How to set up a WordPress staging site for testing?
Managing a WordPress blog is fun yet easy. However, this changes when you start attracting high traffic and downtime is something you can’t afford anymore. No matter how careful you are, you could make a change that breaks your site, which is bad for both your visitors and your site’s SEO.
What is a WordPress staging site and why is it important?
A Managed WordPress staging site lets you build and test your website without modifying the content your visitors see on the live site. There are some things you should keep in mind when using a staging site:
- All Managed WordPress plans (except Basic) come with exactly one staging site for each live website. If you have a Basic plan, you will need to upgrade your account to have a staging site.
- Staging sites use a domain we automatically generate for you. You cannot choose a different domain or add another domain to the staging site.
- Your staging site is persistent. We don’t destroy and create staging sites for you every time you push to or pull from it. This can explain some synchronizing issues you might experience.
This allows you to test out changes to your WordPress site without risking breaking your live website. That means you can try new themes, plugins, code snippets, and more with zero risk.
Staging is not a new feature and I have been wanting to talk about this for a while now given users who are using WordPress are bound to find it extremely helpful. To help you create a staging site for your blog, I’ll show you three different ways and also tell you which method I think is the best!
1: Choose A Host With A Staging Feature
The easiest way to create a WordPress staging site is by choosing a host that offers a dedicated staging feature.
Here are some specific features that most hosts offer that makes staging a lot easier:
One-click push: This lets you move the staging version of your site easily to the live server and vice versa.
Automatic backups: Some hosts like Kinsta automatically back up your site whenever you make your staging site live to give you more security.
SEO-friendly safeguards: Hosts automatically put in place SEO safeguards to prevent any duplicate content issues and keep your staging site private.
If you’re looking for a WordPress host with built-in staging functionality, here are some good options.
- WP Engine
- Site Ground
- Fly Wheel
2. Create a WordPress staging site with the WP Staging plugin
WP Staging is a good option for testing out basic tweaks, or checking if new plugins or themes are compatible with your current setup.
It’s a Freemium Plugin
It’s pretty easy to use and actually captures many of the same benefits of the built-in staging sites discussed above:
- All you do is click a button to create your staging site.
- It’s SEO-friendly because it hides the staging version of your site from search engines and other visitors.
i.To use WP Staging, you just need to install and activate it. Then, head to the WP Staging tab and click Create new staging site.
ii.Give your staging site a name and click Start Cloning.
iii.The plugin will go through the cloning process automatically. When it finishes, you should see a button that will take you to the staging version of your site.
When you go to your staging site, you’ll need to log in using the same WordPress admin credentials as your live site.
You can then start making changes to your staging site safely. WP Staging will always make it easy to tell that you’re on your staging site by turning the admin toolbar orange.
Because this site is private to both search engines and anonymous visitors, you don’t have to worry about any duplicate content issues.
If you want to be able to automatically transfer changes on your staging site to the live version of your site, you will need to pay for the Pro version.
3. Use The Duplicator Plugin To Manually Create A Staging Site
If you’re willing to put in some manual work, you can also use the popular Duplicator plugin to create a WordPress staging site.
Duplicator is technically a WordPress migration plugin. But because it makes it so easy to migrate a website, you can use it to migrate back-and-forth between live and staging sites.
First, I’d recommend you to create your staging site on a sub-domain of your domain, like staging.yourdomain.com
Once you have your sub-domain, use Duplicator to create an identical copy of your live site on the staging sub-domain.
Then, you just need to make the sub-domain private to ensure that neither Google nor nosy website visitors can access your staging site.
The Easiest Way To Create A WordPress Staging Site
If possible, choosing a host with a built-in staging feature is the best way to get access to a WordPress staging site. For that, I recommend Kinsta or SiteGround, depending on your budget and how many sites you need to host.
If that isn’t an option, the WP Staging plugin provides another user-friendly method. Just remember that you need to pay for the Pro version to automatically make your staging site live.
And finally, if you want something that’s 100% free, you can always use the Duplicator plugin. Just remember that this method requires more manual work and is also technically complicated.