So, what’s a WordPress staging environment got to do with anything? Well, it happens.
You are busy tweaking your WordPress site to boost page loading speed, technical SEO, the theme, or updating a plugin.
You are excited about how it’ll look, feel, and work. You can even see the changes you are making in real-time on your live WordPress website.
You click “Update Changes”.
Your site goes down. All you can see is a white screen. It won’t respond. It doesn’t load.
Was it hacked? Could it be that sneaky little plugin you just installed to clear junk out of the WP database? It may be dead.
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, or do not want to be in such, you’ll want to have a staging site for WordPress ready for when you need it.
- What is a WordPress Staging Site
- Why Do You Need A Staging Site for WordPress
- Does WordPress Staging Help After a WordPress Hack
- How to Set Up a Staging Site on WordPress
- Set Up Staging Site with a Go For WordPress Plugin
- How to Create a WordPress Staging Site Manually
- WordPress Staging Site Guide
What is a WordPress Staging Site?
A staging site for WordPress is a replica of your live website. It is used when making changes to a website offline, so they don’t interfere with your live website.
Both have the same settings, software, custom code, and other customizations—except for two things.
A staging site does not have caching capabilities, and neither is it available to both your site visitors and search engines.
To understand why it’s vital, let’s get the difference between a staging site and a production site.
Development Site vs. Staging Site vs. Production Site
These are more of site stages than complete sites.
- Development site: This is the stage at which your developer is patching everything together before hanging you the passwords to your brand new, spanking WordPress website.
- Staging site: This is the holding stage between development and going live.
- Production site: This stage includes all the approved changes you make in the previous site stages. If all is well, the changes go live.
Why Do You Need A Staging Site for WordPress?
You see, it is not a good idea to directly tweak your website while it’s live.
Any crooked plugins, misbehaving WordPress theme elements, or a deleted line of code can make the site inaccessible to your visitors, malfunction or crash it altogether.
That’s why a staging site is also referred to as a staging environment.
- When you have a staging environment for WordPress, you don’t have to put your site on Maintenance Mode.
- If you don’t have to shut your site under Maintenance Mode, it means you can still have your visitors use the site as they normally would while you improve any troubling areas of the site.
- So, you can continue providing your products and services online, generating traffic and revenue likewise.
- All while thoroughly testing new changes, you plan to roll out to improve site usability, boost your SEO performance, and so on.
- And you don’t have to keep the live site away from Google and the other search engines for crawling
A staging site for WordPress is how to set up a WordPress staging environment for testing
Does WordPress Staging Help After a WordPress Hack?
Yes. But there is more to it.
To harden your WordPress site after a hack, first follow our WordPress security guide here. Then use this WordPress staging guide to secure your website further.
Learn How to Set Up a Staging Site on WordPress
There are three ways to go about it. You can use your web host staging site services. Or use one of the best WordPress staging plugins of 2020.
Yet, you can create a WordPress staging site manually.
If you don’t want or like coding drama, the first two are the best options for you.
If you are a seasoned WordPress developer or a DIY diehard, going manual will feel more like it.
Here’s how to do it all as simply as possible.
1. How to Create a WordPress Staging Site on WP Engine
Here’s how to do it:
- Log in to the user portal
- Click Sites
- Click your site’s name
- Click on Add Staging
- Choose whether to create a new Environment from a fresh WordPress installation, template, existing environment/backup, or by moving an existing environment into a new environment
- Add new Environment name
- Click Create Environment on the bottom-right
- Check your email for confirmation that your WP Engine staging environment is ready
- Log in with your live site’s username and password and make the tweaks you want
- Backup your staging site changes by going to Staging >> Backup Points >>Name the changes then click Create Staging Backup
- When done cloning your site, you can follow WP Engine’s prompts for copying to/from environments to your production site
Prefer to follow a WordPress staging video tutorial by WP Engine?
Check this out (under 1 minute):
=> What if you have Bluehost hosting?
2. How to Create a Staging Site on WordPress with Bluehost
Bluehost hosting has created a simple WordPress command for creating a WordPress staging environment, as shown below:
But if you prefer the manual route, here’s how to clone your WordPress site with any of Bluehost’s WordPress hosting plans.
- Log in to your Bluehost admin area
- Click Bluehost on the top-left corner
- Click Staging
- Click Create Staging Site on next popup
- A green check appears once it’s created with a link to visit the staging environment below that on the right
- Click on Go to Staging Site
- That takes you straight to the staging environment so you can make changes right away. No logins.
