I have been running a blog on WordPress.com for nearly 2yrs now (it is actually my "dog's blog") and it has been growing steadily in traffic. When I started the blog, I chose to register a separate domain name (www.bighoneydog.com) through WordPress.com and map it to my blog URL (www.bighoneydog.wordpress.com) through the paid upgrade - and I have also set up the blog with a static front page & other pages, so that it looks more like a website.
I recently received an offer from a pet insurance company asking to place a banner ad on my site. I know that advertising is not allowed on WordPress.com sites and therefore my only option is to move to WordPress.org if I want to start including advertising. I went to the WordPress.org site and read through their FAQ's - however, I am still a bit confused about certain aspects of moving across and I would be very grateful if someone could help me:
(please bear with me if these seem like stupid questions as I don't know much about domains & web hosting - I have always been very happy to have WordPress.com do all the work for me but as I invest a huge amount of time writing content for my blog, I also don't want to turn down the opportunity to earn money from it if possible)
1) since I purchased my domain name through WordPress.com - could I still keep that? Or do I need to "buy it again" through another server? Would I therefore be buying it from the web hosting service I choose to go with? Or from someone else?
2) I'm not sure I understand how the domain mapping works if I move my blog over to WordPress.org - does my WordPress.com blog still exist? Because surely I would simply be importing and transferring the content across to the new self-hosted blog?
Also - because I have always had the separate domain name & mapping from the beginning, people have never actually typed in the WordPress.com URL to find my blog - they have always thought that my blog address is http://www.bighoneydog.com for the Home page and then if they want the specific blog page, they type in http://www.bighoneydog.com/honeys-blog
So would I still need mapping? What happens if people type in "www.bighoneydog.com" AFTER I move over to WordPress.org? At the moment, they are redirected to "www.bighoneydog.wordpress.com" - but after I move to the self-hosted blog, will they need to be redirected? Or will they go straight through to the new blog because that will be carrying the same old domain name?
3) While I know a bit of HTML (and have adjusted the code on some of my posts), I am not an web design expert by any means and have never attempted to alter the CSS stylesheets for my templates so far - another reason I've stuck with WordPress.com so far as I don't feel confident tinkering too much with the code, although I am happy to learn. So I am wondering - if I need to insert a banner ad for the advertiser in my new self-hosted blog, will this be something that's relatively easy to do with a bit of reading up on instructions?
4) I noticed in the info I read that I will have to do all backups for my self-hosted blog and that I might mess up and lose the entire blog. This scares me a bit. Will this be difficult or will there be plugins etc to help me do this regularly and easily?
5) Finally, I just paid last week for the No-Ads upgrade (because WordPress.com was putting ads on my blog from companies I didn't approve of) - which I assume is a year's subscription - if I move over to WordPress.org now, I presume I will lose the upgrade...is there any way I can get a refund on this since I only just paid for it? If I had thought I was going to move over to WordPress.org, I would not have paid for the upgrade.
Sorry for so many questions and thank you in advance for your help. I am actually very happy on WordPress.com and wouldn't otherwise leave, other than for the fact of advertising - but this seems too good an offer to waste, especially as I am keen to get a return for all the time & effort I invest in writing content for my blog. A lot of blog friends who self-hosted have been urging me moving to self-hosting, saying it gives much more control and is "vey easy" - but I am just a bit scared of what it could involve. I would really appreciate any clarification on just how complicated or how easy it really is.
The blog I need help with is bighoneydog.com.