When a freelance website client tells you they’re unhappy at their current host and asks you to help migrate their WordPress site to a new host, you’ll want to help out and not lose their business. But you’ll want to conduct the migration procedure without pulling your hair out in the process.
In this post, we’ll cover how to manage all three — broken down into three step-by-step guides. I’ll walk you through the most common situations and solutions to migrate WordPress (or any website) to a new host, domain name, or server. Ready? Here we go!
How to Move Your WordPress Site (3 Options)
First, let’s note that there are three elements to moving any website, whether it’s WordPress-based, running on another content management system, or hosted on a browser-based website builder like Wix. The three elements are the website files (i.e., your blog content, media library, themes, etc.), the host server on which they’re stored, and the domain where visitors can find your site on the web.
- Migrating to a New Host (Guide A)
- Migrating to a New Domain (Guide B)
- Migrating to a New Server (Guide C)
There is some overlap between the guides below, but rest assured, your WordPress website will be snuggled into its new home — whether you’re upgrading to a larger space at the same address or moving to a new neighborhood all together — by the day’s end.
A. How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Host
Beginners, experts, and brands large and small tackle WordPress host migration every day, so you’re not alone. Please keep in mind the steps below are general guidelines you must follow. Depending on the structural complexity of your site and server, there may be additional housekeeping needed to ensure a flawless migration. That said, we’ve done it all and can help below in the discussion!
1A. Choose a Web Host (With Free WordPress Migration Assistance)
First, you’ll need a new host, preferably one that specializes in WordPress plans. We recommend choosing one that offers free migration assistance — that is, of course, assuming you’d rather not perform tasks, such as exporting and creating a new database from the migrating site or editing the wp-config.php file, on your own.
Note that hosts that offer free WordPress migrations primarily only do so for new customer accounts. The free WordPress migration is an incentive to sign up. If you’d like to migrate someone’s WordPress site to your existing hosting account, there will likely be a fee for the work. At the time of publication, InMotion, SiteGround, and A2 Hosting offered free WordPress migration services to new customers.
2A. Back Up and Transfer Your Website Files
Once you’ve selected your new WordPress hosting plan, follow the setup prompts provided by the company. Do not install WordPress yet, as you’ll want to back up your files in your existing control panel (e.g., cPanel or Plesk) first.
Even if you don’t know what the backup means or its exact contents, you’ll have it on hand in the event of an unexpected error that makes you wish you could travel back in time.
If you’re using a free migration host, now’s the time to request a transfer service! A quick Google search for “HostName website transfer request” will guide you to the appropriate form and migration instructions.
You’ll get a confirmation email that says your new host is working on your project, and it will likely include a contact person to stay in touch with. Stay up to date with the transfer by emailing your contact at the new host.
If you’re handling the migration yourself, this guide sums up the steps well:
- Backup your WordPress site files using an FTP program.
- Export your WordPress database within the phpMyAdmin program in your control panel.
- Create a new WordPress database on your new host server.
- Edit the wp-config.php file to reflect the new database name and user info.
- Import your saved database and upload your WordPress files to your new host.
And, voila! Your WordPress site has a new home. The final step is to point your WordPress site’s domain name to your new host’s nameservers.
3A. Switch Your DNS Record Settings
Once your site transfer is complete, you’ll need to change the DNS of the domain name to point to the new host. To do this, simply log into the original domain registrar of the WordPress site, navigate to the DNS section, and change the two name servers to those given to you by your new web host.
For example, if you’re switching your DNS from GoDaddy, your nameservers might be:
To point your domain to InMotion’s nameservers instead, you would change them to:
That’s it, except for that slightly annoying propagation time your domain might experience!
Your website will now live on a new web host, and you can explore the tools your new host offers. At the same time, you should click around your site to test any broken links or images. Never underestimate the importance of QA!
B. How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Domain
Moving a WordPress site to a new domain is actually a bit trickier than moving to a new host. But, as with most tasks in WordPress, where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Think back to when Mark Zuckerberg decided to change TheFacebook.com to Facebook.com. Unfortunately, he couldn’t just delete the “the” and call it a day. Changing domain names isn’t as simple as adding or deleting characters. You have to move files and change some database information. Let’s take a look at how to do this.
Note: I strongly recommend pulling up the live chat support to guide you through this process, because, depending on the web host, there may be additional steps required.
1B. Purchase a New Domain Name Registration
First, create a new domain name in your hosting account. You can browse available domains and purchase the one you want from a third-party registrar, or you can skip the middleman by selecting a hosting provider that lets you handle your domain registration at signup (often covering the initial year’s registration fees!). Make sure your new domain is pointed to the host that is or will be supporting your WordPress site.
2B. Migrate Your WordPress Site Files
Next, log into your cPanel file manager and copy the entire set of public_html files from the site you’d like to move.
Head to the new file manager file of your new domain name. Paste the previously copied files there. You’ll now have two copies of the same site in two separate locations. Next, head to your phpMyAdmin account.
Find the directory labeled “wrdp” associated with your old domain name on the left. If you own and operate several domains, this can be a bit challenging at first.
Click the plus sign next to your domain to expand options. Click “wp_options,” and in the section labeled “siteurl” at the top, click on the pencil icon to edit. In the middle box, change the old URL to your new URL, then click “Save” or “Go.”
3B. De-Index URLs of the Old Domain Site
You’ve now moved your WordPress site to a new domain name, but people can still access your WordPress site at your old domain name. It would be wise to install a plugin, such as Yoast SEO, on the old site, and have search engines de-index any/all URLs of the old site you’d rather people not use or find.
C. How to Move Your WordPress Site to a New Server
If you strictly want to move your WordPress site or blog to a new (upgraded) server, there’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that your current server isn’t getting the job done. It’s too slow, too expensive, or too cheap. Or perhaps it won’t let you host multiple domains or isn’t equipped with cPanel — or maybe it got hacked by foreign robot spies. That’s a lot of potentially bad news, so, hopefully, it doesn’t all apply to you.
The good news: It’s easy to move a site to a new server. In fact, most hosts will upgrade servers for you and move everything as well. You’ll simply pay them the difference. Of course, if you need to migrate to a new host altogether as part of your server migration, see above first. To recap, here are the steps to migrate your WordPress site itself:
Step 1C: Log into your control panel, back up your site files via the file manager, and export your site database via phpMyAdmin.
Step 2C: Create a new database on your new host server, and edit the wp-config file to include the new database name and login credentials. Import your saved database, and upload your WordPress files.
Step 3C: Ensure your DNS settings are in place, and conduct a final QA before shutting down your old server or canceling your shared hosting account.
You Can be Moved Into Your WordPress Site’s New Home in an Afternoon
In short, by using the free resources at your disposal, you (or your client) can be moved into your WordPress site’s new home in about a day. You don’t need to be a tech expert, but do take notes on what your live chat helpers tell you for future migrations. Now, go impress your clients and have fun in your new hosting environment!