Transferring a WordPress Site to HostGator

Have you thought about getting new web hosting for your site but hesitate because you’re not super tech-savvy and you’re not sure what’s involved in making the switch?

If that’s you, you’re in the right place.

I moved my WordPress site to HostGator in in 2018 order to bring you this post, and now I’m updating it with expert advice I’ve learned from HostGator’s Web Pros since then. Here’s how it went for me, how it’s going now and how you can transfer your site as smoothly as possible.

Deciding to Transfer Your Site

Why switch web hosts? Some people do it because they’ve found a better deal, want a different type of hosting, or have multiple sites hosted by different companies that they want to consolidate with one hosting service.

In my case, I wanted managed WordPress cloud hosting to better optimize my site’s mobile performance, which in 2018 was consistently scoring in the 30s out of a possible 100 on Google’s PageSpeed Insights test, even after a few rounds of optimizations.

mobile version of casey's wordpress website

And I wanted to experience the site transfer process firsthand. (Disclaimer: Although HostGator pays me to blog, they didn’t pay for my new hosting plan.)

Getting Ready to Transfer Your WordPress Site

I knew that migrating from one host to another was going to be a multistep process, because there are safeguards to keep rogue domain poachers from simply moving unsuspecting people’s sites away from their hosts. To get ready, I bought my new hosting plan and then ran through HostGator’s pre-domain-transfer checklist.

My domain was

  • more than 60 days old
  • not expired
  • not in redemption (expired for more than 30 days)

so I was good on those counts. My WHOIS info and my contact information were up to date, and I knew how to disable my WHOIS privacy setting so the transfer could happen.

The most important thing I did before transferring my domain was to back up my site. I used UpdraftPlus to send everything to a folder in the cloud in case I ran into any issues during the process.

Whenever I had a question about anything else on the checklist (EPP codes, nameservers), a call to HostGator customer service got it sorted out for me.

Get Your Site Transfer Done Easier Than I Did

Domain transfer is simplest if you don’t have a website on the domain yet—then it’s just moving the domain registration from one host to another. 

I waited to migrate my site content until after my domain transfer was complete, and that wasn’t a big deal for me because my site is a portfolio for prospective clients that gets a small amount of traffic. However, I did it the hard way.

HostGator’s support team offers migration assistance that streamlines domain and site transfers. I’ll use their service if I move another site.

Here are two ways to start your site migration along with your domain transfer:

  1. Contact HostGator support directly and ask them to migrate your site.
  2. If you already have a HostGator account, you can log in to the customer support portal and fill out a migration request form.

Watching Your Inbox

HostGator will email you when they start migrating your site, followed by email updates on the process about every three hours. The team will also send you a message if they need more information, so be ready to respond.

You’ll get another email after HostGator finishes the migration and tests your site, so that you can test your site, too. They’ll even get on the phone with you to coach you through the test.

Post-Migration Web Hosting Checklist

Just like moving into a new house, getting in the front door doesn’t mean the move is over. You’ll still need to take care of a few security and setup issues for your new online home. You’ll need to…

1. Repoint your nameservers.

In the customer portal settings for managing each domain on your account, fill in the nameservers on your account summary page. It’s essential for the next step: propagation.

2. Prepare for propagation.

Once you have new nameservers that information goes all over the web so other servers can update their information about where your domain is found. This can take a while – usually a full day or two – and during that time, site visitors might go to your site at your old host or at HostGator, depending on which server their traffic came through. 

For many sites, this won’t make a big difference, but for retailers it can affect the way orders are processed. Because of that possibility, HostGator recommends that ecommerce customers request a remigration after propagation to make sure they can see and process any orders that came in at the old host during propagation.

3. Check your site. 

How does everything look on a desktop? On a phone? Do your forms and navigation tools work right? If so, congratulations! You can cancel your old hosting plan and then take care of a bit more housekeeping.

4. Set up your email accounts.

If you use Gmail to fetch your domain-name emails, you’ll need to update the settings to ensure it’s checking the correct server.

5. Activate WHOIS privacy for your domain and lock it.

You can do this on the Domains tab in the customer portal.

6. Buy an SSL certificate or activate the free one that comes with your new hosting account.

You can use a WordPress plugin like Really Simple SLL to enable your free SSL certificate.

7. Set up and activate any other plugins you want to use.

Building your site from fresh? Check out our list of the top WordPress plugins.

8. Run some test emails.

Send emails to yourself (and a few family or friends) using your domain-based email accounts to make sure everything’s working as it should.

9. Finally, get to know your new cPanel.

In cPanel, click on the settings icon on the hosting tab to manage your site security, settings, email and WordPress installation.

10. Compare your site’s performance at the new host.

Once all my housekeeping was done, I ran another PageSpeed Insights test. Things have been better since the move. Currently, my mobile site scores 79 out of 100 and my desktop score is 98 out of 100, and there are still more tweaks I can make to improve the mobile score.

Mobile score now
Desktop score now

I’m satisfied with that improvement, and now that I’ve gone through the process of transferring a site to a new host, I feel like some sort of extremely novice technical wizard.

Your Checklist for Transferring to a New Web Host

To sum up, when you’ve decided to move your WordPress site to HostGator:

  1. Decide on the new hosting plan you want. 
  2. Read the pre-transfer checklist. If you’re not sure about a step, you can ask tech support or check the knowledge base.
  3. Remember that it can take a couple of days after you unlock your domains at your current host for them to show as unlocked.
  4. Back up your entire site to a secure location you can access easily.
  5. Request your site migration from HostGator.
  6. Watch for your migration emails.
  7. Once your site is migrated, test it out to make sure everything works properly, like layout, email, SSL and WHOS privacy. 
  8. Ask the HostGator team to remigrate your site if you run an eCommerce store.
  9. Give yourself an award for novice wizardry.

Find more details on moving your WordPress site to HostGator from Web Pro Natasha Collins.

Ready to get started? Check out HostGator’s WordPress hosting plans now.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention