WordPress is among the most frequently used content management systems for blogs, forums and other online publishing platforms. With one million users its popularity means that it is also a hive for criminal activity with hackers scanning websites for possible weak areas. The only way to prevent hackers from gaining back door access is by taking adequate safety precautions.
For those thinking about changing websites with WordPress, there are two typical scenarios. Some users want to change provider but keep their WordPress domain; in this case, the entire website and its address is taken from one provider over to a new one. Alternatively, others are unhappy with their current web address and want to get a new domain for their website. The WordPress form being used also makes a difference, as transferring a self-hosted WordPress website often works very differently to a wordpress.com powered website. Read on to discover useful tips and tricks for successfully moving a WordPress site in each scenario.
Scenario 1: moving a WordPress domain to a new provider
This section reveals how to change your web hosting provider but maintain your website and its web address. In this case, you keep the domain, and only change the web server on which the website’s data is stored. This process is usually called domain name transfer, although it’s sometimes referred to as (website) migration or a web host transfer.
Before embarking on this task, you should always create a backup of your website. To find out more about different backup plugins, check out our article on securing your WordPress website.
Your choice of WordPress content management system is a decisive factor in the process behind a WordPress domain transfer. The approach needed is different, depending on whether your website is operated via wordpress.com or via an independently-hosted WordPress installation, downloaded from wordpress.org. Read on to find out more about the procedure for the first CMS version, while operators of self-hosting blogs can refer to the information below.
Migrating from wordpress.com to a new host
There are many good reasons to transfer your website from a wordpress.com server to a new provider. Often, users find wordpress.com insufficient as it’s primarily geared towards private bloggers, CMS beginners, and users wanting to operate a simple website with as little effort as possible.
Operating a website via wordpress.com has some disadvantages that can be avoided by using an independently hosted WordPress installation. Users that want an independent domain and more storage space, for example, could find themselves confronted with high costs when using wordpress.com. The considerable lack of variety in plugins and themes presents another serious shortcoming. In addition, you have no FTP access to your website files. Therefore, the wordpress.com CMS often fails to meet the requirements of more advanced users.
Should you wish to host your website with a specially hired web hosting provider rather than wordpress.com, you need to move all the website content and the WordPress domain. Before changing to a new hosting provider, it’s essential that you back up your data on the wordpress.com CMS. For more information on backing up a WordPress website, read our summary of the best WordPress backup plugins. You also need to export all of the website’s content with the tool located in the ‘Tools’ menu under ‘Export data’. You will then be taken through an adjustment process, which will enable you to import the website into your new WordPress installation. Besides that, changing your WordPress domain follows the same pattern as installing the CMS in the first place.
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Changing providers with an independently hosted WordPress installation
There are many great reasons to transfer a WordPress domain from one rented web server to another. Perhaps your current hosting provider doesn’t offer an adequate range of features, or it’s too expensive, or the server’s performance or customer service leaves something to be desired. Check out this handy guide on WordPress migration for a comprehensive tutorial on transferring a WordPress installation.
Scenario 2: changing a WordPress domain
It is also possible to change a domain but keep the website content and web hosting provider. This is known as a domain name change. A website operator might choose this route if they are unhappy with their website’s current internet address. In this case, you can register anew domainand link it to your website.
There are many other reasons for connecting a new domain to an existing website. For example, some websites are first tested in a development environment. Only once it’s verified that everything works as intended does the website go online and become available to the public. In a case such as this, the web presence has to then be linked to a new domain.
The range of reasons for changing a domain gives way to a variety of different approaches to connecting a WordPress website to a new web address. In any case, it’s important to set up a domain redirect on the old site, which forwards users automatically to the new domain. Otherwise, you could experience a significant loss in page traffic and a lower ranking in the search engine results. For security reasons, you should always back up your website before changing your WordPress domain.
New domain for a wordpress.com website
It’s possible to use a CMS variant on wordpress.com that is hosted free of charge. But in this case, WordPress will only grant you a subdomain for your website (i.e. website-xyz.wordpress.com). This can look amateurish and may ward off potential visitors, particularly for businesses who want to convey a serious image. Fortunately, you can add your own domain (i.e. website-xyz.com) later for a fee.
