In this day and age, using a SSL Certificate is a must to create a secure HTTPS connection. Below are the steps I take to make the process of launching a new website go as smoothly as possible.
Preparation: Run The Duplicator Pro Plugin on Your WordPress Beta Site
Create a “Package” by running the Duplicator Pro plugin from the WordPress Dashboard. You will create an Archive zip file of the database and the WordPress files. You will also create an installer.php file that is used to duplicate the website at the new web host.
Download both files to your desktop computer.
Step 1: Create a New Hosting Account if Needed
Launching a new / redesigned website is the perfect time to consider switching web hosts. If you’re using GoDaddy or another provider that you are not happy with, then stop settling for bad service. Go ahead and switch to a new hosting account.
I recommend SiteGround as the best value out there. I use them for my website and recommend them to all my clients. Great Service at a great price.
Step 2: Figure out Your Email Configuration
If you are using your previous web host’s email, then you will need to create the same user email accounts at the new web host.
If you are using GMail, then all you will need to do is update the Mail Records at your new host to use GMail. Simply go into the DNS settings or Mail Record settings and change the MX record to GMail. There is usually a checkbox option for GMail. If not, contact your web host for the proper settings.
Switching web hosts will generally impact email, so making a call to the new web host’s customer service to confirm best practices and configurations is always a good idea.
If the client wants to maintain their current email setup with the old host, then you have the option of only changing the A Record at the new Host in the DNS settings (as opposed to changing the Nameservers) so you don’t impact the mail records. Note that changing the Nameservers as described below in Step 3 will disrupt your current email configuration.
Step 3: Change the Nameservers at Your Domain Registrar to Point to New Web Host
Login to your account where your domain is registered. Then update the Nameservers to point to the nameservers for your new web hosting provider. You will find this setting under DNS settings.
Note that this change can take up to a few hours to take effect.
To test whether the change has occurred, I will try the URL for the subject website on my mobile phone’s browser with WIFI turned off. Your Internet router has a memory caching feature that retains the old DNS information for websites you’ve visited for a certain period of time. By using the cellular network of your mobile phone, you will be able to see the change in nameservers as it happens.
When the nameservers have changed, you will get a default page of your new web host (e.g., “Future site of something cool.”).
Step 4: Create new WordPress Database at New Web Hosting Account
While you are waiting for the nameservers to change, use this time to create a new database to be used to transfer the database from your beta site.
From the CPanel at your new hosting account, go to the Database section and create a new database. Take note of the database name. Create a database user and password. Take note of these. Make sure to assign the database user to the database and to give the database user all privileges for updating the database.
Step 5: Install the SSL Certificate at Your New Web Host
Once you have confirmed that the nameserver change has occurred, you can install the SSL Certificate. Note that you can’t do this until the change of nameservers has propagated.
In the Security area of the CPanel at your new web host, look for “Let’s Encrypt” and then install the free SSL certificate on your domain’s URL. Make sure to go back to the CPanel and then return to the SSL page to doublecheck that the SSL has been successfully installed.
Step 6: Upload Duplicator Pro Archive File and Installer.php File to New Web Host
Now it’s time to upload the Duplicator Pro archive zip file and installer.php file to the root directory of your new web hosting account. For example, if you are using SiteGround, the root directory is the domain’s URL followed by “/public_html”.
Step 7: Run the Duplicator Pro Installer Program
Go to your domain’s URL and add the following after the URL in the browser’s address bar: “/installer.php”. So for the domain pancake.com, you would enter the URL: pancake.com/installer.php in the address bar of your browser.
Follow the prompts of the installer program. You will need to enter the database name, and the database username and password.
Make sure that in the step that identifies the new site URL for the website, the new URL contains the prefix “https”.
Step 8: Login and Reset Permalinks
Login to the new WordPress website. Go to Settings from the WordPress Dashboard and click on the “Permalinks” link. Make sure the settings are correct (usually “Post name” is what you want), then click the “Save changes” button.
Step 9: Install Really Simple SSL Plugin
Install the Really Simple SSL plugin and activate it. This should fix any mixed content issues you may have.
Step 10: Check the Front End of the Website
Look at the front-end of the website. Make sure the secure symbol and https are both showing up in the URL address bar.
Clean Up: List the New Website with Google Console and Install any Post Launch Plugins
If the prior version of the website was http, then it’s important to list the new https website with Google Console (doing so via the Yoast SEO plugin is my favorite way of doing this).
Best of luck in launching your new website with an SSL Certificate. I hope these 10 Steps prove helpful to you.