- Once done, deploy changes to your production site by going to Bluehost >> Staging >> Deploy Files & Database (if you want to deploy all changes made or chose files only or database only)
- Confirm deployment in the next popup
- Wait as site deploys to live site
- See all changes made live
=> So, what if you have SiteGround as your web host?
3. How to Create a Staging Site on WordPress with SiteGround
SiteGround offers one-click WordPress staging on their GoGeek and GoBig plans. And before you begin, check you tick the following conditions:
Good to go?
Then here’s how:
- Log in to your SiteGround hosting admin area
- Locate your site under Joomla/WordPress sites or, if you can’t find it, add it to the list in the tool
- Click Create Staging Copy
- Check all the folders you want to be copied and click Continue
- Create a unique password for the staging copy and you are done
- When done making changes, click Push to Live in staging management page to deploy to live website. SiteGround automatically makes backups before you deploy the staging site to live
- In the next popup, click Easy Push to deploy both the files and database to live
- Or, click Advanced Push to deploy specific files or database or both to live
- In case something’s wrong, click Restore Backup in the staging management page
- Select date to restore from and wait a few moments to remove changes made
So, what if you use one of the largest, best budget WordPress hosting companies right now, GoDaddy?
4. How to Create a WordPress Staging Site on GoDaddy
You’ll only get to create one when you’ve upgraded to a GoDaddy Deluxe, Developer, Ultimate or Pro managed WordPress plan.
- Log in to your GoDaddy hosting account
- Go to My Products >> Managed WordPress >> Manage All
- Next to the name of the website you want to clone, click on the three menu dots
- Click Staging
- Click Create Staging Site
- For Deluxe, Ultimate, and Developer customers, continue by clicking Clone from Production to copy everything.
- Or, click Copy site design to clone only the plugins and theme. No content
- Click Create and wait a few moments
- To push your GoDaddy staging site to production site, go to My Products >> Managed WordPress >> Manage All >> Staging (in the three-dot menu) >> Sync Options
- Click Copy staging to production (Pro customers) or Push staging to production and then Overwrite content (Deluxe, Ultimate, and Developer customers)
- Choose whether to push just the theme and plugins or the entire database and files
- Click Sync Now (Pro customers) or just Sync (Deluxe, Ultimate, and Developer customers
Note: Any assets not stored in the /wp-content folder won’t be cloned or deployed.
Now, one more web hosting service for you.
5. How to Set Up WordPress Staging on FlyWheel
FlyWheel staging is quite straightforward.
- Log in to your account
- Go to Dashboard >> Advanced and toggle the Staging switch on
- A new staging tab is created in the FlyWheel dashboard
- Click the tab to see all details such as staging site URL (needs to be a flywheelsites.com domain)
- Log in to your site using the same username and password as the live site
- Connect via SFTP, notice the folder with the same name as your site but with a _staging ending. Edit files from there under automated Privacy Mode
- To deploy changes to the live site, got to Dashboard >> Staging >> Move staging changes to live site
- Confirm which changes to push to live site in the following popup
- Check Copy staging database to production if you want to overwrite the live site’s settings, theme, plugins and so on
- Or, leave it unchecked to avoid pushing any content to the live site.
And that’s it.
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If you have Kinsta premium managed WordPress hosting, you can also use their one-click WordPress tool for cloning your site without causing any trouble on the live site.
Here’s a video tutorial to help you setup a staging site on Kinsta for WordPress sites:
Set Up Staging Site with a Go For WordPress Plugin
You can still create a staging site environment using a WordPress plugin if your web host doesn’t offer a staging tool.
The plugin company will be storing your site’s data on their servers, so choose a reputable plugin to ensure privacy and data security.
Here are some we recommend next (and how to set up a staging site with each):
1. How to Create a Staging Environment on WordPress with WP Stagecoach
This handy WordPress staging tool works one-click. No PHP editing. No manual database setups or database overwriting during import.
It is a stand-alone tool for WordPress staging than a plugin.
Like other staging site environment tools here, though, you can use WP Stagecoach to clone and deploy all or some files or with/without the database.
Here’s a new step-by-step video to guide you through in under 4 minutes:
2. How to Create a WordPress Staging Environment with WP Staging Plugin
Here’s how to use WP Staging to clone your site.
- Once you’ve logged into your WordPress admin and downloaded WP Staging, got to Plugins>>WP Staging>>Create a new staging site
- Add a name to the staging site
- That’ll create a subdirectory under your WordPress site
- Confirm staging by checking all relevant boxes in the next page
- Click Start Cloning
- Once staging completes, click Open staging site to log in to the staging site using the same username and password as your live WP site.