WordPress also offers domain mapping as a service. This means linking an existing WordPress website to another domain that is already registered as yours. Subdomains can also be set up for an existing website. Read on to discover different approaches to changing your WordPress domain.
Registering a new domain with wordpress.com
The simplest way to obtain a new internet address for your WordPress site is to pay a fee for one through wordpress.com. This involves far less bureaucratic work in comparison to independently registering a web address with a domain name registrar and then setting it up on wordpress.com (see domain mapping in the following section). Instead, the WordPress team takes over these tasks, making the process quicker and easier for website operators. The domain change occurs as follows:
- Select the option ‘Domains’ in the menu and enter your desired domain. Once you’ve found a suitable web address, select ‘Add’.
- Enter your e-mail address. This will allow you to manage all incoming messages to your WordPress dashboard.
- Enter the requested personal information. These details will be passed from WordPress to ICANN, where you will then be registered as the official domain owner. Next, choose whether you want this information to be registered privately or publicly on the Whois database.
- Once you’ve made your payment, you can choose your newly acquired address as your main domain under the option ‘Domains’. Your old address will remain active and, if entered into the search bar, will redirect to your new site. Registering your new address in the Domain Name System may take a few hours to complete.
One drawback is that WordPress only supports the specific domain endings listed here. The list includes many generic top-level domains such as .com or .net, but personalised TLDs are unavailable. Despite this, internet addresses whose domain endings aren’t supported may be linked with the website via domain mapping.
Domain mapping with wordpress.com
Wordpress.com offers another fee-based service, which allows you to activate a domain that you’ve purchased in advance. WordPress domain mapping is carried out as follows:
1. In the menu, select ‘Domains’ → ‘Add domain’ and then ‘Upgrade’. You can then enter your registered web address.
2. The next step is to inform your current domain provider that you wish to link your domain with wordpress.com. To do this, you need to contact your domain registrar and state that your name server should be linked to the following address:
If you are unsure about what to do, you can also contact your provider’s customer support service for further help. Alternatively, you can use the three addresses mentioned above to replace the name servers attached to your registrar account.
3. You can now specify your internet address as your primary domain under the ‘Domains’ section. It can take a few hours before your new domain is available.
Using wordpress.com services may be the easiest and quickest method of changing your internet address or domain provider, but it is also the most expensive route. Operating a self-hosted WordPress website is generally a lot more economical in comparison.
If you’re not wholly confident using content management systems, there’s an alternative: some providers offer supported WordPress hosting. In this case, the provider takes care of security and maintenance. As a user, you have far less control over the CMS’s management, but all the advantages of a self-hosted WordPress website (i.e. more plugins and themes).
Getting a new domain for a self-hosted WordPress website
There are various reasons as to why you might want to connect an independently hosted WordPress website to a new web address. You can do this manually, by setting up the new domain over the wp-config.php file, but this process can lead to problems with WordPress settings, themes, and widgets.
To avoid these problems, you can change the domain via the WordPress database with a plugin designed for that specific purpose such as Duplicator or WP Migrate DB. The latter option is also available in four pro versions. These pre-tools enable a swift and pain-free move at various rates to suit a range of budgets, but it’s only worth the investment if you regularly need to transfer or change your domain. In most cases, the two free plugins and other WordPress extensions are perfectly sufficient.
In addition to these changes on the WordPress database, it’s also necessary to make adjustments with your hosting provider. You should ensure your new domain is connected to the WordPress folder on your server, and that you have set up an automatic redirection from your old web address to your new one. Read more about this in our guide to URL redirections.
Take advantage of the diverse possibilities for changing domains and providers
The two different versions of WordPress (the independently hosted installation and wordpress.com) mean there is a wide selection of WordPress domain transfer options. Since WordPress is the world’s most used CMS, developers have also created a host of plugins for dealing with a domain change in every possible scenario.
Thanks to the range of plugins and methods at hand, there is a solution for every user and their unique set of circumstances. The easy-to-use plugins can help beginners get their projects off the ground, whereas more experienced users can opt for more complex extensions or a manual set-up. Since the WordPress community is so enormous, users can trust that the various migration plugins will be kept up-to-date. Thus, you can rely on always having a great range of tools for easily transferring or changing your WordPress domain.