Embarking on the journey of launching a WordPress site with WP Engine marks a significant milestone for any site owner. Renowned for its robust hosting solutions tailored for WordPress, WP Engine simplifies the process, whether you’re migrating an existing site or crafting a new one from the ground up. This comprehensive guide will escort you through each critical step, ensuring a seamless transition with minimal downtime. We’ll cover everything from securing a backup of your original site to the exhilarating moment of going live, meticulously optimizing your site’s performance and fortifying its security on this formidable hosting platform.

Pros of WP Engine

  • Performance: WP Engine provides fast loading times and strong performance, crucial for SEO and user experience.
  • Expert Support: Their customer service is highly praised, offering an army of WordPress experts to assist you.
  • Advanced Security: With features like daily backups, automatic security updates, and top-tier security measures, your site is well-protected.
  • Ease of Use: The platform offers a one-click WordPress install, easy staging tools, and free SSL and CDN integration.
  • Premium Themes: Access to premium StudioPress themes and the Genesis framework is included with all WP Engine accounts.

Cons of WP Engine

  • Cost: WP Engine is considered a premium service, which may not be as cost-effective for smaller sites or those with a tight budget.
  • No Free Domain: Unlike some other hosts, WP Engine does not offer a free domain name with their plans.
  • Specificity: WP Engine specializes in WordPress hosting, which means it’s not suitable for sites built on other platforms.

Why Choose WP Engine?

Choosing WP Engine can be advantageous for businesses and individuals who prioritize performance, security, and expert WordPress support. It’s particularly beneficial for those who prefer a hassle-free hosting experience and are willing to invest in premium services for their WordPress site. The inclusion of premium themes and a robust security setup can be a significant draw for many users.

However, if budget is a primary concern or if you’re looking to host a non-WordPress site, WP Engine might not be the best fit. It’s essential to weigh these factors against your specific needs and goals for your website.

Make A Backup Of The Original Site

Securing a backup of your original site is a non-negotiable step before initiating any significant changes. This precautionary measure guarantees that you have a reliable fallback option, safeguarding your data against any unforeseen complications during the migration process.

To ensure a comprehensive backup, follow these steps:

  1. Access Your Hosting Control Panel: Begin by logging into the control panel of your current hosting provider.
  2. Select a Backup Tool: Utilize a trusted WordPress backup plugin like UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy. These tools are designed to create a full backup of your site with ease.
  3. Store Your Backup Safely: Once the backup is complete, download the files to your local computer. For added security, consider storing them on a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox, ensuring that your data remains accessible and secure.

Create A Development Site in WP Engine

Establishing a development site is a strategic move that ensures any changes can be tested in a secure environment, mirroring your live site without any direct impact. WP Engine streamlines this process with user-friendly tools that facilitate the creation of development environments.

To set up your development site, follow these steps:

  1. Log Into WP Engine Dashboard: Start by accessing your WP Engine dashboard to manage your sites.
  2. Initiate New Environment: Select “Sites” and then click on “Add Site.” Choose a descriptive name for your new environment, such as ‘dev’ or ‘staging,’ to reflect its purpose.
  3. Environment Configuration: Opt for a ‘Development’ environment type when prompted, and proceed to follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup.

By taking these measures, you’ll have a robust platform for safely implementing and testing updates, ensuring that your live site remains pristine and uninterrupted during the development phase.

Update All Plugins And Theme On The Dev Site

Maintaining up-to-date plugins and themes is vital for ensuring compatibility and fortifying your site against security threats. Regular updates can also introduce new features and improvements that enhance the functionality of your site.

When updating your plugins and theme on the development site, it’s crucial to select a WordPress theme that not only complements the aesthetic and functional needs of your site but also adheres to key performance and compatibility standards. Choose themes that are responsive, ensuring optimal viewing across various devices, prioritize SEO-friendly designs to enhance your site’s visibility, and verify compatibility with essential plugins to maintain functionality and security. This consideration is fundamental to laying a solid foundation for your site’s performance and user experience, making it a vital step in the preparation for a successful launch.

To update your plugins and themes on the WP Engine development site, follow these steps:

  1. Access the WordPress Admin Dashboard: Log into the admin dashboard of your WP Engine development site.
  2. Navigate to Updates: Select Dashboard > Updates to view all available updates for your plugins and themes.
  3. Perform Updates: Check all the boxes for the available updates, then click on the Update button to initiate the process.
  4. Verify Functionality: Once the updates are complete, thoroughly review your site to ensure that all elements are working as expected without any issues.

By keeping your development site’s plugins and themes current, you’re taking a proactive step towards a smooth and secure launch.

Ensure Mobile Responsiveness On Your Dev Site

In an era where mobile traffic is paramount, having a mobile-friendly site is indispensable. It’s not just about providing convenience to users who browse on their phones or tablets; it’s also about securing your site’s search engine ranking.

To guarantee that your development site meets these mobile standards, consider the following steps:

  1. Utilize Testing Tools: Employ WP Engine’s built-in tools or external services such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to evaluate your site’s responsiveness.
  2. Manual Testing: Complement automated tests by manually navigating your site on various mobile devices to identify any user experience issues.
  3. Adjust and Optimize: Based on your findings, make the necessary adjustments. This could involve tweaking the design, optimizing images, or modifying the layout to ensure a seamless mobile experience.

By meticulously testing and refining your site’s mobile responsiveness, you’ll be setting a solid foundation for both user satisfaction and SEO success.

Manage Premium Plugins on Your Dev Site

Premium plugins often come with licensing terms that restrict usage to a single live site. To adhere to these terms and ensure a smooth migration process, it’s important to unregister or disconnect these plugins from your development environment.

