Day of Launch: WP Engine Launch Checklist

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WP Engine has been our trusted source for hosting for a majority of our projects. There are many reasons that we use WPEngine but the top 3 reasons for use are: Site Performance, Customer Service, & Security. One great feature of WPEngine is the easy creation of a development install that allow you to create a new website quickly in a secure location. This post explains the steps on how to take that install and put it live.

This post is used by our development team as a reference to make sure we do not miss anything on launch day. This post assumes you have already created an install on WP Engine and have built your website there. Not all sets are needed but this helps make sure nothing is missed.

Simple Checklist when launching a website with WP Engine

1. WWW or Non-WWW?

This is an essential out of the gate check that could absolutely ruin a website’s organic SEO rank. The very first step if you are replacing an already live website is to check if the current site is loading with the “www” or not. Just load up the site and take note. You will need to stick with this if organic rank is important to you. Too many times I have seen a website fall out of ranking because of this issue. It is the first think we check when we do an SEO recovery for a client.

2. Check the Email setup!

This step is easily overlooked. Check to make sure when you change the settings in the domain’s DNS and NameServers that your email will not go down. If you are new developer and are launching a site this could mean ruin if you launch a site for your client and then they have not email communications. Check to see what the MX records say. Ask the client how their email is set-up and make sure you understand how it is set-up. If the email MX records are set on the hosting level then the email will go down once you change the Nameservers. I have had launches get set-back for weeks because the emails have to be switched and migrated as a result of switching hosting. Make sure you check this!

Best case scenario: Your email uses G-Suite and is set-up on the domain level. 

3. Domain Name Settings

Login to your domain name registrar and first make sure that the NAMSERVERS are set to “Default” or sometimes it will say “Use the domains nameservers”. Next navigate to your DNS settings and update your A record to the reflect the IP address provided in the WP Engine install. Below is a screenshot of where you obtain the IP address in WP Engine. Copy that IP address and enter it into your “A” record in your DNS settings (See Godaddy style DNS settings below as well highlighted in red).

Make sure to set your TTL or “Time to Live” to a number you are aware of. If you are ready to make the switch quickly then set this number to a low number. Tell Alexa to set timer for that amount of time so you have an alert of when the domain name will start pointing to WP Engine install instead of the old IP address.

WP Engine suggests to use a CNAME in case your install IP address changes. I use just the A record and set both the WWW version and non-WWW version to the same IP. I then create the redirect to the correct address in WP-Engine.

WPEngine Domain page

Screenshot of the WP Engine Domain Page with IP Highlighted in Red

DNS Settings in the Domain Registrar

Screenshot of DNS settings in Godaddy. Red highlights changes necessary.

4. Add Domain Name to WP Engine

Now login to your WP Engine account and navigate to to the Domains tab. Scroll down to the “Add domain” tab and add your main domain name as you noted in step one. At this point you will need to wait for the domain to propagate for WP Engine to take notice and allow for you to add your SSL certificate. Whatever you set your TTL in the previous step is the time you need to wait until this will take effect.

5. Check your URL settings in PHP MyAdmin

There are many times I have gone through the steps as listed by WP Engine to put a site live only to see my URL settings had not changed. To make sure these are set it is good to go to PHP MyAdmin and manually set these. In WP Engine navigate to “PhpMyadmin”. In PHP My Admin click on the Options Table and update the first 2 boxes to the new URL.

Screenshot of the WP Engine dashboard

Where to find PHP MyAdmin in the WP Engine Dashboard

Screenshot of PHPMyAdmin in WP-Engine

Click on the Options table in PHPMyadmin to update the 2 URL fields manually.

6. Add SSL Certificate

Once your DNS has updated and is showing as show in WP Engine the next step is to add your SSL Certificate that comes free with your account to your domain. In the WP Engine overview panel click on “SSL”. Follow the steps and check of the correct URL you plan to use. Once you had added the SSL you will need to wait for the SSL to be added to the domain. Typically about 15 – 20 minutes and you are good to go.

7. Save Permalinks

At this point you should be able to login to your website at your new URL. In order for you innerpages to function correct and not display a 404 error you need to update your .htaccess file but simply going to SETTINGS > PERMALINKS in the WordPress dashboard and clicking “SAVE”. This is a good time to make sure you also have set the correct perimeter. Setting your permalinks to “Post Name” is typically the best solution. Here is documentation on setting your WordPress permalinks.

8. Update all URLs using Find and Replace

At this point you should have a like website using your new domain name. Unfortunately when you created the site at the old address many of your site’s URLs are still pointing to the development address. For SEO purposes we want to update these links so that they are the correct URL. We use WP-Migrate Pro’s find and Replace feature but if you can find other Find and Replace plugins to do the trick.

Screenshot of Find and Replace in the WP Migrate Pro Plugin

 

9. Test!

Last step is to test and make sure we did not miss anything. Look at the source code and do a search for the old development URL to see if all the links updated. One common error when we develop site locally is that the site is still pulling images from our local install so we can see them but the client cannot. Make sure these are updated and view the site on another computer that did not have the local install.

10. Chat Support

At times there are errors and WP Engine support needs to jump in a update or fix items. Use chat support at anytime to resolve any unknown issues. We commonly need to contact chat support for odd redirect issues. These issues can be quickly resolved on their end.

Bonus: Ecommerce

Take Stripe out of test mode! Never fun to launch an ecommerce site only to have the payment processor in test mode. This is an easy launch oversight!

Jason Houston
Jason Houston
Jason Houston is a web developer at Complete Web based on the island of Nantucket Massachusetts. He actively monitors the status and health of over 20 accounts to maintain position in search and to ensure each business is doing everything possible to increase revenue. Feel free to ask Jason a question at: jason@mycompleteweb.net