have many files so while this would probably be the most time consuming step it wasn’t unreasonable. This took me less than an hour while I also watched TV.

Move Checklist

The is what I did to move the site:

1. I exported the site (posts, comments, custom fields, tags, categories) using the Export command in the Admin pages of the old site. Export is listed under the manage tab.

This resulted in a xml file being saved to my local drive. There’s a 3MB import limit on WordPress.com, my file was well under that.

2. I turned off the “notify blogs” option in the admin panel (Options -> Discussion) so that any edits I make won’t spam other blogs with duplicate notifications.

2. I opened the XML file in a text editor (I use Smultron). I searched for my affiliate links and either deleted or edited the post on the live site. I also deleted all posts in the SideNotes category on the live site.

3. Once all the updates were done I did a second export to get an updated xml file.

4. I set up the blog at wordpress.com with the name spamchronicles.wordpress.com. Among the configuration changes I made was to also turn off notifications for this blog (same as step 2) so that the import and subsequent edits won’t spam sites with multiple notifications. Then I ran through the options tab in the admin console and set things for my preferences.

5. Once I knew the site was ready I went to my domain manager and set the DNS server to the WordPress.com DNS server (NS1.WORDPRESS.COM, NS2.WORDPRESS.COM, NS3.WORDPRESS.COM). It’s takes awhile for this change to propagate.

6. I imported the xml file from the original site. This added all the posts, comments, tags & categories. Because the old site was still valid in DNS (the DNS server change hadn’t propagated yet) the pictures were still shown. I went through and uploaded/re-pointed the images to the wordpress.com address. This was easy to do since I keep a site backup on my local drive and the backup directory structure was the same.

7. It took a few hours for the DNS change to propagate. Once it did I was able to go into the “Upgrades” tab of the Admin panel and select the domain upgrade. You can’t add the domain until the DNS propagates so you’ll receive an error if it’s too early. Once the DNS propagates I was presented with the steps to spend the $10 and set up the domain.

At this point the site is accessible using www.spamchronicles.com and I’m done.

Because the permalink style had changed I had expected the old links to break. But what I found is that they are being redirected. On the original site my article about blocking IntelliTxt adds was at http://www.spamchronicles.com/pop-up-ads/block-intellitxt-ads/ while at the new site it’s at http://spamchronicles.com/2007/04/01/block-intellitxt-ads/. When I click the link in the Google search results it’s properly redirected to the correct page at my new site.

I still have the old sites files and database up so if I had to go back to it all I’d have to do is change the DNS servers back to my old host. But things seem to be going OK so I’ll probably clean up all the old stuff over the weekend and be done with it.

All totaled, it was about 2 hours of actual work and I no longer have to worry about upgrading the site in order to plug vulnerabilities.