Follow these steps to manage your premium plugins:

  1. Navigate to Plugin Settings: Within your WordPress dashboard, locate the settings for each premium plugin.
  2. Unregister or Disconnect: Look for the option to unregister or disconnect your license. This action will typically be straightforward and accessible within the plugin’s settings.
  3. Apply to All Premium Plugins: Ensure you repeat this process for every premium plugin installed on your development site.

By taking these actions, you’ll maintain compliance with licensing agreements and avoid potential conflicts during site updates and migrations.

Transferring The Dev Site to Production (Live)

Transitioning your development site to the live environment is a critical step in going live. WP Engine offers streamlined processes for both existing WP Engine sites and new migrations.

If The Site Is Already On WP Engine

For sites already hosted on WP Engine, the platform’s environment switching feature simplifies the process:

  1. Access WP Engine Dashboard: Log into your dashboard and locate your development site.
  2. Initiate Environment Switch: Select Utilities and then choose Copy to/from Environment.
  3. Copy to Live Environment: Follow the on-screen instructions to transfer your development site to the live environment, ensuring you select the correct options for database and file transfers.

If The Site Is Not On WP Engine

For sites new to WP Engine, the WP Engine Automatic Migration plugin, powered by BlogVault, offers an effortless migration experience:

  1. Install the Migration Plugin: On your existing WordPress site, install the WP Engine Automatic Migration plugin.
  2. Enter SFTP Credentials: Provide your WP Engine SFTP credentials within the plugin settings.
  3. Begin Migration: Initiate the migration process. The plugin will autonomously handle the transfer, seamlessly moving your site to WP Engine.

By following these steps, you can confidently migrate your site, whether it’s already on WP Engine or new to the platform, ensuring a smooth transition to the live production environment.

Reconnect Premium Plugins

After migrating your site, ensure all premium plugins are reconnected by logging into your WordPress admin dashboard and navigating to each plugin’s settings. Reactivate your connection by entering the license keys or credentials, maintaining access to all features and updates.

Check for Redirects & Broken URLs

Post-migration, it’s crucial to address any broken links or necessary redirects. Utilize tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to identify issues and implement redirects, preserving SEO and user experience.

Verify All Functions

Conduct thorough tests of essential website functions:

  • Contact Forms: Confirm submission processing and delivery.
  • Payment Gateways: Test transactions for seamless integration.
  • Search Function: Ensure search results are accurate and prompt.
  • Filters: Check filtering options for correct functionality and performance.

Ensure Search Engine Visibility

Prior to launch, verify that your site is not blocking search engines. Review the robots.txt file for any disallow directives and confirm that the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” option in WordPress is unchecked.

Disable Development Site

Once your WordPress site is successfully live, it’s important to disable the development environment. This step prevents any confusion between the live and development sites and conserves resources.

To disable your development site on WP Engine:

  1. Return to WP Engine Dashboard: Access your WP Engine dashboard to manage your environments.
  2. Locate Development Site Settings: Find your development site and navigate to its settings.
  3. Disable the Site: Opt to disable the site, which will prevent public access and ensure it’s not indexed by search engines.

Final Checks Before Launch

Verify Site Security

  • Activate Security Plugins: Confirm that all security plugins are active and properly configured.
  • Check for Anomalies: Look for any unusual activity or potential vulnerabilities that need addressing.

Optimize Site Performance

  • Implement Caching: Utilize caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket to enhance site speed.
  • Media Optimization: Reduce load times by optimizing images and other media.

Set Up SEO Tools

  • Install SEO Plugins: Choose tools like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO Pack for search engine optimization.
  • Configure SEO Settings: Set up sitemaps, meta tags, and ensure social media integration is in place.

Review User Permissions

  • Audit Roles and Permissions: Make sure user roles and permissions are set correctly.
  • Restrict Admin Access: Limit administrative privileges to trusted individuals only.

Conduct a Final Review

  • Inspect Each Page: Thoroughly review each page and post for any errors or inconsistencies.
  • External Review: Have a colleague or friend provide a fresh perspective by reviewing the site.

Launch Your Site

  • Choose Off-Peak Hours: Schedule the launch during times of low traffic.
  • Backup the Dev Site: Create a final backup of the development site for quick recovery if necessary.
  • Update DNS Settings: If needed, update the DNS settings to direct traffic to the WP Engine server.

Monitor Site After Launch

  • Watch Site Performance: Keep a close eye on how the site performs and gather user feedback.
  • Be Ready for Quick Fixes: Stay prepared to address any issues promptly as they arise.

In the digital symphony of web development, launching your WordPress site on WP Engine is akin to a grand finale where every note must be meticulously orchestrated. With the guidance provided, you’ve navigated through the complexities of migration and setup, ensuring each plugin sings in harmony with WP Engine’s robust features. Your site now stands as a testament to the power of precision and the art of technological finesse.

As you bid adieu to the development environment, you not only streamline your resources but also crystallize the focus on your live site’s performance. It’s a strategic move, akin to clearing the stage post-performance, allowing the spotlight to shine on what truly matters – your live, dynamic website.

Remember, the journey doesn’t end at launch. The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and your site’s continuous testing, optimization, and enhancement are the rhythms that will keep it resonating with audiences far and wide. Embrace the process, for it is in this meticulous preparation that the foundation for enduring success is laid.

For those who thirst for further knowledge and seek to weave the intricate web of online presence, Connective Web Design stands ready to be your ally. Together, let’s sculpt the digital future.

Rodney Warner

Founder & CEO

As the Founder and CEO, he is the driving force behind the company’s vision, spearheading all sales and overseeing the marketing direction. His role encompasses generating big ideas, managing key accounts, and leading a dedicated team. His journey from a small town in Upstate New York to establishing a successful 7-figure marketing agency exemplifies his commitment to growth and excellence.

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