Note: Activate permalinks in WordPress to make sure everything works. Also, WP Staging Pro supports multisite staging, but that can’t be hosted on a subdomain.
3. How to Create a Staging Environment with BlogVault WordPress Plugin
We like the BlogVault because you can use it for multiple uses on top of its free WordPress staging tool including, password-protection, use with multiple hosts, and is GDPR ready.
You’ll recognize BlogVault is known for being one of the best WordPress backup plugins.
And it also offers a bunch of pro-WordPress site management tools. So, you don’t have to install multiple plugins that could slow your site when you have it taking care of everything in one.
How to use BlogVault WordPress staging?
Here’s how (note this procedure may vary to yours depending on your web host service):
- Sign in to your BlogVault account on their official website
- Under My Sites, click on site listing page
- Select the website up for cloning
- Click Staging in the next page
- Click Creating a staging site
- From the drop-down menu click on most relevant PHP version and Backup version
- Click Submit
- Password and username are created after the staging site loads
- Click Visit Staging to log in and make changes
- Click Access PHPMyAdmin to access, modify or delete the staging site’s database
- Wait for an email with details about your staging site success
So, what if you want to do WordPress staging manually?
How to Create a WordPress Staging Site Manually
Only go for this option if you are comfortable and have a working knowledge of MySQL databases. Otherwise, you may crash your live site.
That said, here’s how to stage manually:
- Start by installing and activating the Duplicator WordPress plugin
- Go to WordPress dashboard >> Duplicator >> Create New >> Build (when all items are marked Good in the running wizard)
- Click One-Click Download to download both Installer and Archive files to your computer
- Go to cPanel >> Subdomains >> Create a Subdomain to host your staging site
- Add name and select your domain from the drop-down menu
- The staging subdomain appears below it with _staging extension
- Click Create. Subdomain displays in a table
- To create dedicated FTP access to the staging site, go to cPanel >> FTP Account >> Add FTP Account (ensure a similar Directory to your subdomain’s) >> Create FTP Account
- To upload WordPress files to the staging site, download the latest WordPress version. Then upload it
- Copy the files wp-content/uploads, wp-content/plugins, and wp-contents/themes
- Use the new FTP account to upload all three to the staging site as well (use the native File Manager for large files)
- To create a new database for the staging site, go to cPanel >> Databases >> MySQL Databases
- Enter a unique name for the database
- Click Create Database
- To create a MySQL user for the database, go to MySQL Users
- Enter new username and password for the new database
- Under Add User to Database, select the user and database you just created, respectively
- Click Add
- Check the All Privileges button to give the new users full admin permissions
- Click Make changes
- Open your browser
- Copy/paste your subdomain into the browser. Ensure to replace the generic subdomain with your real subdomain and generic domain with the real domain
- Duplicator Installer will launch and find the Archive file. Check terms and conditions and click Next
- Enter WordPress database information like so
- The host will be localhost—most likely
- Enter new database details created just now and click Next
- After unpacking your WordPress database backup from Archive to new database, Duplicator auto-detects URL of new subdomain and path
- Click Next to have Duplicator finish the staging
- After, go to Admin Login to access your staging site
- Log in to web hosting account and go to Directory Privacy >> subdomain folder and check password protect this directory
- Enter a name for the protected directory and click Save
How to Transfer the Manual Staging Site Changes to Your Live Site
You can do this by following the same steps that we’ve mentioned above in this guide.
The only addition is that you’ll need to delete your live site’s files before activating the staging site.
It may be a bit technical, so only use it if you are good at tweaking MySQL databases.
Otherwise, choose the simpler and quicker options in sections two and three of this guide.
Here’s a video tutorial to help you push your original localhost site to live in under 10 minutes:
WordPress Staging Site Guide: Wrap Up
WordPress staging is not an option if you want to improve things but don’t want the changes to affect the live version of your site in real-time.
That means you can continue with business or publishing while you work things out under the hood, and your visitors, Google, and other search engines won’t be none-the-wiser.
Then you can push your staging site to live and see the changes you’ve made in action. Like you never left.
Read Other WordPress Guides:
- How to Speed Up WordPress Site
- Ultimate WordPress Security Guide
- Install WordPress on Windows: Ultimate Step by Step Guide
- How to Make WordPress Site Live
- How to Discover & Recover WordPress Site
- How to Add Custom Fonts to WordPress
- Wix vs WordPress: Platform Crucial Differences
- Can’t Login to WordPress Admin Dashboard?