I had a nightmare job over the weekend (at least, it was a nightmare for someone as technically challenged as me). I had purchased a few websites, and I needed to do all the transfer of ownership stuff.
The problem was, I had a very limited understanding of how the whole domain name / site content relationship works (in fact, I still do). And most of the guides out there seem to assume that you have a base level of knowledge. I certainly didn’t.
So this is for anyone who wants a straightforward, step by step guide for transferring a website from one hosting provider to another – from one layman to another.
Please note that this guide assumes you are a ManageWP user (as it is the tool I used to make it so darned easy). If you are not a ManageWP user, you can sign up for a 14 day free trial now. If you want an alternative, you could check out the Duplicator Plugin. I have not personally tried it, but it comes highly recommended.
Step 1 – Add the Site to ManageWP and Back It Up
The first thing we need to do is take a backup of the site. In order to do this, we must first add the site to ManageWP. That’s a piece of cake – just follow these simple steps. Backing up your site isn’t any more difficult – just follow these steps.
Once you have done that, remove the website from ManageWP by hovering over the site and selecting the relevant option from the menu that appears:
You also need to upload the backup file you have just created somewhere. I say “somewhere” because it can literally be anywhere. I would recommend that you upload it to a location on your new hosting account. Make a note of the file’s URL, as we will need it later.
Step 2 – Redirect Nameservers
This is the point at which things can get a little confusing for the uninitiated, but the concept is actually pretty simple. In layman’s terms, nameservers tell domain names where to find content. If your website is www.awesomewidgets.com and the content for your website is hosted at Joe Bloggs’ Hosting Services, you should point your domain’s nameservers to “joebloggsnameserver”.
When transferring a site, you need to point your domain to the nameservers of the new hosting account. You may be wondering how on earth to do this. Whilst methods do vary, it is typically very simple.
Take Go Daddy for example. With this service, you can access your domains’ nameservers by clicking on “Domain Management”, selecting the appropriate domain name, then selecting the “Set Nameservers” option from the “Nameservers” drop down box:
Just enter the new nameservers into the boxes (you usually need two), and you’re golden. You’re probably wondering what your new nameservers are. They should be very easy to find – have a quick rummage through the documentation on your hosting provider’s website, or even just google “myhostingprovider nameservers”. My hosting provider is Bluehost, and their nameservers are NS1.BLUEHOST.COM and NS2.BLUEHOST.COM, so I entered the following:
Step 3 – Add Domain to New Hosting Account
Your new hosting provider isn’t going to be much good to you unless it realizes that you own the domain in question. So you need to “import” the domain into your hosting account.
Methods will vary across hosting accounts, but once you understand the process, it should be relatively straightforward to figure it out for yourself. Since my hosting provider is Bluehost, we’ll use it as the example here. From the CPanel, select “Addon Domains” from the Domains menu:
In the next screen, enter the domain name that you wish to add. If you have set your nameservers correctly, ownership will be verified:
Hit the “Add Domain” button at the bottom of the page, and you’re good to go. The domain’s nameservers are pointing in the right direction, and your hosting provider now recognizes that domain as an entity on your account.
Step 4 – Activate Your “New” Site
Because your new hosting provider does not yet have the website’s content in place, your domain name is now pointing to a vacant lot. Obviously, we need to remedy this.
In order to do so, the first step is to install WordPress to the site. Any hosting provider worth its salt has an automatic WordPress install option. If you are using a provider such as Bluehost or Hostgator, installing WordPress via the CPanel is extremely straightforward. Just select the WordPress install option from your Cpanel:
On the following page, select the domain from the drop down box, and hit “Complete”. Once the installation has completed, be sure to make a note of your login details.
If you enter your domain name into your browser, you will now see that it points to a brand new WordPress install.
Step 5 – Clone Content Onto Your “New” Site
All that is left to do now is to re-add the site and use ManageWP’s clone tool to upload the website’s content to the new location. You already know how to add sites to ManageWP, so just repeat the process you followed in step 1.
Once you have done that, select the “Install or Clone WordPress” option from the ManageWP sidebar. In the next screen, paste the URL of your backup file into the relevant field, and hit “Accept”:
In the next screen, select “Existing Site” as the destination. On the subsequent screen, enter your new WordPress install login details and select your domain (make sure it is the right one!). The cloning process will take a few seconds or a few minutes, depending upon the size of the backup file. But once it’s done, you can give yourself a pat on the back – the process is complete! The site should now have been completely transferred from one hosting provider to another.
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This is the method I used to transfer 7 sites over the weekend. There are many more methods, and I am sure some of them are more efficient. The above method does mean that the site will experience some downtime (but in reality, only for a few short minutes), and there are no doubt ways to get around that.
However, if the whole concept of transferring a site from one hosting provider to another is alien to you, then following the above steps will get the job done. It worked for me!